Gustav Ucicky (1930)
6 July 1898|
|Died||27 April 1961
Hamburg, West Germany
Gustav Ucicky (6 July 1898 - 27 April 1961) was an Austrian film director, screenwriter and cinematographer. He was one of the more successful directors in Austria and Germany from the 1930s through to the early 1960s. His work covered a wide variety of genres, but he most acclaimed for his work in romantic drama and drama films.
Born in Vienna, Ucicky is often stated to have been the illegitimate son of painter Gustav Klimt for whom his mother Maria Učicky from Prague worked and modelled, although this paternity is unconfirmed. He had begun an apprenticeship as a graphic designer, when he entered the film industry at the age of 17. One day in 1916, he and his friend Karl Hartl turned up at the Sascha-Film studios of Count Alexander Kolowrat looking for work and were hired. Ucicky was initially employed as a mere camera assistant, eventually becoming a camera operator and gained experience working in documentaries before shooting his first feature in 1919. Over the next five years, he worked on some of the studio's most acclaimed movies, including Sodom und Gomorrha (1922), and worked with some of the top directors of the period, including Michael Curtiz.
In 1927, Ucicky moved into directorship on a series of productions after the release of Die Pratermizzi and Café Elektric (starring Marlene Dietrich and Willi Forst) in 1927, when the death of the studio's founder Kolowrat and the subsequent bankruptcy of the company forced him to relocate his career to Germany. In 1929, he was hired by the Ufa Film Company in Berlin and was part of the first wave of directors there to embrace sound film. After directing Hokuspokus/The Temporary Widow in 1930, he quickly moved into the front rank of young directors, generating a string of popular, successful films, like Morgenrot. His 1933 drama Flüchtlinge was a major success in Germany, in addition to being well received in America, despite it being a propaganda film about a German official (Hans Albers) who helps to rescue a group of his countrymen from the brutality of the Soviet Union and return them to their homeland. Ucicky was one of the leading directors at Ufa throughout the mid- and late '30s, working with major stars, including Emil Jannings (in Der zerbrochene Krug, 1937).
After the German occupation of Austria in 1938, Ucicky returned to Vienna and became a key figure of Wien-Film, the government-sponsored production company that was intended to shoot propaganda movies on behalf of the Third Reich. Ucicky achieved acclaim for Der Postmeister (aka The Stationmaster, 1940), which won the Mussolini Cup for best foreign film at the Venice Film Festival, and among his subsequent movies, Heimkehr (1941) was also honored at the Venice festival. The author Elfriede Jelinek states that Heimkehr is “the worst propaganda feature of the Nazis at all”.
As late as 1940, he was still a respected name among American critics in New York, with his drama Mutterliebe ("Mother Love") receiving high praise for his direction. Like most of his colleagues, his career came to a standstill in the years immediately after the war, as economic conditions and the four-power occupation of Vienna made production extremely difficult. It was not until 1948 that Ucicky re-emerged with a film entitled, Nach dem Sturm ("After the Storm"). He continued making successful films, including many that were released internationally, such as Die Hexe ("The Witch"), 1954, up until his death from a heart attack in 1961.
Ucicky's last finished film was Das Erbe von Björndal ("The Inheritance of Bjorndal"). At the time of his death, he was preparing a film entitled Das Letzte Kapitel ("The Last Chapter"), which was completed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner.
- Gustav Ucicky, All Movie Guide, accessed 26 July 2012
- Gustav Ucicky at the Internet Movie Database
- New York Times (dead link, no archived version in archive.org)