Andre de Toth

Andre de Toth

Returning to Budapest, de Toth began his directing career in earnest under the name Endre Toth, making five films in less than one year. His first "Toprini nasz/Wedding at Toprin" caught the attention of Harry Cohn at Columbia but it would be several years before de Toth was ready to move permanently to the USA. Although there have been allegations that he made films of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, it has not been proven. What is known is that de Toth returned to London and worked for the Korda brothers, often as a production assistant and/or second unit director, although he only received onscreen credit for his work on 1942's "The Jungle Book." He finally arrived in Hollywood in 1943 and entered the American film industry as helmer of "Passport to Suez," a well-made piece of propaganda about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal. Harry Cohn put the director under contract for one film and the result, "None Shall Escape" (1944), was a taut drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his career. It was "Ramrod" (1947), though, that first brought him widespread attention. A Western drama featuring Veronica Lake, Charles Ruggles and Joel McCrea, it was acclaimed for its spectacular black-and-white photography (by Russell Harlan) and for its strong cast. The film also established what has come to be perceived as the major theme that runs through nearly all of de Toth's work: the vagaries of human relationships. De Toth scored again with "Pitfall" (1948) which turned on a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair that threatens everything he holds important. Again, the director showed a particular affinity with his actors, eliciting fine portrayals from leads Dick Powell, Jane Wyatt and Lizbeth Scott and supporting actor Raymond Burr. De Toth shared a 1950 Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for "The Gunfighter" (1950), a superb character study of a killer trying to live down his past. (De Toth, however, objected to the casting of leading man Gregory Peck claiming the role was created with Gary Cooper in mind.) In 1951, he made the first of six fine Westerns with Randolph Scott, "Man in the Saddle." He finally realized his dream of directing his friend Cooper in "Springfield Rifle" (1952), but contemporary critics were dismissive of the results. "House of Wax" (1953), on the other hand, was praised by reviewers. The one-eyed de Toth was a curious choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, but he persevered and the film was the most successful 3-D movies of its day (It also introduced Vincent Price to the genre with which he would become indelibly linked.) De Toth followed with a series of fast-paced thrillers, the best of which is "Crime Wave" (1954), a hostage drama raised a notch by the acting of Sterling Hayden, Gene Nelson and Phyllis Kirk. "The Indian Fighter" (1955) was the first film produced by Kirk Douglas and offered the star a strong role as an army scout. De Toth brought a steady hand to the proceedings, earning notice for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors. Turning to social problems, de Toth directed the stark drama about drug addiction "Monkey on My Back" (1957), loosely drawn from the life of boxer Barney Ross. After helming the well-received "Day of the Outlaw" (1959) and the disappointing "Man on a String" (1960), the director decamped to Italy where he oversaw a number of forgettable films. During this European sojourn, de Toth took time to work as an uncredited "consultant" on David Lean's spectacular "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962). The exact nature of his contributions remains murky; de Toth says he "found locations," but conceded he shot some footage, although how much of his work found its way into the final cut is unknown. After a near-fatal 1964 skiing accident, he slowed his output. Reportedly, de Toth worked as a second unit director on one or more of the James Bond films and wrote and produced "Billion Dollar Baby" (1967, directed by Ken Russell) for Bond producer Albert 'Cubby' Broccoli. After replacing Rene Clement on the above-average "Play Dirty" (1968), he more or less retired from active filmmaking. De Toth produced "El Condor" (1970) and then offered uncredited assistance on numerous projects (including staging the flying sequences of 1978's "Superman" and as a script doctor on 1980's "The Lion of the Desert"). With the awarding of the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his memoirs, "Fragments: Portraits From the Inside," de Toth began to receive his due for his economical and entertaining body of work.