Sam Spiegel

Samuel P. Spiegel (November 11, 1901 – December 31, 1985) was a Austro-Polish-born American independent film producer. He was the first to win the Academy Award for Best Picture three times, and the only one to be the sole producer on all three winning films.[2]

Sam Spiegel
Samuel P. Spiegel

November 11, 1901
DiedDecember 31, 1985 (aged 84)
Saint Martin, in the Caribbean[1]
Alma materUniversity of Vienna
Occupationfilm producer
Years active1927–1983
Notable work
On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia
Spouse(s)Lynn Baggett (divorce)
Rachel Agranovich (m. 1920)
Betty Benson Spiegel (m. 1958–1985, his death)
ChildrenAlyssa Freedman, Adam Spiegel[1]
AwardsIrving Thalberg Memorial Award

Early life

Spiegel was born to a Jewish family[3] in Jarosław, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now in Poland). His parents were Regina and Simon Spiegel (a tobacco wholesaler).[4] He received his education at the University of Vienna. His brother was Shalom Spiegel, a professor of medieval Hebrew poetry.


Spiegel worked briefly in Hollywood in 1927 following a stint serving with Hashomer Hatzair in Palestine. He then went to Berlin to produce German and French adaptations of Universal films until 1933 when he fled Germany. As an independent producer, Spiegel helped produce a number of European films.

In 1938, he immigrated to Mexico and subsequently the United States.

Between 1935 and 1954, Spiegel billed himself as S. P. Eagle; after that he used his real name. His nickname was the "velvet octopus" after his propensity to entwine himself with women in the back of taxis and manage Hollywood with a velvet touch according to Billy Wilder. He loved London and admired the British, as is reflected in his films The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), both of which won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. Starting with the 1951 film The African Queen, he produced films through his British-based production company Horizon Pictures.

In a review in Variety of a Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni's biography of Spiegel, Wendy Smith notes: "It's all here: the sleazy financial maneuvers and creepy taste for underage girls that make Spiegel a decidedly flawed protagonist, as well as the wit, sophistication, and Old World charm that make him a titanic figure the likes of which the movie industry will not see again"[5]


Spiegel won the Academy Award for Best Picture for Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront and a further two times for his two collaborations with British director David Lean, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). In 1963, he was awarded the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award at that year's Academy Awards for his many contributions to cinema.

Sexual misconduct allegations

American actress Theresa Russell alleged that she was sexually propositioned by Spiegel during her first casting session for his 1976 film The Last Tycoon.[6] In another interview, Russell recalled: "I was 16 years old and still living at home, and he took me to the Bistro and tried to stick his tongue down my throat."[7] After she refused to sign a contract with Spiegel, Russell "was completely left out of the publicity for [The Last Tycoon]", and Spiegel threatened that he would prevent Russell from working again in Hollywood.[7][8]

Personal life

Spiegel maintained a connection with Israel throughout his life, particularly with such personalities as Golda Meir, Ariel Sharon, Jerusalem Foundation president Ruth Cheshin (mother of Mishael Cheshin), and his close friend, then Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. Spiegel also contributed to various Zionist causes. He spoke eight languages fluently: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish.[9][10]


Relatives of Sam Spiegel with the sign that marks the lane named after him in Jerusalem
Relatives of Sam Spiegel with the sign that marks the lane named after him in Jerusalem

Spiegel's heirs and the administrators of his estate, son Adam Spiegel, daughter Alisa Freedman, niece Judge Raya Dreben, and Adv. David Bottoms, decided to transfer Spiegel's impressive art collection to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Since 1996, they have made an annual contribution, through the Jerusalem Foundation, to the film school in Jerusalem bearing his name since that time — the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, Jerusalem. This annual contribution is the largest in the history of Israeli cinema.

