Originally a law student, Otto Preminger got his first acting experience with Max Reinhardt's theater company while studying for his degree. He entered the theater as a producer and director, came to America as a director in 1935, and was hired by 20th Century Fox. After leaving the studio for Broadway at the end of the '30s, he returned in the early '40s, specializing in Nazi roles despite his Jewish faith. Preminger got back into the director's chair with Margin for Error, an adaptation of a play that he had directed on Broadway. Laura, based upon the hit novel and play by Vera Caspary, was to have been made by Rouben Mamoulian; but he was fired soon after production began, and Preminger took over finished the film, which went on to become a huge hit. The director's most important subsequent movie at Fox was Forever Amber, which failed at the box office but enhanced his reputation nonetheless.
In the early '50s, Preminger became an independent producer/director, and immediately began making a name for himself through a series of successful challenges to the restrictive production code, which forbade the use of various controversial subjects onscreen. His sophisticated comedy The Moon Is Blue broke through the barrier with regard to sexual subject matter with its relatively frank treatment of such topics as virginity and pregnancy, while The Man With the Golden Arm was the first major Hollywood film to deal with drug addiction. Preminger's Carmen Jones proved to be a critically successful venture into musicals, which led directly to being chosen by Samuel Goldwyn to direct the screen adaptation of George and Ira Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess. Preminger's box-office record was rather scattershot during this era and included the notorious disaster Saint Joan and the hit Anatomy of a Murder. His early-'60s movies grew in size and pretentiousness, and included such epic-length releases as Advise and Consent, The Cardinal, and In Harm's Way, but, by the middle of the decade, he had receded in ambition and success with Bunny Lake Is Missing, Skidoo, and Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon. The '70s saw the release of the failed thrillers Rosebud and The Human Factor. He died in 1986, several years after the onset of Alzheimer's disease brought an end to his career. Always a flamboyant personality, Preminger was one of the more visible and better known director/producers of his era, and also became known to an entire generation of children with his portrayal of the villainous Mr. Freeze on the Batman television series.