Oscar-Winning Screenwriter

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Emeric Pressburger

Emeric Pressburger was an Oscar-winning screenwriter whose films are considered "amongst the most extraordinary ever made in Britain."[1] His partnership with director Michael Powell has been termed "one of the most inspired in the history of British cinema, producing a body of films notable for their passion and fantasy."[2] Pressburger and Powell have been called "two of the most iconic British filmmakers of the 1940s and 50s."[3] The movies on which they collaborated include: The Tales of Hoffman, The Elusive Pimpernel, The Red Shoes (nominated for Best Picture and Best Story Oscars), Black Narcissus, and One of Our Aircraft is Missing (nominated for Best Original Screenplay). In 1942, Pressburger won an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story, for the film Forty-Ninth Parallel (released in the US as The Invaders).

The son of Kalman Pressburger and Katerina Wichs, Emeric Pressburger was born Imre Jozef Pressburger in Miskolc on December 5, 1902. His father was said to have been the land agent for a local baron.[4] As a child, Pressburger was a gifted violinist and mathematician.[5] He studied engineering at universities in Prague and Stuttgart, but was forced to abandon his studies and earn a living when his father died. He emigrated to Berlin in 1925 and Germanicized his name to Emerich. He had begun a promising career at Universum Film AG (UFA), then the largest film company in Europe; but when anti-Jewish laws were passed in the 1930s, he was told that his contract for 1933 would not be renewed and he was forced from his job. Eventually, he fled to England, where he became successful in the British film industry.

At the end of World War II, Pressburger tried to contact his mother Katerina in Miskolc. He found that the city's Jewish population had been decimated by the Nazis and that, in 1944, Katerina Pressburger had been among those who had been deported to Auschwitz, where she had perished.

Pressburger was married to Agi Donath in 1938 and was divorced in 1941. He married Wendy Orme 1947 and divorced her in 1971. Their daughter, Angela Macdonald John, had two sons, Kevin and Andrew Macdonald, both of whom became successful film-makers. Kevin, an Oscar-winning documentary-maker and director of the film The Last King of Scotland, wrote the definitive biography of his grandfather: Emeric Pressburger: The Life and Death of a Screenwriter (Faber and Faber, 1994). He also produced a documentary about Pressburger's life, The Making of an Englishman (1995). Pressburger died on February 5, 1988 in Sussex, England.

  1. http://www.britishpictures.com/books/emeric.htm
  2. http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/444768/
  3. "The Films of Powell and Pressburger," University of Oxford Continuing Education, at http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/details.php?id=O07P792FIW
  4. http://www.powell-pressburger.org/Obits/Pressburger/Addresses.html
  5. "Stacy Kent on Powell and Pressburger," BBC Radio 4, Great Lives (2003) at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/greatlives/kent_powell.shtml


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