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Sam Spiegel

Pic producer paragons

Not even his great success could obscure the gambler’s insolence in the Spiegel legend. He was the picture producer who carried himself like a prince and a con man — leaving us to judge the difference.

Spiegel (born in Austria) had tried several things before the movies made good use of his devious nature: the University of Vienna, romancing Hedy Lamarr, politics in Palestine, selling cotton, lecturing on drama, working for Universal in Europe. In 1933, he shifted his base westward, but he did not produce an American picture until the classy but rather hollow “Tales of Manhattan.”

Then the pace mounted: “The Stranger” (with Orson Welles), “We Were Strangers” (with John Huston) and “The African Queen.” Still, Spiegel’s glory began in 1954 with “On the Waterfront,” his first picture winner. Others followed — “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Lawrence of Arabia.”

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