In 2005, the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, the Jerusalem Municipality complied with a request from the school's founder-director Renen Schorr to mark the occasion by declaring the lane in the Talpiot industrial section where the school is located "The Sam Spiegel Alley." The street sign's inscription: "Sam Spiegel – Jewish-American Film Producer and Oscar-winner. Pioneer. Lover of Zion."

Filmography - producer

  1. Invisible Opponent (1933)
  2. The Oil Sharks (1933)
  3. Mariage à responsabilité limitée (1933)
  4. The Invader (1935) (co-producer)
  5. Derrière la façade (1939)
  6. Tales of Manhattan (1942) (as S. P. Eagle)
  7. The Stranger (1946) (as S.P. Eagle)
  8. We Were Strangers (1949) (as S.P. Eagle)
  9. When I Grow Up (1951) (as S.P. Eagle)
  10. The Prowler (1951) (as S.P. Eagle)
  11. The African Queen (1951) (as S. P. Eagle)
  12. Melba (1953)
  13. On the Waterfront (1954)
  14. The Strange One (1957)
  15. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  16. Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
  17. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  18. The Chase (1966)
  19. The Night of the Generals (1967)
  20. The Happening (1967)
  21. Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
  22. The Last Tycoon (1976)
  23. Betrayal (1983)


  1. ^ a b Krebs, Albin (January 1, 1986). "Sam Spiegel, Producer, Is Dead at 84". New York Times. p. 48. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2014-02-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Erens, Patricia (1998). The Jew in American Cinema. Indiana University Press. p. 392. ISBN 978-0-253-20493-6.
  4. ^ Jackson, Kenneth (1998). The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: 1981-1985. Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 752. ISBN 9780684804927.
  5. ^ Smith, Wendy (2003-04-13). "Review: 'Sam Spiegel'". Variety. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  6. ^ Wasson, Sam (22 June 2011). "A Conversation with Theresa Russell". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  7. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (21 September 1988). "Interview with Theresa Russell". Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  8. ^ Smith, Giles (6 June 1995). "Mistress of the disturbed". The Independent. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  9. ^ Sam Spiegel appearance on What's My Line?, episode 818. Originally aired January 30, 1966 on CBS. Viewed on October 3, 2007.
  10. ^ Fraser-Cavassoni, Natasha (2003). Sam Spiegel. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 23, 67. ISBN 9780684836195. Retrieved 19 March 2019.

External links

Betrayal (1983 film)

Betrayal is a 1983 film adaptation of Harold Pinter's 1978 play of the same name. With a semi-autobiographical screenplay by Pinter, the film was produced by Sam Spiegel and directed by David Jones. It was critically well received, praised notably by New York Times film critic Vincent Canby and by Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert. Distributed by 20th Century Fox International Classics (USA), it was first screened in movie theaters in New York in February 1983.

Lawrence of Arabia (film)

Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British epic historical drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel through his British company Horizon Pictures, with the screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson and starring Peter O'Toole in the title role. The film depicts Lawrence's experiences in the Arabian Peninsula during World War I, in particular his attacks on Aqaba and Damascus and his involvement in the Arab National Council. Its themes include Lawrence's emotional struggles with the personal violence inherent in war, his own identity, and his divided allegiance between his native Britain and its army, and his new-found comrades within the Arabian desert tribes. The film also stars Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, and Arthur Kennedy.

Lawrence of Arabia was nominated for ten Oscars at the 35th Academy Awards in 1963; it won seven in total, including Best Picture and Best Director. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama and the BAFTA Awards for Best Film and Outstanding British Film. In the years since, it has been recognised as one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. The dramatic score by Maurice Jarre and the Super Panavision 70 cinematography by Freddie Young are also highly acclaimed. In 1991, Lawrence of Arabia was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation in the US Library of Congress National Film Registry. In 1998, the American Film Institute placed it 5th on their 100 Years...100 Movies list, and 7th on their 2007 updated list. In 1999, the British Film Institute named the film the third-greatest British film of all time.

