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John Sturges Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trade Mark (1)  | Trivia (15)

Overview (4)

Born in Oak Park, Illinois, USA
Died in San Luis Obispo, California, USA  (heart attack and emphysema)
Birth NameJohn Elliott Sturges
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

John Sturges was born on January 3, 1910 in Oak Park, Illinois, USA as John Elliott Sturges. He was a director and producer, known for The Great Escape (1963), The Magnificent Seven (1960) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955). He was married to Katherine Helena Soules and Dorothy Lynn Brooks. He died on August 18, 1992 in San Luis Obispo, California, USA.

Spouse (2)

Katherine Helena Soules (6 October 1984 - 18 August 1992) ( his death)
Dorothy Lynn Brooks (5 January 1945 - 1970) ( divorced) ( 2 children)

Trade Mark (1)

Predominantly male ensemble casts.

Trivia (15)

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945." Pages 1079-1085. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
When he met Akira Kurosawa, Kurosawa told him that he loved The Magnificent Seven (1960), which was a remake of Kurosawa' Seven Samurai (1954). Sturges always maintained that this was the single proudest moment of his life.
The Magnificent Seven (1960) was a major inspiration for Stephen King when writing his fifth Dark Tower novel, "Wolves of the Calla. In reference to the film's director, King named the beleaguered farming village Calla Bryn Sturgis.
He was the original director of Wild Is the Wind (1957), but on March 15, 1957--only a week before shooting was scheduled to begin--he withdrew from the film due to illness, according to contemporary news items. George Cukor took over direction and stated years later in a interview that Sturges left the project to replace Fred Zinnemann on The Old Man and the Sea (1958), but a Cukor biography states that Sturges left the project when it became apparent that the film would be more of a love story than an action picture.
He directed two actors to Oscar nominations: Louis Calhern (Best Actor, The Magnificent Yankee (1950)) and Spencer Tracy (Best Actor, Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)) and The Old Man and the Sea (1958)).
Came from a family of distinguished lawyers and architects.
Attended Marin College on a $14-a-week football scholarship.
Served with the US Army Signals Corps during World War II, but later transferred to the Air Force. Eventually edited/directed 37 training films and five documentaries. He served in Africa, Italy, Corsica and Britain.
He was not related to director Preston Sturges.
First worked as a stage manager for the San Rafael Players.
He served his apprenticeship in the blueprint department at RKO and was promoted to office assistant, after inventing a filing system nobody else could understand. He then learned the new Technicolor process under the designer Robert Edmund Jones. As there were few specialists in the field, he was eventually hired as a colour consultant by David O. Selznick to work on "The Garden of Allah" for $300 per week.
He began his directing career at Columbia Pictures, where from 1946-49 he worked on "12-day wonders" ("B" pictures shot on a 12-day schedule). From there he moved on to MGM where for another six years he directed more "B" pictures, albeit on a larger budget. He established an independent production company in 1959, releasing through United Artists. From 1960-67 he worked under contract for United Artists. His first major hit was the western Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) (a pet project of MGM production head Dore Schary), which he shot in just three weeks, wrapping up virtually every scene in a single take. His motto was, "Take one for spontaneity".
He specialized in robust action pictures, particularly westerns. He excelled at bringing to life tautly written stories about tough characters facing difficult circumstances. Conversely, just as often, he failed to redeem poorly written material, turning out an equally inadequate picture. Throughout his career he regularly alternated hits (such as Last Train from Gun Hill (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), The Eagle Has Landed (1976)) with misses (such as The Old Man and the Sea (1958), By Love Possessed (1961), A Girl Named Tamiko (1962), The Hallelujah Trail (1965)). He has also been criticized for his lack of stylistic trademarks, though his best films remain exciting to watch.
After successfully working with Walter Newman on an eleventh hour rewrite of "Underwater," Sturges recruited the screenwriter for "The Magnificent Seven." Newman objected to how Sturges filmed several of his scenes and became furious when Sturges gave some of Yul Bryner's carefully crafted, character-driven lines to Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. Livid about it, Newman asked that his name be removed from the credits. However, just a few years later Newman and Sturges reteamed for "The Great Escape." Newman felt Sturges was "dilatory" with his preparation of the script and felt the studio unjustly blamed him, not Sturges, for its delay. Again, another argument with Sturges resulted in Newman's name being taken off the script. A final proposed attempt at a collaboration based on unfilmed portions of James A. Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific" was never done.
He has directed two films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) and The Magnificent Seven (1960).

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