Who was the greatest film director of all time?
I cheerfully admit, this is a silly question. There are scores of great directors, each with his own style and virtues. How to choose? Apples versus oranges. I confess that I, myself, am unable to settle on one choice. So I will propose three criteria and nominate one director for each.
(1) *Technical Virtuosity * - A demonstrated mastery of the 10,000 tricks of the director’s craft (lighting, camera angle, etc.). Clearly the obvious choice here is:
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)
This choice is bolstered by the fact that Hitchcock is probably the most imitated director of all time. Dozens of directors have copied his style (but not, alas, his genius).
(2) Audience Manipulation * - A demonstrated ability to play with the viewer’s emotions. And when it comes to generating suspense, or just plain f**ing with your head, no one does it better than:
Alfred Hitchcock, again
My father was a stolid film-watcher and immune to being diddled by most directors. But he paid Hitchcock the ultimate compliment, deeming him “spooky.”
(3) Versatility - A demonstrated ability to effectively direct any kind of film - westerns, musicals, comedies, costume epics, urban dramas, soap operas…you get the idea. The obvious choice here is:
**Michael Curtiz ** (1886-1962)
Curtiz is a director whose name is not in the public consciousness (like Hitch), but when you look at his filmography, his contribution to cinema leaps into startling focus. A selection:
*Mystery of the Wax Museum * (1933)
*Jimmy the Gent * (1934)
*Captain Blood * (1935)
*The Charge of the Light Brigade * (1936)
*Kid Galahad * (1937)
*The Adventures of Robin Hood * (1938) A “perfect” film
*Angels With Dirty Faces * (1938)
*Dodge City * (1939)
*The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex * (1939)
*Virginia City * (1940)
*The Sea Hawk * (1940)
*Santa Fe Trail * (1940)
*The Sea Wolf * (1941)
*Yankee Doodle Dandy * (1942)
Casablanca (1942) The greatest “pure Hollywood” film of all time
*Mildred Pierce * (1945)
*Life With Father * (1947)
And there are many others. Curtiz ended his career with a fine John Wayne western, *The Comancheros * (1961). The point is, not only was Curtiz exceptionally versatile, his films include many of our most beloved classics.
I am sure that many Dopers will be quick to point out that, since Hitchcock won two of my three criteria, he must be my *de facto * favorite. But Curtiz has Casablanca…<swoon> And that counts for a lot.
So, in your opinion,
who was the greatest film director of all time?
When you choose, you should offer a criterion. You may use my criteria or propose new ones.