Melba (film)

Melba is a 1953 musical biopic drama film of the life of Australian-born soprano Nellie Melba, written by Harry Kurnitz and directed by Lewis Milestone for Horizon Pictures, marking the film debut of the Metropolitan Opera's Patrice Munsel.

Nicholas and Alexandra

Nicholas and Alexandra is a 1971 British biographical film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and written by James Goldman, based on Robert K. Massie's book of the same name, which partly tells the story of the last ruling Russian monarch, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra.

The film won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Art Direction: John Box, Ernest Archer, Jack Maxsted and Gil Parrondo; Set Decoration: Vernon Dixon) and Best Costume Design (Yvonne Blake and Antonio Castillo), and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Janet Suzman), Best Cinematography, Best Music, Original Dramatic Score and Best Picture.

On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront is a 1954 American crime drama film, directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg. It stars Marlon Brando and features Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Pat Henning and Eva Marie Saint in her film debut. The soundtrack score was composed by Leonard Bernstein. The film was suggested by "Crime on the Waterfront" by Malcolm Johnson, a series of articles published in November–December 1948 in the New York Sun which won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, but the screenplay by Budd Schulberg is directly based on his own original story. The film focuses on union violence and corruption amongst longshoremen, while detailing widespread corruption, extortion, and racketeering on the waterfronts of Hoboken, New Jersey.

On the Waterfront was a critical and commercial success. It received twelve Academy Award nominations and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Brando, Best Supporting Actress for Saint, and Best Director for Kazan. In 1997, it was ranked by the American Film Institute as the eighth-greatest American movie of all time; in AFI's 2007 list, it was ranked 19th. It is Bernstein's only original film score not adapted from a stage production with songs.

In 1989, On the Waterfront was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Renen Schorr

Renen Schorr (Hebrew: רנן שור; born Jerusalem, Israel, 1952) is a film director, screenwriter, film producer and Israeli film activist. In 1989, he founded Israel's first independent, national school for film and television, the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School – Jerusalem, and has served as its director since that time. During the last 40 years he founded or co-founded the infrastructure of Israeli film funds and cinematheques. In December 2016 he was awarded the Chevalier des arts et lettres by the French government.

Sam Spiegel (musician)

Sam Spiegel is an American DJ, producer, composer, and director from New York who grew up in Manhattan and Westchester County.

As a child, Spiegel studied classical voice, cello, and flute. By his teens, he enjoyed hip hop music.

In addition to creating his own material, Spiegel has worked with musicians such as Kanye West, Ben Lee, Maroon 5, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. He has scored commercials for companies including Converse, Levi's, Reebok, ESPN, T Mobile, Jose Cuervo, and Saturn. His production company scored the video game Skate 2. Though he attempts to create music free of record label restraints, Spiegel also licenses his songs whenever possible so as to maximize exposure for his work. He produces albums under the name Squeak E. Clean.Spiegel is the brother of film director Spike Jonze. They collaborated on the Adidas TV commercial Hello Tomorrow, for which Spiegel created the score sung by Karen O. The titular song briefly reached #1 on the iTunes singles chart. Spiegel also wrote the score for Jonze's 2010 short film I'm Here, and produced an original song with Ape Drums featuring Assassin for Jonze's Kenzo World advertisement.Over the past decade, Sam has certified himself as one of the premiere creative minds throughout the international music community. He began his career as a DJ but quickly found himself in the studio producing music for and collaborating with many remarkable musicians while simultaneously establishing a name for himself as a film score composer.

Sam has continued his passion for directing into the 2019 year, working on various projects, most recently, creating, directing and writing “Wu-Tang in Space Eating Impossible Sliders” a branded content mini web series starring Wu-Tang Clan. Sam looks forward to pursuing his love of directing.

Sam Spiegel Film and Television School

The Sam Spiegel Film and Television School is a film and television school in Israel that was founded in 1989. It was renamed in honor of Sam Spiegel in 1996, with the support of the Sam Spiegel Estate.

