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September 29: Stanley Kramer and Socially Conscious Film

September 28, 2015

stanley-kramer6Hollywood director and producer Stanley E. Kramer, who shepherded into existence numerous successful films with progressive social messages, particularly about racism — including Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Defiant Ones, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Caine Mutiny, and High Noon — was born in New York on this date in 1913. His mother and an uncle both worked in the film industry, and Kramer learned producing, directing, set-building, writing, editing, and numerous other film skills at various jobs throughout the Depression. During World War II he made instructional films with the Signal Corps, and after the war he launched his own production company. Early successes included The Champion (with Kirk Douglas, written by Ring Lardner), 1949; Home of the Brave (about racism in the military), also 1949; and The Men, 1950, which brought Marlon Brando to the screen for the first time. Other successes included Cyrano de Bergerac (with Jose Ferrer), Death of a Salesman, The Wild One, and On the Beach. In 1997, Kramer published his autobiography, A Mad Mad Mad Mad World: A Life in Hollywood. Four years later, he died at 87.

“Like lots of kids in the 1930s, I wanted to right all the wrongs of mankind.” —Stanley Kramer