Douglas Sirk

Douglas Sirk
Douglas Sirk
Born Hans Detlef Sierck
April 26, 1897(1897-04-26)
Hamburg, German Empire
Died January 14, 1987(1987-01-14) (aged 89)
Lugano, Ticino, Switzerland
Years active 1934 - 1979
Spouse Hilde Jary (?-?)
Lydia Brinken (?-?)

Douglas Sirk (born Hans Detlef Sierck; April 26, 1897 – January 14, 1987) was a Danish-German film director best known for his work in Hollywood melodramas in the 1950s.


Life and work

Sirk was born Hans Detlef Sierck in Hamburg, Germany to Danish parents. He was raised in Denmark, but later moved to Germany as a teenager. He spread his education over three universities. He started his career in 1922 in the theatre of the Weimar Republic, including the direction of an early production of The Threepenny Opera. He joined UFA (Universum Film AG) in 1934, but left Germany in 1937 because of his political leanings and Jewish wife. On arrival in the United States, he soon changed his German name. By 1942 he was in Hollywood, directing the stridently anti-Nazi Hitler's Madman.

He made his name with a series of lush, colorful melodramas for Universal-International Pictures from 1952 to 1958: Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956), and Imitation of Life (1959). But it was at the pinnacle of his high-profile accomplishments as Universal's most successful director that he left the United States and filmmaking. He died in Lugano, Switzerland nearly thirty years later, with only a brief and obscure return behind the camera in Germany in the 1970s.


Contemporary reception

Sirk's melodramas of the 1950s, while highly commercially successful, were generally very poorly received by reviewers. His films were considered unimportant (because they revolve around female and domestic issues), banal (because of their focus on larger-than-life feelings) and unrealistic (because of their conspicuous style).

Later reception

This dismissal of Sirk's films changed drastically in the 1970s when his work was re-examined by British and French critics. From around 1970 there was a considerable interest among academic film scholars for Sirk's work - especially his American melodramas. Often centering on the formerly criticized style, his films were now seen as masterpieces of irony. The plots of the films were no longer taken at face value, and the analyses instead found that the films really criticized American society underneath the banal surface plot. The criticism of the 1970s and early 1980s was dominated by an ideological take on Sirk's work, gradually changing from being Marxist-inspired in the early 1970s to being focused on gender and sexuality in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Sirk's reputation was also helped by a widespread nostalgia for old-fashioned Hollywood films in the 1970s.[1] His work is now widely considered to show excellent control of the visuals, extending from lighting and framing to costumes and sets that are saturated with symbolism and shot through with subtle barbs of irony. Film critic Roger Ebert, in praise of Written on the Wind, has said that "To appreciate a film like Written on the Wind probably takes more sophistication than to understand one of Ingmar Bergman's masterpieces, because Bergman's themes are visible and underlined, while with Sirk the style conceals the message."[2]

Sirk's films have also been praised and quoted in films by directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, his Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is partly based on All That Heaven Allows and, later Quentin Tarantino, Todd Haynes, Pedro Almodóvar, Wong Kar-wai, John Waters and Lars von Trier. For instance, Almodóvar's vibrant use of color in 1988's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown recalls the cinematography of Sirk's films of the 1950s, while Haynes' Far From Heaven was a conscious attempt to replicate a typical Sirk melodrama—in particular All That Heaven Allows- but with a more obviously ironic take on the material. Tarantino paid homage to Sirk and his melodramatic style in Pulp Fiction, when character Vincent Vega, at a '50s-themed restaurant, orders the "Douglas Sirk steak" cooked "bloody as hell."



