Henry Koster Biography

(Director, Producer)

Birthday: May 1, 1905 (Taurus)

Born In: Berlin, German Empire

Henry Koster was a German-born American screenwriter, cartoonist and painter who started as a film critic and ended up being a director. By 1931 he had written more than 50 scripts. He made a few films in Europe before he had to leave Germany when Hitler and the Nazis came to power. He fled to France after having an altercation with a German Nazi SA officer, and then to America via Hungary. Ironically he was considered an alien after the Second World War and was restricted to his house for some time. After reaching Hollywood he was signed up by ‘Universal’. His career was spread over more than four decades. He was first introduced to movies in 1910 when he accompanied his mother to a movie theater owned by his Uncle Richard and had to sit out the screening of the films for two hours every day. His mother used to play the piano for the music accompanying the films. Though he did not win any Oscar, he directed seven actors and actresses who produced Oscar winning performances during their career such as Cecil Kellaway, Celeste Holm, Loretta Young, Elsa Lancaster, James Stewart, Josephine Hull and Richard Burton. Josephine Hull won the Oscar for the film ‘Harvey’ made by Koster.
Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In May

Died At Age: 83


Spouse/Ex-: Kató Király (1934-1941; divorced; 1 child), Peggy Moran (1942-1988; his death; 2 children)

Born Country: Germany

Directors T V & Movie Producers

Died on: September 21, 1988

place of death: Camarillo, California, U.S.

City: Berlin, Germany

Childhood & Early Life
Henry Koster was born as Hermann Julius Kosterlitz in Berlin, Germany on May 1, 1905.
His father was a salesman and deserted the family when Henry was still young. He was brought up by his pianist mother.
Henry managed to finish high school in Berlin by writing short stories and drawing cartoons for a newspaper.
He studied at the ‘Academy of Fine Arts’ in Berlin.
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Henry Koster started his career as an author, newspaper cartoonist, reporter and a film critic. His first article was published when he was only 16 years old.
He joined the publicity department of ‘UFA Studios’ in 1925 and graduated to being a screenwriter.
He became an assistant director under Kurt Bernhardt who allowed him to direct three films during the early 1930s.
He made his screenwriting debut in 1926 with ‘Die Waise von Lowood’.
He also worked as a screenwriter for ‘Weib im Dschungel’ and ‘Seine Freundin Annette’ in 1931.
He directed his first film ‘Das Abenteur der Thea Roland’ in 1932 and then ‘Das Hassliche Madchen’ in 1933.
He made the film ‘Peter’ when in France and worked as a screenwriter for the film ‘L’Or dans la rue’ in 1934.
After moving to America in 1936 he ‘Americanized’ his name to ‘Henry Koster’ and was signed up by ‘Universal’.
He made his first movie ‘Three Smart Girls’ in 1936 with Joseph Pasternak, whom he had met in Budapest, starring Deanna Durbin. This was the first of a series of musicals that saved ‘Universal’ from bankruptcy. It was followed by ‘Maria Baschkirtzeff’ also in 1936.
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He directed the movie ‘One Hundred Men and a Girl’ in 1937, directed and produced ‘The Rage of Paris’ in 1938 starring Danielle Darrieux, ‘First Love’ and ‘Three Smart Girls Grow Up’ in 1939 and ‘Spring Parade’ in 1940.
He made ‘One Night in the Tropics’ in 1940. It starred Peggy Morgan and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello whom he had discovered working in a nightclub in New York.
In 1941 Koster followed Pasternak and joined MGM after leaving ‘Universal’.
He directed ‘It Started with Eve’ in 1941 which was the sixth film which starred Deanna Durbin and also directed and produced ‘Between Us Girls’ in 1942.
His next films were ‘Music for Millions’ in 1945 starring Margaret O’Brien and June Allyson, ‘Two Sisters from Boston’ in 1946 starring June Allyson, Kathryn Grayson and Jimmy Durante, ‘The Unfinished Dance’ in 1947 starring Margaret O’Brien and Cyd Charisse.
He directed ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ for MGM in 1947 starring Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young.
He moved to ‘20th Century Fox’ after this and remained with them for the rest of his career. He directed ‘The Luck of Irish’ starring Tyrone Power and Cecil Kellaway in 1948, ‘The Inspector General’ starring Danny Kaye and ‘Come to the Stable’ starring Young and Celeste Holm in 1949.
Koster followed these up with ‘Wabash Avenue’ starring Victor Mature, Phil Harris and Betty Grable in 1950, ‘My Blue Heaven’ starring Betty Grable in 1950 and ‘Harvey’ starring James Stewart, Mary Chase and Josephine Hull also in 1950.
Next he made the comedies ‘Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell’ and ‘Elopement’ in 1951. ‘No Highway in the Sky’ in 1951 was based on a novel written by Nevil Shute starring James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.
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Koster made another comedy ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ in 1952, ‘O. Henry’s Full House’ and ‘My Cousin Rachel’ based on a mystery written by Daphne du Maurier’s starring Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland in 1953.
In 1953 he made his first movie in cinemascope titled ‘The Robe’ for ‘20th Century Fox’ which was a blockbuster biblical epic starring Richard Burton as a Roman Tribune who oversees the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
In 1954 he made ‘Desiree’ starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Merle Oberon which was moderately successful.
In 1955 he directed ‘Good Morning, Miss Dove’ starring Jennifer Jones, ‘The Virgin Queen’ starring Richard Todd and Bette Davies and ‘A Man Called Peter’ starring Richard Todd and Jean Peters.
In 1956 he directed a war movie ‘D-Day the Sixth of June’ starring Robert Taylor, Richard Todd and Dana Wynter, and ‘The Power and the Prize’, and in 1957 he directed ‘My Man Godfrey’.
‘Fraulein’ was made by Koster in 1958, the historical drama ‘The Naked Maja’ in 1959 starring Anthony Franciosa and Ava Gardner, ‘The Story of Ruth’ in 1960, ‘Flower Drum Song’ in 1961, ‘Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation’ in 1962 starring James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara, directed and produced ‘Take Her She’s Mine’ in 1963 starring Sandra Dee and ‘Dear Brigitte’ in 1965 starring Brigitte Bardot.
The last film he produced and directed was ‘The Singing Nun’ in 1965 starring Debbie Reynolds which was a box-office hit.
He returned to painting during his later life and drew exquisite pictures of stars he had worked with.
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Awards & Achievements
Henry Koster was nominated for an ‘Academy award for the Best Director’ in 1947 for ‘The Bishop’s Wife’. The film also received an ‘Academy Award’ nomination for ‘Best Picture’.

He received an Oscar nomination for ‘Best Picture’ for ‘The Robe’ in 1953.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Kato Kiraly in Budapest on January 6, 1936 and divorced her on August 26, 1941. He had a son, Robert J. from this marriage.
He married actress Peggy Moran on October 30, 1942 and had two sons, Nicholas and Peter with her.
Henry Koster died at the age of 83 in Camarillo, California, USA on September 21, 1980 due to complications caused by liver surgery.
Henry Koster learnt English by memorizing the lyrics of ‘Follow the Fleet’.
His nickname was ‘Bobby’.

See the events in life of Henry Koster in Chronological Order

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