Kramer, Stanley

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KRAMER, Stanley

Nationality: American. Born: Stanley Earl Kramer in New York, 29 September 1913. Education: New York University, degree in business administration, 1933. Military Service: Served in U.S. Army Signal Corps, making training films, 1943–45. Family: Married 1) Anne Pearce, 1950, one son, one daughter; 2) Karen Sharpe, 1966, two daughters. Career: Apprentice writer, 20th Century-Fox, 1934; senior editor, Fox, 1938; staff writer for Colombia and Republic Pictures, 1939–40; joined MGM, 1942; with Herbert Baker and Carl Foreman, formed Screen Plays Inc., 1947; formed Stanley Kramer Productions (became Stanley Kramer Co., 1950), 1949; Stanley Kramer Co. joined Colombia Pictures, 1951; formed Stanley Kramer Pictures Corp., 1954; directed first film, 1955. Awards: Academy Award for Best Director, and Best Director, New York Critics, for The Defiant Ones, 1958; Irving G. Thalberg Award, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1961; Gallatin Medal, New York University, 1968.

Films as Director:


Not as a Stranger (+ pr)


The Pride and the Passion (+ pr)


The Defiant Ones (+ pr)


On the Beach (+ pr)


Inherit the Wind (+ pr)


Judgement at Nuremberg (+ pr)


It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (+ pr)


Ship of Fools (+ pr)


Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (+ pr)


The Secret of Santa Vittoria (+ pr)


RPM (+ pr)


Bless the Beasts and Children (+ pr)


Oklahoma Crude (+ pr)


The Domino Principle (+ pr)


The Runner Stumbles (+ pr)

Other Films:


So This Is New York (Fleischer) (pr)


Champion (Robson) (pr); Home of the Brave (Robson) (pr)


The Men (Zinnemann) (pr); Cyrano de Bergerac (Gordon) (pr)


Death of a Salesman (Benedek) (pr)


My Six Convicts (Fregonese) (pr); The Sniper (Dmytryk) (pr); High Noon (Zinnemann) (pr); The Happy Time (Fleischer) (pr); The Four Poster (Reis) (pr); Eight Iron Men (Dmytryk) (pr); The Member of the Wedding (Zinnemann) (pr)


The Juggler (Dmytryk) (pr); The Five Thousand Fingers ofDr. T (Rowland) (pr)


The Wild One (Benedek) (pr); The Caine Mutiny (Dmytryk) (pr)


Pressure Point (Cornfield) (pr)


A Child Is Waiting (Cassavetes) (pr)


Invitation to a Gunfighter (Wilson) (pr)


By KRAMER: books—

A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: A Life in Hollywood, Fort Worth, 1997.

Three Rabbis in a Rowboat: The World's Best Jewish Humor, (editor), Somerville, 2000.

By KRAMER: articles—

"The Independent Producer," in Films in Review (New York), March 1951.

"Kramer on the Future," in Films in Review (New York), May 1953.

"Politics, Social Comment, and My Emotions," in Films and Filming (London), June 1960.

"Sending Myself the Message," in Films and Filming (London), February 1964.

"Nine Times across the Generation Gap," in Action (Los Angeles), March/April 1968.

Interview, in Directors at Work, edited by Bernard Kantor and others, New York, 1970.

"Stanley Kramer: The Man and His Film," interview, in AmericanCinematographer (Los Angeles), November 1979.

"Dialogue on Film: Stanley Kramer," in American Film (Washing-ton, D.C.), March 1987.

"Paul Winfield and Stanley Kramer: A Conversation on the Power of Film between an Actor Who Defied the System and a Director Who Changed It," in American Film (Washington, D.C), May 1991.

"Stanley Kramer Remembers," an interview with J. Bawden, in Classic Images (Muscatine), August 1992.

On KRAMER: books—

Spoto, Donald, Stanley Kramer: Film Maker, New York, 1978.

