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Edgar G. Ulmer

  • Highest Rated: 100% Murder Is My Beat (1955)
  • Lowest Rated: 40% The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)
  • Birthday: Sep 17, 1904
  • Birthplace: Olmütz, Moravia, Austria-Hungary [now Olomouc, Czech Republic]
  • Edgar George Ulmer was one of the very few genuinely creative filmmakers who, for a time, chose the world of low-budget B-films over the more opulent milieu of mainstream, high-profile A-pictures. Born in Vienna, Austria, he worked as a stage actor and set designer while studying architecture and philosophy, and later joined the company of the legendary German theatrical producer Max Reinhardt. He first visited America in connection with a Reinhardt production, and became briefly involved with Universal Pictures in the mid-'20s. On his return to Germany he served as an assistant to filmmaker F.W. Murnau, and worked as art director on the latter's film Sunrise, which was shot in Hollywood in 1927. Ulmer went back to Germany to co-direct Menschen am Sonntag (1929) in collaboration with Robert Siodmak. He emigrated to Hollywood in the early '30s, working as a writer on movies such as Tabu and as an art director. By 1933, Ulmer had been signed to Universal as a director, making his debut with The Black Cat (1933), a bizarre and harrowing horror film starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, that seemed designed to startle the viewer at every turn, intermingling elements of grisly sadism and knowing black comedy. The Black Cat remains one of the more distinctive of Universal's horror films of the 1930s, and it seemed to herald the arrival of a major new talent in the genre. Ironically, it was also to be Ulmer's last movie for a major studio for 14 years. Sometime after his arrival on the Universal lot, he'd made the acquaintance of Shirley Kassler Alexander, an employee of the script department and the wife of Max Alexander, a producer at Universal and also a nephew of studio owner Carl Laemmle. The two fell in love, which immediately put her job and Ulmer's American career in jeopardy -- he directed one low-budget Western, Thunder Over Texas, under the pseudonym "John Warner" for tiny Beacon Pictures, based on one of her scripts. Soon after, she divorced Alexander and the two were barred from the Universal lot. She married Ulmer, a union that lasted until his death nearly 40 years later. In the meantime, however, the director discovered that he was effectively blackballed from the Hollywood film industry. Ulmer was forced to return to the East Coast to get any film work over the next few years. There was still a movie industry of sorts in New York. Very few talented hands from Hollywood ever made the trip east, and Ulmer, with his experience both in Hollywood and in Germany (and a hit Hollywood movie under his belt), was something of a find for anyone producing movies in New York. He, in turn, found a place where he could continue his career, making films in Yiddish for producers aiming at that audience (which was considerable, right up to the advent of World War II), and also documentaries such as the venereal disease educational/exploitation movie Damaged Lives, and, later still, movies with all black casts for the theater circuits catering to black communities. It was during this period that Ulmer began making his reputation -- with a lot of help from Shirley Ulmer as a screenwriter and script editor -- as something of a cinematic magician, who could make good ideas work on screen for very little money. Contrary to the conventional wisdom about Ulmer, that he spent his career avoiding high-profile projects and the major studios, he did have ambitions beyond the scope of 62-minute thrillers and dramas. He hoped to be hired by one of the major studios, and in 1941-1942 Paramount seemed interested -- there was apparently even discussion about his remaking The Blue Angel with Veronica Lake. In 1943, at the prompting of expatriate German producer Seymour Nebenzal, with whom Ulmer had a longstanding friendship, he approached Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), a B-studio that stood at the very bottom of the barrel of Hollywood's "Poverty Row." PRC had enjoyed two good years and was beginning to upgrade its releases under the guidanc

Highest Rated Movies








No Score Yet Journey Beneath the Desert Director 1961
No Score Yet Hannibal Director 1960
60% Beyond the Time Barrier Director 1960
40% The Amazing Transparent Man Director 1960
No Score Yet Daughter of Dr. Jekyll Director 1957
100% Murder Is My Beat Director 1955
No Score Yet The Naked Dawn Director 1955
No Score Yet St. Benny the Dip Director 1951
100% The Man from Planet X Director 1951
No Score Yet The Pirates of Capri Director 1949
No Score Yet Ruthless Director 1948
No Score Yet Carnegie Hall Director 1947
40% The Strange Woman Director 1946
100% Detour Director 1945
86% Strange Illusion Director 1945
No Score Yet Club Havana Screenwriter Director 1945
100% Bluebeard Director 1944
No Score Yet Monsoon Director Screenwriter 1943
No Score Yet My Son, the Hero Screenwriter Director 1943
No Score Yet Corregidor Screenwriter 1943
No Score Yet Jive Junction Director 1943
No Score Yet Girls in Chains Director 1943
No Score Yet Tomorrow We Live Director 1942
No Score Yet Tomorrow We Live Director 1942
No Score Yet Moon Over Harlem Director 1939
No Score Yet The Light Ahead Director 1939
No Score Yet Green Fields Director 1939
No Score Yet American Matchmaker Producer Director 1938
No Score Yet The Singing Blacksmith Director 1938
No Score Yet Damaged Lives Director Screenwriter 1937
No Score Yet Green Fields Director 1937
No Score Yet Thunder over Texas Director 1934
88% The Black Cat Screenwriter Director 1934
92% Tabu: A Story of the South Seas Screenwriter 1931


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