Sir Alexander Korda


Suggested Films:


The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)
Rembrandt (1936)
Things to Come (1936)
The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

Alexander Korda was born Sándor László Kellner on September 16, 1893 on a settlement on the outskirts of Turkeve on the Great Hungarian Plain in Pusztatúrpásztó in Austria-Hungary The elder brother of future filmmakers Zoltán Korda and Vincent Korda. He was the oldest of three sons in a family of assimilated Jews. As a young boy, Sandor's sight was damaged by the improper treatment of an eye condition. Throughout his life he always wore thick glasses. Despite this detriment, he was a voracious reader, and acquired a near-photographic memory.

Aged 13, Sandor suffered the death of his father, and shortly thereafter he left for the capital Budapest. There he became a short story writer for a daily newspaper. Here he adopted the pseudonym ‘Korda’, and became a full-time reporter at age sixteen. Sandor Korda also contributed crime stories and wrote reviews, and became the paper's night editor.

In 1911 he out to start a career in films and spent several months in Paris, doing odd jobs in the Pathé studio -- at the time, the most advanced film factory in the world. He returned to Hungary and joined a film company in Budapest.

In 1919, he assisted the Communist government (though Korda was not a member of the Communist party) when it made Hungary the first nationalized film industry in the world. When the Communist government fell and was replaced by the right-wing "White Terror" regime, Korda was briefly imprisoned. In November 1919, he left Hungary with his actress wife Maria. He would never again return to his homeland.

Now calling himself Alexander Korda, rather than Sandor, he journeyed to Vienna to join the Sascha Film Company. Desperately seeking his independence, he moved to Berlin to form his own company Korda-Film, directing film vehicles for his wife Maria Corda (who spelled her last name differently to differentiate from her husband). His films were well-received, and led to an offer from the First National studios in Hollywood for both Kordas to come to America.

Korda located financing, and built his own studio called Corvin in a suburb of Budapest where the Mafilm Studios reside today. Though Korda served as director, he also served as executive producer by overseeing all production activity at his impressive company. He eventually fell out with the main distributors in Hollywood and decided it would be in Britain where he would make his mark.

Korda felt that the only way to bring the English film industry to prominence would be by concentrating on quality films. In 1932 he founded London Films and the studios at Denham which eventually became a part of the Rank Organisation. He then risked everything on a deceptively-lavish movie 'The Private Life of Henry VIII' (1933) starring Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester. The film became a worldwide blockbuster.

Korda constructed the stately Denham film studio on a 165-acre estate outside London. He also established his own roster of contract actors including Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon (who became the second Mrs. Korda in 1939), Wendy Barrie, Robert Donat, Maurice Evans, and Vivien Leigh.

Korda manufactured custom jewellery for some of his films, given as gifts to employees and friends. The above example is from The Thief of Bagdad (1940). While Britain was war-torn in the early 1940s, Korda took up an extended residence in the United States. During this time he co-founded SIMPP. He took some flak for spending a lot of time in the U.S. during World War II, but it now appears that he was (amongst other things) acting as a courier for Winston Churchill.

Only a couple years later Alexander Korda became the first of the founding members to leave the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers. In 1942, Korda became the first film director ever to be knighted. In March 1943, Korda entered into a merger between his independent company London Film Productions and MGM-British. Korda would become the new executive producer of the English division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He resigned from SIMPP, and returned to England. However, his dissatisfaction with the deal brought about his resignation in 1946.

Alexander Korda was married three times, the first to Hungarian actress María Corda in 1919. They had one son and divorced in 1930. In 1939, he married Anglo-American film star, Merle Oberon but the marriage ended in divorce in 1945. His last marriage was in 1953 to Alexandra Boycun with whom he remained until his death three years later. He died at the age of 62 in London and was cremated, his ashes at Golders Green Crematorium in London.

The Alexander Korda Award for the 'Outstanding British Film of the Year' is given in his honor by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.













Alexander Korda , british film, british director, british movie