Sternberg, Josef von

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STERNBERG, JOSEF VON (1894–1969), film director. Von Sternberg, born in Vienna (though the "von" was a Hollywood addition), was one of the best-known film directors of the 1920s and 1930s. He used the camera as it had not been used before, capturing the play of light and the symbolism of shadow. Out of his struggle against the commercialism of the major studios came films of distinction and influence. He first drew attention with The Salvation Hunters (1925), a realistic presentation of the lower depths of American life. For Paramount studios he made the first gangster film, Underworld, in 1927. In 1930 he went to Germany to direct the Ufa company's first talking picture, The Blue Angel. He cast the unknown Marlene Dietrich in the leading role and the film became a part of cinema history. There followed six more films with Dietrich in Hollywood. During World War ii, he made films for the Office of War Information. Von Sternberg amassed a noteworthy collection of 20th-century art. He published his autobiography, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, in 1965.


H.G. Weinberg, Josef von Sternberg (Eng., 1967); G. Castello, in: Encyclopedia Dello Spettacolo, 9 (1962), 356–60, incl. bibl.

[Stewart Kampel]