The school has been the subject of some 190 tributes and retrospectives in 55 countries at international festivals, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1996), the Rotterdam Festival (1997), the Havana Festival (1999), the Moscow Festival (1999), the Valladolid Film Festival (Spain, 2000), FIPA Festival - Biarritz (France, 2004) the Berlin International Film Festival (2004), the Hamptons Festival (2005) and the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France (2005), and Sarajevo Film Festival (2008). In 2016 the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University held a tribute to the school. The School has been the subject of a number of tributes and retrospectives. The school's films have won 420 international and local prizes, including twice the First Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2008 Anthem, by Elad Keidan was awarded First Prize in the Student Film competition at the prestigious Cinéfondation section. This marked the first ever such win by an Israeli student film in Cannes, and in 2015 Or Sinai won for her film Anna.76% of the school's graduates work in the industry. Among the school’s most prominent alumni are Rama Burshtein, Nadav Lapid, Talya Lavie, Tom Shoval, Nir Bergman, Noah Stollman, Elad Keidan and Ra'anan Alexandrowicz.The former director of the New York Film Festival, Richard Peña, said in 2011 at the tribute to the school at Columbia University: “Israeli cinema can be divided into two periods—before and after the establishment of the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School.”

Suddenly, Last Summer (film)

Suddenly, Last Summer is a 1959 American Southern Gothic mystery film based on the play of the same name by Tennessee Williams. The film was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and produced by Sam Spiegel from a screenplay by Gore Vidal and Williams with cinematography by Jack Hildyard and production design by Oliver Messel. The musical score was composed by Buxton Orr, using themes by Malcolm Arnold.

The plot centers on a young woman who, at the insistence of her wealthy aunt, is being evaluated by a psychiatric doctor to receive a lobotomy after witnessing the death of her cousin Sebastian Venable while travelling with him in Spain the previous summer.

The film stars Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift with Albert Dekker, Mercedes McCambridge, and Gary Raymond.

The African Queen (film)

The African Queen is a 1951 British-American adventure film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester. The film was directed by John Huston and produced by Sam Spiegel and John Woolf. The screenplay was adapted by James Agee, John Huston, John Collier and Peter Viertel. It was photographed in Technicolor by Jack Cardiff and had a music score by Allan Gray. The film stars Humphrey Bogart (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor – his only Oscar), and Katharine Hepburn with Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Walter Gotell, Richard Marner and Theodore Bikel.The African Queen was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1994, with the Library of Congress deeming it "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant". The film holds a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 41 reviews.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 British-American epic war film directed by David Lean and based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwaï (1952) by Pierre Boulle. The film uses the historical setting of the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–1943. The cast included William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness, and Sessue Hayakawa.

It was initially scripted by screenwriter Carl Foreman, who was later replaced by Michael Wilson. Both writers had to work in secret, as they were on the Hollywood blacklist and had fled to England in order to continue working. As a result, Boulle, who did not speak English, was credited and received the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay; many years later, Foreman and Wilson posthumously received the Academy Award.The film was widely praised, winning seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) at the 30th Academy Awards. It used lush colour to bring out the British stiff upper lip of the colonel, played by Alec Guinness in an Oscar-winning performance. In 1997, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress. It has been included on the American Film Institute's list of best American films ever made. In 1999, the British Film Institute voted The Bridge on the River Kwai the 11th greatest British film of the 20th Century.

The Chase (1966 film)

The Chase is a 1966 American Technicolor drama film in Panavision directed by Arthur Penn and starring Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, and Robert Redford, about a series of events set into motion by a prison break. Because one of the two escapees is Charlie "Bubber" Reeves (Redford), wrongly assumed to be responsible for a murder, the escape causes a stir in a nearby town where Bubber is a well-known figure. The supporting cast features E. G. Marshall, Angie Dickinson, Janice Rule, Miriam Hopkins, Martha Hyer, and Robert Duvall.

