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Douglas Sirk

Sirk, Douglas, 1900–87, German-American film director, b. Hamburg as Claus Detlef Sierck. A successful director in German theater and film, he fled the Nazi regime in 1937. Two years later he emigrated to the United States, Americanized his name, moved (1940) to Hollywood, and with fellow émigrés directed several anti-Nazi feature films, the first of which was Hitler's Madmen (1942). The extravagant melodramas for which Sirk is best known were made after he joined Universal studios in 1950. His breakthrough movie, Magnificent Obsession (1954), was followed by such others as All that Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956), The Ternished Angels (1957), and Imitation of Life (1959). Sirk's signature films, which generally portray the trials of upper-middle-class life in lush widescreen technicolor, were sometimes dismissed as conventional tearjerkers, but their exquisite visual quality, stylistic sophistication, psychosocial insights, and ironic undertones have made his films influential favorites among many later filmmakers and cinema enthusiasts.

See J. Halliday, ed, Sirk on Sirk (1972, rev. ed. 1997); studies by L. Fischer, ed. (1991) and B. Klinger (1994).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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