The son of a Berlin ladies' lingerie salesman, young Hermann Kosterlitz frequently accompanied his mother when she went to work as a movie-house pianist. Sitting in the dark and watching the silver images flash before him, Kosterlitz developed a lifelong love affair with films. Before launching his own movie career, however, he had distinguished himself in several other branches of the arts, as an author (his first article was published when he was 16), painter, sculptor, and newspaper cartoonist. In 1925, he went to work at the UFA Studios publicity department, eventually graduating to screenwriter. He was appointed assistant to director Kurt Bernhardt, through whose auspices Kosterlitz was permitted to direct three films in the early 1930s. When Hitler came to power, Kosterlitz, a Jew fiercely proud of his heritage, was forced to move to Budapest. Here he met producer Joseph Pasternak, who took a liking to Kosterlitz and hired him to direct a series of Austrian and Hungarian films.
When Pasternak moved to Hollywood in 1936, he brought Kosterlitz along. His name "Americanized" to Henry Koster, the young director was signed by Universal. The Koster-Pasternak team took a chance on a teenaged soprano named Deanna Durbin, and the result was the Koster-directed Three Smart Girls (1936), the first in a steady stream of enormously popular Durbin musicals which saved Universal from bankruptcy. In 1938, Koster and Pasternak tried to make the magic happen again, carefully fashioning a whimsical image for alluring French actress Danielle Darrieux in The Rage of Paris (1938). In 1941, Koster again packed up and followed Pasternak when the latter moved to MGM; here they went to work on a new series of frothy Durbin-like musicals with such Metro contractees as Kathryn Grayson and June Allyson. Freelancing after 1947, Koster directed Goldwyn's The Bishop's Wife (1948), which earned him an Academy Award nomination. He became one of James Stewart's favorite directors, guiding Stewart through such films as Harvey (1950), No Highway in the Sky (1951), Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962), Take Her, She's Mine (1963), and Dear Brigitte (1965). He also worked frequently for 20th Century Fox, directing that studio's first CinemaScope production, The Robe (1953). His last film was the box-office smash The Singing Nun (1965). Though he would never again direct a film, Koster did not consider himself retired, continuing to pitch story ideas to indifferent studio executives. Finally deciding to take a well-deserved rest, Koster retired to Leisure Village in Camarino, CA, with his second wife, actress Peggy Moran. Toward the end of his life, Henry Koster returned to painting, turning out exquisite portraits of the stars with whom he'd worked during his fabulous 40-year career.