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Despite the fact that his commercial career took off in the 1970s, in the time when the Golden Age of Hollywood was long gone, Steven Spielberg (66) was possibly the one American director who was able to make the magic of cinema charming and magnificent once again in the following decades when the very cinematic art was slowly but surely reaching its nadir. It might have something to do with his firm belief that quality must come first in the movies, but it probably has much more to do with the man himself, his vision and his passion for his work.

(Images via IMDB)

Steven Spielberg and Liam Neeson on the set of Schindler's List in Poland in 1993

Steven Spielberg and Liam Neeson on the set of “Schindler’s List” in Poland in 1993

Early Years

Steven Spielberg was born in  1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to an Orthodox Jewish family. Spielberg used to make amateur 8 mm movies throughout his teens. In 1964, Spielberg shot “Fireflight”, his first feature film with his friends and schoolmates from the  Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Arizona he attended at the time. Shot for only $500 and shown at the Phoenix Little Theatre, “Fireflight” returned the money invested and made a profit of $1. Now lost, “Fireflight” is considered to be a precursor to Spielberg’s tremendously successful “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”from 1977, but it also shows that Spielberg was serious about his art, even at the age of 17.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind Scene

Close Encounters of the Third Kind – The film that treated the UFO phenomenon and the possible contact between the mankind and an extraterrestrial civilization with exceptional dignity and artistic vision

The Director of Blockbusters

After several short movies and work on television, Spielberg’s critical and commercial breakthrough came with the 1975 iconic horror-thriller movie “Jaws”. The enormous success of “Jaws” secured Spielberg’s autonomy as a director and producer on his future works, one of the rarest and most prized assets a Hollywood director may possess.

His second feature film, the 1977 “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”  was another massive box office and critical success, definitely establishing Spielberg as the major filmmaker of his generation. The next film he directed, a 1979  period comedy “1941” was not that successful and is generally regarded as a disappointment, but the next feature, the 1981 “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, the first film of Indiana Jones series and Spielberg’s first collaboration with the Star Wars mastermind, George Lucas was the highest grossing movie of the year and Spielberg’s triumphant entry into the happy 1980s.

ET The Extraterrestrial

One of the most iconic scenes in cinema: ET The Extraterrestrial

Spielberg returned to the UFO phenomenon with next feature film, the 1982 “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”, one of the most iconic movies of the 1980s and arguably the highest grossing movie of all time. He spent most of the decades producing successful blockbusters and directing Indiana Jones sequels, but the 1980s also showed the Spielberg the world didn’t know at the time. In 1985, Spielberg directed “The Color Purple”, a historical drama about the problems African American women had to face during the early 1900s. It became clear that Spielberg was not only a director of SF and adventure blockbusters, but also an artist who can tell a touching story about the real problems of the people of various backgrounds.

The Director of Historical Dramas

After “The Color Purple”, and several blockbusters in the mean time, including “Jurassic Park”, Spielberg directed what is arguably his best picture, a true story about Oskar Schindler, a Nazi party member who rescued 2000 Jews during the Holocaust. The black and white 1993 epic drama “Schindler’s List” was a tremendous success, earning Spielberg a Best Director Oscar and is often regarded as one of the best movies of all time.

Other historical dramas Spielberg directed include “Empire of the Sun”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Munich” and, more recently, “Lincoln”.

Steven Spielberg with the "Rosebud" Sled

Steven Spielberg with the “Rosebud” Sled

The Man

Steven Spielberg is without any doubt the most successful filmmaker of his generation and the man whose work has defined much of the popular culture of the 20th century and continues to inspire people all over the world. An avid film buff, Spielberg purchased the legendary “Rosebud” sled used in 1941 Orson Welles masterpiece “Citizen Kane” in 1982 and said “”When you look at Rosebud, you don’t think of fast dollars, fast sequels and remakes. This to me says that movies of my generation had better be good.”

Obviously, this way of thinking does take one far.

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