Feature films

Short films

  • Zwei Genies (1934)
  • Der Eingebildete Kranke (1935)
  • Dreimal Ehe (1935)
  • Sprich zu mir wie der Regen (1975) co-director
  • Sylvesternacht (1977) co-director


  • "This, anyhow, is what enchants me about Sirk: this delirious mixture of medieval and modern, sentimentality and subtlety, tame compositions and frenzied CinemaScope." - Jean-Luc Godard in a review of Sirk's A Time to Love and a Time to Die".[SOURCE - Godard on Godard, Translated by Tom Milne, Da Capo Press]

See also

  • Out There in the Dark (2006) by Wesley Strick features a protagonist called "Dieter Seiff" loosely based on Sirk.
  • Drachenfels (1989) in this gothic fantasy novel by Kim Newman (who penned it under the pseudonym Jack Yeovil) the protagonist is a young thespian and dramatist named Detlef Sierck, who receives the task of writing a piece about a renowned epic deed by the same prince who accomplished it twenty years before.


  1. ^ Barbara Klinger Melodrama and Meaning: history, culture, and the films of Douglas Sirk. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, USA, 1994
  2. ^ :: :: Great Movies :: Written on the Wind (xhtml)

Further reading

  • Douglas Sirk Bibliography (via UC Berkeley)
  • Klinger, Barbara. Melodrama and Meaning: history, culture, and the films of Douglas Sirk. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, USA, 1994.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Douglas Sirk — Données clés Nom de naissance Hans Detlef Sierck Naissance 26 avril 1897 Hambourg  Allemagne Nationalité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Douglas Sirk — (* 26. April 1897 in Hamburg; † 14. Januar 1987 in Lugano, Schweiz; bürgerlich Hans Detlef Sierck) war ein erfolgreicher Bühnenregisseur, dann Filmregisseur der Ufa und später in Hollywood. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 1.1 Deutschland …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Douglas Sirk — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Douglas Sirk, de nacimiento Claus Detlef Sierck (26 de abril, 1900, Hamburgo, Alemania 14 de enero, 1987, Lugano, Suiza) fue un cineasta estadounidense de origen alemán. Contenido 1 Biografía 2 …   Wikipedia Español

  • SIRK (D.) — SIRK DOUGLAS (1900 1987) Né à Hambourg de parents danois, Detlef Sierck étudie le droit, la philosophie et l’histoire de l’art (sous la direction d’Erwin Panofsky) dans les universités allemandes. Il publie en 1922 une traduction des Sonnets de… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Sirk — steht für: Sirk (Ort), Ort in der Slowakei Sirk ist ein männlicher Vorname, der ursprünglich aus dem Finnischen kommt, siehe Sirk (Vorname) Sirk ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Jakob I. von Sirk (auch von Sierck), Kurfürst und Erzbischof …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Douglas (Vorname) — Douglas ist ein männlicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Varianten 3 Bekannte Namensträger 4 Fiktive Personen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Douglas — /dug leuhs/, n. 1. Sir James ( the Black Douglas ), 1286 1330, Scottish military leader. 2. James, 2nd Earl of, 1358? 88, Scottish military leader. 3. Kirk (Issur Danielovitch Demsky), born 1916, U.S. actor. 4. Lloyd C(assel) /kas euhl/, 1877… …   Universalium

  • Douglas — Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Michael Kirk ► C. cap. de la isla británica de Man, en su costa SE, en el mar de Irlanda; 20 368 h. * * * (as used in expressions) Adrian, Edgar Douglas Bradbury, Ray (Douglas) Douglas, Aaron Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Michael …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Sirk — (Claus Detlev Sierck, dit Douglas), (1900 1987) cinéaste américain d origine danoise; il débute en Allemagne puis tourne des mélodrames à Hollywood: écrit sur du vent (1957) …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Sirk —   [səːk], Douglas, eigentlich Hans Detlef Sierck, amerikanischer Filmregisseur * Hamburg 26. 4. 1897, ✝ Lugano 15. 1. 1987; war u. a. 1929 35 Theaterintendant in Leipzig; ab 1935 Regisseur bei der Ufa; Meister des Filmmelodrams; drehte ab 1942 in …   Universal-Lexikon

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