Walter Reisch

Walter Reisch

writer, director, producer

Walter Reisch was born on May 23, 1903 in Austria-Hungary [now Austria]. Walter Reisch's big-screen debut came with Die Nacht gehört uns directed by Carl Froelich in 1929. Walter Reisch is known for Ninotchka directed by Tom Donovan, Maria Schell stars as Ninotchka and Gig Young as Leon Dolga. Walter Reisch has got 3 awards and 6 nominations so far. The most recent award Walter Reisch achieved is Faro Island Film Festival. The upcoming new movie Walter Reisch plays is Ninotchka which will be released on Apr 20, 1960.

After completing studies in literature at the University of Vienna, Walter Reisch began his screen career as an extra and title writer in 1918. He eventually made the acquaintance of Stephan Lorant, a refuge from the Horty regime in Hungary, who, within a single year, had made a name for himself in Austrian films as a film maker and cinematographer. Lorant gave Reisch a break by promoting him as his assistant director on Die Narrenkappe der Liebe (1921). Reisch followed Lorant to Berlin -- then the artistic hub of Europe -- to work as his assistant cameraman. He subsequently continued on in the same capacity, working on documentary newsreeels in Switzerland.In 1925, Reisch returned to Austria to specialise as a scenarist. Before long, his growing reputation led the producer Erich Pommer to sign him to a contract with Germany's leading film company Ufa, where he had the opportunity to work alongside another gifted Viennese writer named Billy Wilder. Much of Reisch's work at this time was adapted from literary classics, but he also used some of his own original stories as material. From 1930, he managed to fulfill his long-standing ambition to write lyrics for operatic films. For the next three years, he contributed to many melodies which became popular across the European continent, featured in films like Zwei Herzen im Dreiviertel-Takt (1930), Der Raub der Mona Lisa (1931) and Ein blonder Traum (1932).With the rise of Nazism, Reisch, like most creative talent of Jewish background, was forced to join the mass exodus from Germany. He had a brief resurgence in Vienna, where he worked under Willi Forst on the comedy Mascarade (1934) and the Franz Schubert biopic Unfinished Symphony (1934). Both turned out to be solid international hits. By 1936, the political situation in Austria had made it untenable for Reisch to continue his work. Almost penniless, he moved on to join his previous mentor Alexander Korda (for whom he had worked as assistant in his student days) in London. After writing and directing the comedy Les Hommes ne sont pas des dieux (1936), starring Miriam Hopkins, Reisch unexpectedly received an offer from Louis B. Mayer, who was on a tour of European cities scouting for talent. Soon bound for MGM, Reisch crossed the Atlantic aboard the cruise liner Normandie, with ice-skating star Sonja Henie and actors Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Gertrude Lawrence as fellow passengers.At MGM (1938-48), his chief contribution was in story construction, solving continuity problems, providing narrative, inventing characters and making relationships between characters plausible and compelling. It remained for other writers, like Charles Brackett or Wilder, to sort out the dialogue. Reisch also had a knack for tailoring scripts to suit a specific star, which he achieved to great effect for Greta Garbo (with Ninotchka (1939)), Clark Gable (with Camarade X (1940)) and Ingrid Bergman (with Hantise (1944)). Reisch had another crack at directing with Schéhérazade (1947). It ended up being made at Universal, because MGM, having an over-abundance of directors under contract, wanted to keep their writers doing what they did best. Though made relatively cheaply, "Song of Scheherazade" turned out to be an ill-advised piece of kitsch, centred around a purely fictitous romance between composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and a dancer. The film was roundly slammed by critics and Reisch was never again approached to direct another picture.Despite this setback, he returned to best writing form after joining 20th Century Fox in 1949, though he had to adapt himself to a new working methodology: budgets and schedules were tighter and just about everything had to be run past Darryl F. Zanuck; the studio also tended to lean towards action subjects, rather than musical comedy, romantic melodrama or wry satire, which had hitherto been Reisch's forte. Nonetheless, his lengthy tenure at Fox encompassed two massive back-to-back hits. In collaboration with his former writing partner Charles Brackett, he first worked on location at Niagara Falls, devising the entire original story for Niagara (1953), Brackett handling the dialogue and production. Reisch next worked on Titanic (1953), for which he developed many of the characters by researching contemporary newspaper articles. For this, he was made co-recipient of the Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay in 1954. His last worthy effort was a powerful, underrated drama based on a sensational 1906 scandal: La fille sur la balançoire (1955). Zanuck wanted a star vehicle for his latest acquisition, Joan Collins, and Reisch obliged by selling him on the Thaw-White murder case, with Collins in the role of actress Evelyn Nesbit. He had the script ready within ten weeks, painstakingly researched from the original transcripts, and, as he later proudly claimed, '70 % fact and only 30% fictionalised'!In 1959, a strike of the Screen Writer's Guild prevented Reisch from working for six months. When he was finally able to return, a regime change at Fox had taken place, and, as part of a general purge, his contract was not renewed.

  • Birthday

    May 23, 1903
  • Place of Birth

    Vienna, Austria-Hungary [now Austria]

Known For


3 wins & 6 nominations

Faro Island Film Festival
Best Screenplay
Winner - Golden Moon Award
Best Screenplay
Winner - Golden Train Award
Academy Awards, USA
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay
Winner - Oscar

Movies & TV Shows