Height of William Castle
The height of William Castle is …m.
1. Where did William Castle come from ?
William Castle (April 24, 1914 – May 31, 1977) was an American movie director, producer, screenwriter, and actor.
2. What could we know about William Castle besides his height ?
Orphaned at 11, Castle dropped out of high school at 15 to work in the theater. He came to the attention of Columbia Pictures for his talent for promotion and was hired. He learned the trade of moviemaking and became a director, acquiring a reputation for the ability to churn out competent B-movies quickly and on budget. He eventually struck out on his own, producing and directing thrillers, which, despite their low budgets, he effectively promoted using gimmicks, a trademark for which he is best known. He was also the producer for Rosemary’s Baby.
3. What are the projects of William Castle ?
Castle was born William Schloss Jr. in New York City, the son of Saidie (Snellenberg) and William Schloss. His family was Jewish. (“Schloss” is German for “castle”, and Castle later translated his surname into English as his pseudonym.) His mother died when he was nine. When his father followed a year later, he was left an orphan at the age of 11. He then lived with his older sister.
4. Somme collaborations with William Castle ?
Castle married Ellen Falck, with whom he had two children.
At 13, he went to see the play Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, and was entranced. He watched performance after performance, eventually managing to meet Lugosi himself. He wrote in his autobiography Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare the Pants off America: “I knew then what I wanted to do with my life—I wanted to scare the pants off audiences.”:14 Lugosi recommended him for the position of assistant stage manager for the road company tour of the play.:14 The 15-year-old dropped out of high school to take the job. He spent his teenage years working on Broadway in jobs ranging from set building to acting. This proved good training for the future moviemaker.
He obtained Orson Welles’ telephone number and persuaded Welles to lease him the Stony Creek Theatre in Connecticut. (Welles was leaving to begin movieing Citizen Kane.) He hired German actress Ellen Schwanneke; upon learning that, under then-current theater guild regulations, German-born actors could only appear in plays originally performed in Germany, Castle claimed he had hired her for the nonexistent play Das ist nicht für Kinder (Not for Children); Castle spent the following weekend writing the play and having it translated into German. When Nazi Germany sent Schwanneke an invitation to a Munich performance, Castle seized the opportunity for an outrageous publicity stunt. He released to the newspapers what he claimed was a telegram he had sent turning down the request, portraying his star as “the girl who said no to Hitler.” To add to the sensationalism, he secretly vandalized the theatre and painted swastikas on the exterior. It worked. The resulting publicity ensured the success of the play (which he had written in 48 hours).
He left for Hollywood at 23 to work for Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures. Beginning as a dialogue director for Music in My Heart (1940), he and several others such as Fred Sears, Mel Ferrer, Henry Levin and Robert Gordon were selected to be feature movie directors.
In the 2007 documentary Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, his daughter states he had a dynamic, outgoing personality that attracted others. He was one of the few people Cohn liked. He learned the movie business and graduated to directing inexpensive B-movies, the first being The Chance of a Lifetime, released in 1943. He directed four movies in The Whistler series. Castle gained a reputation for being able to make movies under budget and quickly. In addition, he worked as an associate producer on Orson Welles’ movie noir The Lady from Shanghai (1947), doing much second unit location work.
Ambitions unsatisfied, Castle began to make movies independently. The inspiration of the 1955 French psychological thriller Les Diaboliques set the genre he would choose. He financed his first movie, Macabre (1958), by mortgaging his house. He came up with the idea to give every customer a certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London in case they should die of fright during the movie. He stationed nurses in the lobbies with hearses parked outside the theaters.:15–16 Macabre was a hit.
Other movies (and gimmicks) followed:
William Castle simply went nuts. He came up with “Coward’s Corner,” a yellow cardboard booth, manned by a bewildered theater employee in the lobby. When the Fright Break was announced, and you found that you couldn’t take it anymore, you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward’s Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stenciled message: “Cowards Keep Walking.” You passed a nurse (in a yellow uniform?…I wonder), who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, “Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward’s Corner!” As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity – at Coward’s Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, “I am a bona fide coward.”:19
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