Don Siegel

Don Siegel was born 1912 in Chicago. His first step to a career in the movie industry began in the middle of the 1930 then he started as archives at Warner Brothers. He later would advance as a cut assistant via some work at the stunt apartment before he became a director assistant.

As we know he would also become a director and the first full length feature film he directed was The Verdict (1946). His first movies were often dramas (e.g. Night unto Night, The Blue and Gold) or film noirs (e.g. The Big Steal, Private Hell 36).

Invasion of the Body Snatchers screenshot

American life threatened by extraterrestrial life in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

His breakthrough came with a science-fiction thriller, Invasion of the Body Snatchers from 1956. This creepy movie depicts an odd extraterrestrial invasion that is based on plants that start as disease. The people affected by this are replaced by another entity, but it cannot be seen on the surface.

Siegel continued with movies there the catalyst often was crime, like Crime in the Street (1956), Baby Dace Nelson (1957) and The Gun Runners (1958). Two of his greatest movies in this category, The Lineup (1958) and The Killers (1964), have criminals as the main characters.

In the Sixties Siegel began a co-operation with Clint Eastwood in Coogan’s Bluff (1968). After that the most memorable movies with Siegel as director and Eastwood as actor were Dirty Harry (1971) and Escape from Alcatraz (1979).

Siegel began also to explore the western genre and the movies that stand out most are Death of a Gunfighter (1969) and The Shootist (1976).

Richard Widmark in Death of a Gunfighter

Richard Widmark as the sheriff in Death of a Gunfighter.

In Death of a Gunfighter Richard Widmark plays the sheriff that is unpopular among his employers, but refuses to give away his badge. The conflict is also a symbolic picture of the righteous individual against the represents of the besmirched part of civilization. The Shootist can be seen as a mirror of Siegel’s career, from a cut assistant to director of action. The movie begins with a cut collage of the past and ends with a great action scene.

Later in his career, Don Siegel would also being the producer of many of his movies. Some of these are Coogan's Bluff (1968), Dirty Harry (1971), Charlie Varrick (1973) and Escape from Alcatraz (1979).