László Benedek

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László Benedek (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈlaːsloː ˈbɛnɛdɛk]; March 5, 1905 – March 11, 1992; sometimes Laslo Benedek) was a Hungarian-born film director and cinematographer, most notable for directing The Wild One (1953).

He gained recognition for his direction of the film version of Death of a Salesman (1951), for which he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and a Best Director nomination from the Directors Guild of America. However, it was for his directorial efforts on his next project that Benedek is best remembered. His motorcycle gang film The Wild One (1953) caused a storm of controversy and was banned in the United Kingdom until 1968.


European career[edit]

He was born in Budapest. He intended to be a psychiatrist and studied at Vienna and Berlin. He worked in the film industry to pay his bills and ended up deciding to focus on that instead.[1][2]

In Germany, Benedek was cinematographer on The Mistress (1927). He was assistant director on The Great Longing (1929), directed by Steve Sekely, and edited and assisted directed The Man Who Murdered (1931) for director Curtis Bernhardt. He worked at UFA for Joe Pasternak until 1933. He assisted on Hyppolit, the Butler (1931) and edited Die Wasserteufel von Hieflau (1932), and Miss Iza (1933).[3]

When the Nazis came to power, Benedek followed Pasternak to Vienna then Hungary where he edited A Precocious Girl (1934) starring Franciska Gaal and Temptation (1934), both directed by Max Nuefeld; he was assistant director on the latter.[4]

He went to England where he worked as a writer on The Secret of Stamboul (1936), directed by fellow Hungarian expatriate Andrew Marton. In 1937 he moved to the US.[1]

Early US career[edit]

In the US, Benedek worked on the montage scenes of Test Pilot (1938) at MGM. He edited A Little Bit of Heaven (1940) for Pasternak at Universal.[4]

At MGM he was assistant director on Song of Russia (1944) and worked as an associate producer under Joe Pasternak. Among his jobs included doing screen tests, second unit directing, and supervising the animated dance sequence in Anchors Aweigh (1945).[5]

In 1946 he was linked with communist front organisations.[6]


Benedek made his feature film directing debut with The Kissing Bandit (1948) at MGM, produced by Pasternak; it was a notorious flop.[7][8]

He went to Eagle Lion where he directed a noir, Port of New York (1949) starring Yul Brynner. For Stanley Kramer he then made Death of a Salesman (1951) which was a financial disappointment.[9][2]

He produced but did not direct Storm Over Tibet (1952) (Marton directed), started to direct television, notably episodes of Footlights Theater, and The Ford Television Theatre.[10][11]

Kramer gave him the job of The Wild One (1953) with Marlon Brando, originally called The Cyclist's Raid.[12] He went over to Universal to do Bengal Rifles (1954) with Rock Hudson.

Return to Europe[edit]

Benedek returned to Germany to write and direct Sons, Mothers and a General (1955).[13] Back in the US he made a short with Richard Widmark, Boy with a Knife (1956), then focused on television: The Loretta Young Show, Telephone Time, Four Star Theatre, Cavalcade of America,

Benedek returned to features with Affair in Havana (1957) starring John Cassavetes. He wanted to make Anna for Rank in Britain with Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan but requested the script be rewritten and then Caron fell pregnant, causing the film to be abandoned.[14]

He also directed Malaga aka Moment of Danger (1960) starring Dorothy Dandridge and Trevor Howard. This low budget crime drama was the last film made by Dandridge.

In France, he wrote and directed Recourse in Grace (1960) with Raf Vallone.


In the 1960s Benedek mostly concentrated on TV, doing episodes of Perry Mason, The Naked City, Thriller, Zane Grey Theater, The Fugitive, The Doctors and the Nurses, The Outer Limits, Mannix, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Untouchables, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Felony Squad, 12 O'Clock High, Iron Horse, and Custer.

In 1965 he directed a play Belial.[15]

Final features[edit]

He returned to features when he produced and directed Namu, the Killer Whale (1967), for fellow Hungarian Ivan Tors. He directed Daring Game (1968) for Tors,[16] then The Night Visitor (1971) and Assault on Agathon (1977).

Later career and death[edit]

From 1976 to 1980, he was chairman of the graduate film program at New York University's School of the Arts. In 1983, he became a visiting professor of film at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.[1] He went on to teach at the Film Academy in Munich, Germany, at Rice University in Houston, and at Columbia University in New York City.[17]

Benedek died in 1992 in The Bronx, New York.[1] He was survived by two daughters, Melinda Norton and Barbara Rhodes, and a companion, painter and printmaker Danielle DeMers.[18]






  1. ^ a b c d Laslo Benedek, 87, Film Director Known for 'Wild One,' Is Dead: [Biography; Obituary (Obit)] Honan, William H. New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]14 Mar 1992: 1.12.
  2. ^ a b Rejecting Hollywood Formula: Hollywood Letter By Richard Dyer MacCann. The Christian Science Monitor 5 Sep 1951: 4
  3. ^ Laslo Benedek, 87; Screenwriter, Movie and Television Director Los Angeles Times 13 Mar 1992: 24.
  4. ^ a b New Directors – Where From? Leonard, Harold. Sight and Sound; London. Vol. 17, Iss. 66, (Summer 1948): 103.
  5. ^ Clarissa 'Bandit' Star Los Angeles Times 13 Aug 1945: A2.
  6. ^ Tells How Red Rash Broke Out in Hollywood: Communist Fronts Find Fertile Soil in Movieland. Hughes, Frank. Chicago Daily Tribune 20 Nov 1946: 14.
  7. ^ The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  8. ^ Another source puts the cost at $2.5 million Variety February 1948
  9. ^ Transferring 'Death of a Salesman' to Film: Arthur Miller Play Ideally Suited to Screen Techniques, Says Director Changes Affair. Laslo Benedek. New York Times, 9 Dec 1951: 131.
  10. ^ Movie Directors Urged to Add Their Talents to Television Swirsky, Sid. Los Angeles Times 16 Aug 1953: D11.
  11. ^ Culled From a Himalayan Limbo. Helen Gould. New York Times 18 Feb 1951: 84.
  12. ^ Hollywood in Review. Los Angeles Times 27 Jan 1952: D10.
  13. ^ Miss Blaine Signs to Star in 'Dolls'. New York Times. 16 Sep 1954: 36
  14. ^ Movie View in England. New York Times 27 Apr 1958: X7.
  15. ^ 'Belial' Will Have World Premiere at Coronet Los Angeles Times 19 Sep 1965: b30.
  16. ^ Movie Call Sheet. Los Angeles Times 14 Dec 1966: e24.
  17. ^ Filmmaker known for `Wild One': Chicago Tribune 14 Mar 1992: 17.
  18. ^ 'Filmmaker Laslo Benedek, 87' Hackensack Record 15 March 1992 p. 18; https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=danielle-ginette-demers&pid=167413092

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