On KRAMER: articles—

Houston, Penelope, "Kramer and Company," in Sight and Sound (London), July/September 1952.

Bogdanovich, Peter, "Dore Schary—Stanley Kramer Syndrome," in New York Film Bulletin, no. 12–14, 1960.

Alpert, Hollis, and Arthur Knight, "Haunting Question: Producer-Director at Work," in Saturday Review (New York), 2 Decem-ber 1961.

Tracy, Spencer, and Montgomery Clift, "An Actor's Director," in Films and Filming (London), January 1962.

Cowie, Peter, "The Defiant One," in Films and Filming (London), March 1963.

Decter, Midge, "Movies and Messages," in Commentary (New York), November 1965.

Omatsu, Mary, "Guess Who Came to Lunch?," in Take One (Montr-eal), vol. 1, no. 9, 1968.

"A Recipe for Greatness," in Films and Filming (London), March 1968.

McGillivray, D., "Stanley Kramer," in Focus on Film (London), Autumn 1973.

"Stanley Kramer," in Film Dope (London), January 1985.

Luft, H.G., "Stanley Kramer," in Films in Review (New York), March 1985.

Levy, S., "Save This Film," in American Film, April 1991.

Nosferatu (San Sebastian), February 1994.

Labre, C., "Le secret de Santa Vittoria," in Télérama (Paris), 5 July 1995.

* * *

Stanley Kramer was among the first of the successful, postwar independent producers in Hollywood. His work offers testimony to the virtues of such a position in controlling subject matter, while also confirming the power of the tacit constraints that limit social criticism in Hollywood. Films produced, or produced and directed, by Stanley Kramer remain close to the typical styles of postwar Hollywood narrative: location realism in The Sniper, The Juggler, On the Beach, and Judgment at Nuremberg; a clean narrative trajectory, except for somewhat "preachy" scenes when characters discuss the overt issues confronting them (medical care for the psychopath in The Sniper and Pressure Point, the need to support those with legal authority in High Noon or The Caine Mutiny); and a stress on the dilemmas of particular individuals via the mechanisms of psychological realism, although Kramer's characters bear a greater than average burden of representing social types and prominent social attitudes or beliefs.

Frequent attention to topical social issues gives Kramer's work its greatest distinction. These issues include criminality vs. mental illness, G.I. rehabilitation, racism, campus unrest in the sixties, juvenile delinquency, the need for and limits to legitimate authority, and the hazard of nuclear war. However, some of Kramer's work is only obliquely issue-related (The Four Poster, Cyrano de Bergerac, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T). Even as fewer and fewer topical, social–issue films were being produced during the 1950s, Kramer continued to bring such fare to the screen. His films are not radical or revolutionary by any means. They tend to plead for a respect for the existing institutions of law and authority, although they do point to serious flaws in need of redress. They lack the idiosyncratic, more stylistically expressive sensibility of filmmakers less overtly socially conscious who nevertheless raise similar issues, such as Samuel Fuller or John Cassavetes. Even so, Kramer's films continue a long-standing Hollywood tradition of marrying topical issues to dramatic forms, a tradition in which we find many of Hollywood's more openly progressive films.

In many ways, Kramer's films address the issues those who were blacklisted during the 1950s hoped to confront. Kramer himself was not blacklisted, though he was and is still regarded as a socially concerned liberal.

In fact, Stanley Kramer's career is ripe for reinvestigation. Criticized or dismissed by the left for failing to support black-listed individuals or for not taking a sufficiently critical view of existing institutions, Kramer has also been criticized and dismissed by auteurist critics for failing to evince a personal-enough stylistic signature (or the kind of fascination evoked by the romantic individualism of a Fuller or Ray). Structuralists have also overlooked his oeuvre and so it remains a scarcely studied, poorly assessed body of very significant work—as revealing of the limits of critical approaches as it may be of Kramer's own artistic or political sensibilities.

—Bill Nichols