Sam Spiegel (November 11, 1901 – December 31, 1985) was an Austrian-born American independent film producer. He was the first to win the Academy Award for Best Picture three times, and the only one to be the sole producer on all three winning films.
Samuel P. Spiegel was born to a Jewish family in Jarosław, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now in Poland). His parents were Regina and Simon Spiegel (a tobacco wholesaler). He received his education at the University of Vienna. His brother was Shalom Spiegel, a professor of medieval Hebrew poetry.
Spiegel worked briefly in Hollywood in 1927 following a stint serving with Hashomer Hatzair in Palestine. He then went to Berlin to produce German and French adaptations of Universal films until 1933 when he fled Germany. As an independent producer, Spiegel helped produce a number of European films.
In 1938, he immigrated to Mexico and subsequently the United States.
Between 1935 and 1954, Spiegel billed himself as S. P. Eagle. After that he used his real name. His nickname was the "velvet octopus" after his propensity to entwine himself with women in the back of taxi cabs and manage Hollywood with a velvet touch according to Billy Wilder. He loved London and admired the British as is reflected with his greatest movies Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai. Lawrence of Arabia won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, while The Bridge on the River Kwai won 7 including Best Picture. Spiegel was embraced by the British as one of theirs living in Central London yet remained feared by Hollywood for his talent, style, and womanizing.
Biographer characterizes Spiegel as "a decidedly flawed protagonist, as well as the wit, sophistication, and Old World charm that make him a titanic figure the likes of which the movie industry will not see again."
Spiegel won the Academy Award for Best Picture for Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront and a further two times for his two collaborations with British director David Lean, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). In 1963, he was awarded the prestigious Irving Thalberg Memorial Award at that year's Academy Awards for his many contributions to cinema.
Spiegel maintained a connection with the Israeli nation throughout his life, particularly with such personalities as Golda Meir, Ariel Sharon, Jerusalem Foundation president , and his close friend, then Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. Spiegel also contributed to various Zionist causes. He spoke seven languages fluently: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew and Polish.
Spiegel's heirs and the administrators of his estate, son Adam Spiegel, daughter Alisa Freedman, niece Judge Raya Dreben, and Adv. David Bottoms, decided to transfer Spiegel's impressive art collection to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Since 1996, they have made an annual contribution, through the Jerusalem Foundation, to the film school in Jerusalem bearing his name since that time — the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, Jerusalem. This annual contribution is the largest in the history of Israeli cinema.
In 2005, the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, the Jerusalem Municipality complied with a request from the school's founder-director Renen Schorr to mark the occasion by declaring the lane in the Talpiot industrial section where the school is located "The Sam Spiegel Alley." The street sign's inscription: "Sam Spiegel – Jewish-American Film Producer and Oscar-winner. Pioneer. Lover of Zion."
Theresa Russell has alleged in multiple interviews that she was propositioned by Spiegel during her first casting session for The Last Tycoon. Spiegel would've been in his seventies at this time, while Russell was a teenager.
Filmography - producer
- Betrayal (1983)
- The Last Tycoon (1976)
- Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
- The Happening (1967)
- The Night of the Generals (1967)
- The Chase (1966)
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
- Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
- The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
- The Strange One (1957)
- On the Waterfront (1954)
- Melba (1953)
- The African Queen (1951) (as S. P. Eagle)
- The Prowler (1951) (as S.P. Eagle)
- (1951) (as S.P. Eagle)
- We Were Strangers (1949) (as S.P. Eagle)
- The Stranger (1946) (as S.P. Eagle)
- Tales of Manhattan (1942) (as S. P. Eagle)
- Derrière la façade (1939)
- The Invader (1935) (co-producer)
- The Oil Sharks (1933)
- Invisible Opponent (1933)