Douglas Sirk (born 26 April 1897 – 14 January 1987) was a German film director best known for his work in Hollywood melodramas in the 1950s.
Sirk was born Hans Detlef Sierck on 26 April 1897, in Hamburg, of Danish parentage; his father was a newspaper reporter. He spent a few years in Denmark as a child, before his parents returned to Germany and became citizens. Sirk discovered the theatre in his mid-teens, particularly Shakespeare’s history plays, and also began to frequent the cinema, where he first encountered what he later described as “dramas of swollen emotions”; one of his early screen favourites was Danish-born actress Asta Nielsen. In 1919, he enrolled to study law at Munich University, but he left Munich following the violent collapse of a short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic. Between stints at university, he began writing for his father's newspaper, not long before his father became a school principal.
Sirk continued his studies for a time at University of Jena before transferring to Hamburg University, where he switched to philosophy and the history of art. It was here that he attended a lecture on relativity given by Albert Einstein. A major influence in this period was art historian Erwin Panofsky - Sirk was a select member of Panofsky's seminar group for a semester and wrote a large essay for him on the relationship between Medieval German painting, and the mystery plays; in his 1971 interview with Halliday, Sirk declared, "I owe Panofsky a lot." To support himself while studying, Sirk began working as a second-line dramaturg at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. In 1922, substituting for a director who had fallen sick, Sirk directed his first production, the Hermann Bossdorf play Bahnmeister Tod ("Stationmaster Death"), which became a surprise success, and from that point Sirk was (in his own words) "lost to the theatre". In addition to the theatre, Sirk worked in many areas of the arts during this formative period - he painted, took a summer job as a set-designer at a Berlin film studio, published his own German translation of Shakespeare's sonnets, translated some of Shakespeare's plays, and published writings of his own...
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