Max Ophuls, who is considered one of the greatest film directors of all time, has long been seen as an “auteur”––the artist in complete control of his work. Lutz Bacher’s examination of his American career gives us a unique perspective on the workings of the Hollywood system and the struggle of a visionary to function within it. He thus establishes clear connections between the production contexts of Ophuls' American films and their idiosyncratic style.
Drawing on documents in many archives and on interviews with more than sixty of Ophuls' contemporaries, Bacher traces the European director's struggle to find a niche in the U.S. film industry. He describes how Ophuls ran the gamut from ghost writing to substitute directing, to a debilitating association with Preston Sturges and Howard Hughes, to making four films––Letter from an Unknown Woman and Caught among them––in thirty months, and then returning to Europe with a runaway production that was to have starred Greta Garbo. Throughout, Bacher demonstrates that Ophuls' bending of conventional Hollywood methods to his own will through compromise and subversion allowed him to achieve a style that was both uniquely American and a point of departure for his later work. A rare synthesis of production history, stylistic analysis, and biography, this book is essential reading for serious film scholars and fans of the director’s work.