Douglas Sirk (April 26, 1897 - January 14, 1987) was a German-born film director best known for his work in Hollywood in the 1950s.
Hans Detlef Sierck was born 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 Germanic 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, formulaic melodramas for Universal-International Pictures from 1952 to 1958: Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows (preserved by the US National Film Registry), Written on the Wind, and Imitation of Life. 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.
His original reputation was of a competent creator of light-weight nonsense, but his work was re-examined after praise by British critics, writers of the French New Wave and the opinions of directors such as Rainer Fassbinder and, later on, Quentin Tarantino and Todd Haynes. His work is currently 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.