Andre de Toth (1912 - 2002) came to the USA in the 1940s and became established as a workmanlike director whose films, notably his Westerns and films noir, were later hailed for their moody, psychological aspects.
A genuinely colourful character (for starters, his real name was Sasvrai Farkasfalvi Tothfalusi Toth Endre Anral Mihaly), he was the son of a former Hussar turned civil engineer. De Toth disappointed his father by being asked to leave a number of schools and then by deciding not to pursue a military career. Instead, he allegedly showed an early artistic bent, having a one-person art show while in his early teens (he claims to have destroyed the paintings and sculpture).
His first play is said to have closed before it opened but led to a meeting with playwright Ferenc Molnar who served as a mentor, introducing de Toth to various high profile individuals and obtaining writing assignments for the youth.
After obtaining a law degree, de Toth reportedly entered the Hungarian film industry, working as a camera operator for noted cinematographer Istvan Eiben. During the 1930s, he reportedly lived throughout Europe and visited the USA on several occasions. While in London, de Toth worked in several capacities for the Korda brothers before heading to Vienna to work on a script. On one of his trips to Los Angeles, he claims to have done uncredited work on the script for 1937's "The Life of Emile Zola".
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 "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 "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 his then wife 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. Another thread running throughout his work was his lack of compunction about depicting violence in as realistic a manner as possible, an unusual and somewhat controversial attitude for the time.
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 realised 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 movie 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 said 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 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 "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.
De Toth was married seven times, including to Veronica Lake from 1944 to 1952, and had 19 children in total.
He died on October 27, 2002, in Burbank, California of an aneurysm.