Otto Preminger (above, flanked by Sammy Davis Jr. and Sidney Poitier on the set of 1959’s Porgy and Bess) dies of lung cancer and Alzheimer’s disease in New York City, 1989. The Great Love (1931), shot in his native Austria, was the notoriously difficult director’s debut film. In 1936, Preminger immigrated to the United States and shortly thereafter helmed his first American picture, Under Your Spell (1936), a comedy about a disillusioned singer (Lawrence Tibbett) and the dame (Wendy Barrie) who tries to lure him back into the spotlight. Eight years later came his breakthrough—the romantic mystery Laura (1944), starring Gene Tierney, Vincent Price, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb. It would mark the start of a decades-long run of films that were a mix of popular entertainments, critically acclaimed dramas and interesting failures.
Among his better-known titles are Daisy Kenyon (1947), Carmen Jones (1954), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Exodus (1960) and Advise and Consent (1962), with the prize for his most dreadful movie likely split between the turgid terrorist kidnapping saga Rosebud (1975) and a humorless collision of flower power, mobster shenanigans and aging movie stars called Skidoo (1968). Of the latter film, New York Times critic Vincent Canby called it “something only for Preminger-watchers, or for people whose minds need pressing by a heavy, flat object.” The cast included Carol Channing, Jackie Gleason, Frankie Avalon, Mickey Rooney, George Raft and, as a character named God, Groucho Marx in his final film role. Said Preminger about the movie: “I don't think many people adore it. Except my wife, who adores all my pictures, because that's what you get married for.”