Lajos Biró

Active - 1924 - 1947  |   Born - Jan 1, 1883   |   Died - Sep 9, 1948   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Adventure, Romance, War

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Lajos (pronounced "Loy-jose") Biró was a Hungarian-born author, journalist, and playwright whose work helped shape the British film industry from the early '30s through the middle of the '40s. Biró was born Lajos Blau in Nagyvarad, Austria-Hungary in 1880. By the start of his twenties, he was working in Vienna as a journalist and drama critic, and starting out as a playwright. The latter activity came to dominate his work after 1910, and his plays were translated and produced in many different languages, including German and English. He was part of the coalition Democratic government that was put in place in Hungary amid the turmoil of the post-World War I era and the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire, but he left Budapest and lived for a time in Rome and Paris.

In 1920, Biró began a professional relationship in Vienna with Hungarian-born director Alexander Korda on an adaptation of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. He would later move to Hollywood and was notably successful there, even sharing an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay of Josef von Sternberg's The Last Command (1928). In 1931, Biró was in Paris and working once again with Korda; coming off of the latter's success directing Marius, it was decided to form a partnership between the director and the author in a company called Pallas Films, which brought them to London. Korda and Biró followed this with one successful production (Service for Ladies, 1932), which led to the foundation of London Films. Korda was the head of the studio and Biró was in charge of the scenario department, holding the unofficial title of studio dramaturge, and was originally on the board of directors, as well (though he later resigned that post, dreading as he did such administrative responsibilities).

Over the next 16 years, until Biró's death in 1948, he shared with Korda the intellectual control of the company that they'd both founded and, in conjunction with such writers as Arthur Wimperis and Miles Malleson, wrote the screenplays to a string of notable movies. London Films put itself on the international map in 1933 with The Private Life of Henry VIII, the most successful British picture produced since the advent of sound, and a nominee for Best Picture as well as a winner for Best Actor (for Charles Laughton). Biró's other notable credits at London Films included The Rise of Catherine the Great (based on his own play The Czarina, which had previously been filmed by Ernst Lubitsch as Forbidden Paradise), Sanders of the River, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Divorce of Lady X, Knight Without Armor, Drums, The Four Feathers, and The Thief of Bagdad. He was also the author of Hotel Imperial, which was filmed in 1941 (for the third time) as Five Graves to Cairo by Billy Wilder.

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