The Happening (1967 film)

The Happening is a 1967 American crime film directed by Elliot Silverstein, and starring Anthony Quinn, Michael Parks, George Maharis, Robert Walker Jr., Martha Hyer and Faye Dunaway. It tells the story of four hippies, who kidnap a retired Mafia mob boss, holding him for ransom.

The film is an anti-establishment story that questions the values of Middle America and the older generation.

The Invader (1935 film)

The Invader is a 1935 British comedy film directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Buster Keaton, Lupita Tovar and Lyn Harding. The film follows the same plot as its remake Pest from the West (1939), with a millionaire setting out to win a local girl in Mexico.The film was produced as a quota quickie at Isleworth Studios by British & Continental as part of a contract to supply films for MGM to meet its annual quota set by the British government. The film is also known under the alternative title An Old Spanish Custom,

The Last Tycoon (1976 film)

The Last Tycoon is a 1976 American drama film directed by Elia Kazan and produced by Sam Spiegel, based upon Harold Pinter's screenplay adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon. It stars Robert De Niro, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Jack Nicholson, Donald Pleasence, Jeanne Moreau, Theresa Russell and Ingrid Boulting.

The film was the second collaboration between Kazan and Spiegel, who worked closely together to make On the Waterfront. Fitzgerald based the novel's protagonist, Monroe Stahr, on film producer Irving Thalberg. Spiegel was once awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.

The Last Tycoon did not receive the critical acclaim that much of Kazan's earlier work received, but it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Gene Callahan, Jack T. Collis, and Jerry Wunderlich).Coincidentally, the story itself was Fitzgerald's last, unfinished novel, as well as the last film Kazan directed, even though he lived until 2003.

The Night of the Generals

The Night of the Generals is a 1967 Franco-British-American Second World War crime mystery film directed by Anatole Litvak and produced by Sam Spiegel. It stars Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Tom Courtenay, Donald Pleasence, Joanna Pettet and Philippe Noiret. The screenplay by Joseph Kessel and Paul Dehn was loosely based on the beginning of the novel of the same name by German author Hans Hellmut Kirst. The writing credits also include the line "based on an incident written by James Hadley Chase". Gore Vidal is said to have contributed to the screenplay, but was not credited.

The musical score was composed by Maurice Jarre. Parts of this western-made film were shot on actual location in Warsaw, which at the time was behind the Iron Curtain because of the Cold War. The last scenes of the film were shot in Munich.

The Prowler (1951 film)

The Prowler is a 1951 thriller film noir directed by Joseph Losey that stars Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes. The film was produced by Sam Spiegel (as S.P. Eagle) and was written by Dalton Trumbo. Because Trumbo was blacklisted at the time, the screenplay was credited to his friend, screenwriter Hugo Butler, as a front.

The Strange One

The Strange One is a 1957 black-and-white film noir about students faced with an ethical dilemma in a military college in the Southern United States. It was directed by Herb Gardner and Jack Garfein, produced by Sam Spiegel, and was adapted from a novel and stage play by Calder Willingham called End as a Man. It marked the film debut of Ben Gazzara, George Peppard and Julie Wilson. Gazzara, Pat Hingle, Peter Mark Richman and Arthur Storch reprised their roles, after starring in the stage version. The film is noteworthy, due to the entire acting and technical staff being from the Actors Studio. It focuses on the dehumanization associated with the tradition of hazing within the college and is noteworthy for its portrayal of homoerotic themes – and at least one gay character – at a time when the Hays Code prohibited such expression.

We Were Strangers

We Were Strangers is a 1949 American adventure-drama film directed by John Huston and starring Jennifer Jones and John Garfield. Set in 1933, the film concerns a group of revolutionaries attempting to overthrow the Cuban government of Gerardo Machado. The story is based loosely on an episode in Robert Sylvester's novel Rough Sketch and draws on historical events.

BAFTA Fellowship recipients

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