Steven Spielberg Biography Rob Martinelle American Literature C Block Research Paper: Final Draft 18 May, 1999 Steven Spielberg: Revolutionary and Visionary Who would have thought that a brilliant career in filmmaking could have originated with a modest jar of Skippy Peanut Butter smeared on a neighbors window in a tiny Cincinnati suburb? One might not think that such an average boyhood prank could evolve a boy into a man who would become the most financially successful film director in history. Well, that is exactly where Leah Spielberg, Steven Spielbergs mother, would trace her sons initial entry into becoming one of our nations most creative storytellers. His badness was so original, she recalls (Stein 3). Steven Spielberg, the only child of Leah and Arnold Spielberg, was born on December 18, 1946 at the beginning of the Baby Boom years in Cincinnati, Ohio. It does not take a great stretch of the imagination to see that Stevens film influences were derived from his fathers experience as a World War II veteran and computer technician and his mothers past profession as a concert pianist. The love and amount of technology, history, and music within Stevens films can all be traced back to his early life with his family.
While many men returning from war never want to reiterate their experiences, Stevens father seemed to be an exception. Steven said of his father, he intoxicated me with bedtime stories about the war. His stories were like the war movies I was watching on television, all worthy of cameo appearances by John Wayne (Stein 1). It is no wonder that at the age of twelve Stevens first film, Fighter Squad, was filmed on a WWII fighter plane (Corliss 79). However, when Steven was unable to find certain props or realistic backdrops, he simulated dogfights and plane crashes by editing in footage from a WWII documentary. Only a year later, in 1960, he featured the war family Jeep in his second film, Escape to Nowhere, which was an action picture in which GIs invaded a Nazi hideout in the Libyan Desert.
Since his family had moved to Arizona in 1960, the Arizona desert near his house would easily replicate the simulation of the Libyan Desert. It is clear that Stevens love and knowledge of visual effects began many years before his creation of a mechanical great white shark in 1975. There have been many incidents throughout Steven’s childhood that have made it into his films. At the age of six, Stevens father awoke him to witness a meteor shower in the middle of the night (Stein 2). In time this event would also find its way into his 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The grin of a clown, a deadly tree outside a window, and being afraid at night, all out of 1982s Poltergeist, were all born out of Stevens real childhood phobias (5). Influence for films such as 1993s Academy Award winning drama/documentary Schindlers List could be attributed Steven growing up in a Jewish family. Steven has recalled that during his days in school he felt discriminated from others for being apart of the only Jewish family within the whole community (Graham 530). During the Christmas season, he would be embarrassed that his familys house would be the only one without lights or decorations. When his father offered to place a menorah in the window, Steven responded, No!People will think were Jewish (Graham 528). Steven has claimed to have learned his numbers as a toddler with the help of a concentration camp survivor who pointed out the numerals tattooed on his arm. However, it was at high school, where he was first exposed to anti-Semitic behavior. He would suffer verbal and sometimes physical abuse from other students.
Making movies was definitely an escape for Steven who told the New York Post, I enjoy the sense of being transported and no longer thinking anyone is in the audience (529). Nearly three years after finishing Escape to Nowhere, he made his first feature-length film Firelight. It was a two-and-a-half-hour science fiction epic about an investigation of mysterious lights in the sky. However, it was also a look at a rocky marriage. Could the couple within the film have been Arnold and Leah who divorced when Steven was nineteen? Although Steven disregarded it as a terrible film, it was a commercial success. After his family had hired a local movie theatre to screen it, it earned back its entire 500-dollar budget in one night. (Stein 7) Throughout high school, