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Fred Zinnemann, director of High Noon, From Here to Eternity, Oklahoma!, The Nun’s Story, A Man for All Seasons, The Day of the Jackal, and Julia, among other films, was born in Poland on this date in 1907. “At the core of Mr. Zinnemann’s finest films,” said the New York Times in a 1997 obituary, “lay a crisis of moral courage that challenged a character to face his conscience and test his integrity.... he was universally considered a dedicated, honest and meticulous craftsman who fought hard to maintain high standards and who enriched the screen with several major humanistic movies.” Zinnemann was the first to bring major screen roles to Grace Kelly, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Meryl Streep, and Julie Harris, and nineteen actors in his films received Academy Award nominations, while he won four Oscars. Zinnemann studied film in Germany and France before moving to Mexico in the early 1930s, where he made The Wave (1935), one of the earliest examples of social realism in film. He moved to Hollywood with three of his collaborators on that film, and worked in the industry for ten years before getting his first big break directing an anti-Nazi film The Seventh Cross (1944), starring Spencer Tracy. After the war, he learned that he had lost both of his parents in the Holocaust. He lived to 89.
“I just like to do films that are positive in the sense that they deal with the dignity of human beings and have something to say about oppression, not necessarily in a political way but in a human way. I have to feel that what I’m trying to do is worthwhile.” —Fred Zinnemann