About The Producer Sam Spiegel, 1901-1985
Sam Spiegel was born Samuel P. Spiegel in Jarosław, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Poland) to a Rabbinic-Zionist family. He went to the University of Vienna, and upon immigrating to Israel he served as a pioneer in the “Gdud HaAvoda” socialist group. Spiegel married and started a family in Jerusalem, and after his divorce in 1927 decided to leave Israel.
In the early 1930’s Spiegel served as the head of Universal Studios in Berlin, specializing in promotion and distribution of the Studios’ films. He was friends with Jewish-German directors Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger. With the rise of the Nazi party in 1933 Spiegel left Germany and began producing independently, first in Vienna, Prague and Paris, and after 1935 in the U.S.A. Between 1935-1954 he signed his films as S.P.Eagle, and only afterwards did he begin to use his real name. Spiegel is considered one of the greatest most daring producers in the history of American cinema. He won 3 Oscars as a solo producer on his films On the Waterfront (1954), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Spiegel also won the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his lifetime achievements.
Spiegel is known for his artistic and professional partnership with director John Huston (The African Queen 1951) and his long time partnership with British director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai). He has worked with the greatest directors, screenwriters and actors of Hollywood such as Orson Welles, Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Harold Pinter, Budd Schulberg, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Robert De Niro, Peter O'Toole, Arthur Penn and Jeanne Moreau. He was also close friends with Rainier III, prince of Monaco and his wife Princess Grace Kelly.
Spiegel was considered a storyteller that chooses complex outlines that serve the charismatic hero in his fight against the world. He was also known as an opinionated head-strong producer that often chose leading actors with, or sometimes against, his directors, as well as a high risk taker. After he died his good friend Billy Wilder said: “Hollywood without Sam Spiegel is like Tahiti without Gaugin”.
Spiegel kept in touch with Israel during the years, especially with noted personalities such as Golda Meir, Ariel Sharon, Ruth Cheshin, the Jerusalem Foundation president, and his good friend Teddy Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem. Spiegel donated from his private fortune to various Zionist causes. In his final years Spiegel returned to his Jewish and Zionist roots. He saw a rabbi every week and left a big part of his fortune to the city of Jerusalem. His heirs and managers of his estate – his son Adam Spiegel, daughter Alicia Freedman z“l, his niece Judge Raya Dreben; his grandson Michael Freedman and his lawyer David Bottoms, decided to relocate his impressive art collection to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The Sam Spiegel Foundation donates through the Jerusalem Foundation annually from royalties. This donation, with the help of other benefactors, both from Israel and around the world, allows the School to maintain this platform for the students to create and work.
In 2005, when the School celebrated its 15th anniversary, the alley where the School is located was renamed “Sam Spiegel Alley”. The street sign reads “Sam Spiegel – Jewish American Film Producer, Oscar winner, pioneer and Zionist”.