Stanley Kramer moved to Hollywood after doing his MBA and joined the film industry to edit films and write scripts.
He joined the Army Signal Corps during the Second World War and made films on training and orientation.
After the war he helped to establish an independent production company named ‘Screen Plays Inc.’ and produced ‘So This Is New York’ in 1948. It was directed by Richard Fleischer.
In 1949 he produced a second film ‘Champion’ directed by Mark Robson which starred Kirk Douglas for the first time as an ambitious prizefighter in the corrupted world of boxing.
Kramer founded his own production company in 1949 to work in joint ventures with other major film studios especially ‘Columbia Pictures’.
In 1950 he produced ‘The Men’ directed by Fred Zimmerman about the challenges faced by a disabled war veteran played by Marlon Brando.
His next successful production was ‘Death of a Salesman’ in 1951, an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play.
His western ‘High Noon’ in 1952 won seven ‘Academy Award’ nominations
He produced a surreal fantasy film ‘5,000 Fingers of Dr. T’ in 1953.
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His ‘The Wild One’ (1953) starring Marlon Brando as a brooding biker and ‘The Caine Mutiny’ (1954) which starred Humphrey Bogart were hits.
In 1955 Kramer made his directional debut with ‘Not as a Stranger’ which starred Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum and Olivia de Havilland.
He directed ‘The Pride and the Passion’ in 1957 and it starred Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren in the cast.
His success as a director continued with the film ‘The Defiant Ones’ in 1958. It starred Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as prison escapees trying to overcome racial prejudices.
His next film ‘On The Beach’ (1959) starring Gregory peck, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins and Fred Astaire was based on a novel by Nevil Shute about nuclear apocalypse.
In 1960 he made the highly acclaimed ‘Inherit the Wind’, an adaptation of a Broadway play written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee. It had Spencer Tracy and Fredric March in the lead roles.
He again cast Spencer Tracy in ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ in 1961. It was based on the story of the trials of Nazi war criminals.
He tried his hand at comedies such as ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ in 1963 with comedians like Sid Caesar, Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle.
In 1965 he made a drama ‘Ship of Fools’ based on a novel by Katherine Anne Porter about the spread of Nazism and anti-Semitism.
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The comedy-drama ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ in 1967 was his most popular film. It starred Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn and received 10 Oscar nominations.
He directed ‘The Secret of Santa Vittoria’ in 1969. It was a story about Italian villagers trying to hide a cache of wine bottles from the Germans during the Second World War.
The film ‘R.P.M.’ (1970) and ‘Bless the Beast and Children’ (1972) were not received well.
He made ‘Oklahoma Crude’ with George C. Scott and Faye Dunaway in the lead roles in 1973.
He made the TV movies ‘Judgment: The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’ in 1974 and ‘Judgment: The Court Martial of Lieutenant William Calley’ in 1975 based on the ‘My Lai Massacre’ during the Vietnam War.
Kramer returned to the big screen with the ‘The Domino Principle’ in 1977 and ‘The Runner Stumbles’ starring Dick Van Dyke in 1979 which were also flops.
He retired from active film direction in 1980 and later taught filmmaking at the ‘University of Washington’ and ‘Bellevue community College’.
Awards & Achievements
Stanley Kramer received his first ‘Academy Award’ nomination for ‘Best Director’ for the film ‘The Defiant Ones’ in 1958.
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His next nomination for the ‘Academy Award for Best director’ came with ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ in 1961. Though he did not win the Oscar he was awarded the ‘Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award’ by the ‘Academy’ for making high quality films.
He won his third ‘Academy Award for Best Director’ nomination in 1967 for the film ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’.
He was awarded the ‘Gallatin Medal’ by the ‘New York University’ in 1968.
He received the ‘NAACP Vanguard Award’ in 1998 for strong social themes in films.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Marilyn Erskine in 1945 but the marriage was annulled after three months.
He married Anne Pearce in 1950 but divorced her in 1963. He had a daughter, Casey and a son, Larry from this marriage.
He married Karen Sharpe on September 1, 1966 who was with him till his death in 2001. He had two daughters, Katharine and Jennifer from this marriage.
Stanley Kramer died of pneumonia in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA on February 19, 2001 at the age of 87.
In 2002 the ‘Stanley Kramer Award’ was established by the ‘Producers Guild of America’ given annually to outstanding filmmakers.