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Berlin, German Empire
Birth Sign
Berlin, German Empire

Henry Koster was an American screenwriter, cartoonist, and painter of German ancestry who began as a film critic and eventually became a director. By 1931, he had written over 50 screenplays. He made a few films in Europe before being forced to flee Germany upon the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. After an altercation with a German Nazi SA officer, he fled to France and then to America via Hungary. Ironically, he was considered an alien following the Second World War and was temporarily confined to his home. Upon his arrival in Hollywood, he was signed by ‘Universal’. His career spanned over four decades. He first encountered movies in 1910, when he accompanied his mother to a movie theater owned by his Uncle Richard, where he was required to sit out two hours of daily film screenings. His mother used to play the piano for the film’s soundtrack. Though he did not win an Academy Award, he directed seven actors and actresses who delivered Academy Award-winning performances throughout their careers, including Cecil Kellaway, Celeste Holm, Loretta Young, Elsa Lancaster, James Stewart, Josephine Hull, and Richard Burton. Josephine Hull won the Academy Award for her performance in Koster’s film ‘Harvey.’

Childhood & Adolescence

Henry Koster was born Hermann Julius Kosterlitz on May 1, 1905 in Berlin, Germany. Henry’s father was a salesman who abandoned the family when he was still a child. His pianist mother raised him.

Henry completed his high school education in Berlin by writing short stories and cartoons for a local newspaper.
He attended Berlin’s ‘Academy of Fine Arts.’

Career of Henry

His career began as an author, newspaper cartoonist, reporter, and film critic. He published his first article at the age of sixteen.

In 1925, he joined the publicity department of ‘UFA Studios’ and advanced to the position of screenwriter.

He began his career as an assistant director for Kurt Bernhardt, who gave him the opportunity to direct three films in the early 1930s.

In 1926, he debuted as a screenwriter with ‘Die Waise von Lowood’. In 1931, he also wrote screenplays for ‘Weib im Dschungel’ and ‘Seine Freundin Annette’.

In 1932, he directed his first film, ‘Das Abenteur der Thea Roland,’ followed by 1933’s ‘Das Hassliche Madchen.’

While in France, he made the film ‘Peter’ and worked as a screenwriter on the 1934 film ‘L’Or dans la rue’.

He changed his name to ‘Henry Koster’ after moving to America in 1936 and was signed by ‘Universal’.

In 1936, he directed his first film, ‘Three Smart Girls,’ starring Deanna Durbin, with Joseph Pasternak, whom he met in Budapest. This was the first in a series of musicals that helped keep ‘Universal’ afloat. In 1936, ‘Maria Baschkirtzeff’ was released.

He directed and produced ‘The Rage of Paris’ in 1938, ‘First Love’ and ‘Three Smart Girls Grow Up’ in 1939, and ‘Spring Parade’ in 1940.

In 1940, he directed ‘One Night in the Tropics.’ It starred Peggy Morgan, Bud Abbott, and Lou Costello, whom he met while working in a New York nightclub.

In 1941, Koster followed Pasternak’s lead and joined MGM following his departure from ‘Universal’. He also directed and produced ‘Between Us Girls’ in 1942, which was Deanna Durbin’s sixth film.

His subsequent films included 1945’s ‘Music for Millions’ starring Margaret O’Brien and June Allyson, 1946’s ‘Two Sisters from Boston’ starring June Allyson, Kathryn Grayson, and Jimmy Durante, and 1947’s ‘The Unfinished Dance starring Margaret O’Brien and Cyd Charisse.

In 1947, he directed MGM’s ‘The Bishop’s Wife,’ starring Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young. He then joined ’20th Century Fox,’ where he remained for the remainder of his career. He directed ‘The Luck of Irish’ in 1948 with Tyrone Power and Cecil Kellaway, ‘The Inspector General’ in 1949 with Danny Kaye, and ‘Come to the Stable’ in 1949 with Young and Celeste Holm.

Koster followed these with ‘Wabash Avenue’ in 1950, starring Victor Mature, Phil Harris, and Betty Grable; ‘My Blue Heaven’ in 1950, also starring Betty Grable; and ‘Harvey’ in 1950, also starring James Stewart, Mary Chase, and Josephine Hull.

In 1951, he followed with the comedies ‘Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell’ and ‘Elopement.’ The 1951 film ‘No Highway in the Sky’ was based on a novel by Nevil Shute and starred James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.

In 1952, Koster directed another comedy, ‘Stars and Stripes Forever,’ as well as ‘O. Henry’s Full House’ and ‘My Cousin Rachel,’ based on a Daphne du Maurier mystery and starring Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland.
In 1953, he directed his first cinemascope film, ‘The Robe,’ for ’20th Century Fox. It was a blockbuster biblical epic starring Richard Burton as a Roman Tribune presiding over Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
In 1954, he directed the moderately successful film ‘Desiree’ starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, and Merle Oberon.

In 1955, he directed Jennifer Jones in ‘Good Morning, Miss Dove,’ Richard Todd and Bette Davies in ‘The Virgin Queen,’ and Richard Todd and Jean Peters in ‘A Man Called Peter.’

He directed the war film ‘D-Day the Sixth of June’ in 1956, starring Robert Taylor, Richard Todd, and Dana Wynter, as well as ‘The Power and the Prize’ in 1957.

Koster directed and produced ‘Fraulein’ in 1958, ‘The Naked Maja’ in 1959 starring Anthony Franciosa and Ava Gardner, ‘The Story of Ruth’ in 1960, ‘Flower Drum Song’ in 1961, ‘Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation’ in 1962 starring James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara, and ‘Take Her She’s Mine’ in 1963 starring Sandra Dee.

He produced and directed his final film, ‘The Singing Nun,’ in 1965, which starred Debbie Reynolds and was a box-office smash.

He returned to painting in his later years and created exquisite portraits of the celebrities with whom he worked.

Awards and Accomplishments

In 1947, for ‘The Bishop’s Wife,’ Henry Koster was nominated for a ‘Academy Award for Best Director. Additionally, the film was nominated for a ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Picture’.

In 1953, he received an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Picture’ for ‘The Robe.

Personal History and Legacies

On January 6, 1936, he married Kato Kiraly in Budapest and divorced her on August 26, 1941. This marriage resulted in the birth of a son, Robert J.

On October 30, 1942, he married actress Peggy Moran and together they had two sons, Nicholas and Peter. Henry Koster died on September 21, 1980, in Camarillo, California, USA, at the age of 83 due to complications from liver surgery.

Estimated Net Worth

Henry Koster’s net worth or earnings are estimated to be between $1 million and $2 million. He amassed such wealth through his primary career as a Director.


Henry Koster memorized the lyrics to ‘Follow the Fleet’ in order to learn English.
‘Bobby’ was his nickname.