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The Kordas

The Kordas

During sound cinema’s first full decade, the Hungarian-born Korda brothers—Alexander, Zoltán, and Vincent—built a British empire. The mastermind behind their legendary company, London Films Productions, was producer, director, writer, and eventual mega-mogul Alex; born Sándor Kellner, he became interested in the art of silent cinema as a teenager in his home country, writing criticism and even founding a movie magazine before finding success making his own films all over Europe. In the late twenties, following a short stint in Hollywood, Alex was sent to England to head up Paramount’s British Production Unit; in 1932, he established London Films and brought aboard his younger siblings, Zoltán as a writer/director and Vincent as a production designer. Their first big hit was The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), which earned Charles Laughton an Oscar and the Kordas international attention. The rest of the thirties held highs (The Rise of Catherine the Great, Elephant Boy) and lows (The Private Life of Don Juan) for the company. But its films—often about historical personalities (Rembrandt) or the exploits of the British Empire abroad (Sanders of the River, The Four Feathers)—remain exemplars of a grand period of British cinema. In the forties, the Kordas only grew in stature—due not only to such immensely popular titles as The Thief of Bagdad and That Hamilton Woman but also to the selection of Alexander, the first film director to be so honored, for knighthood.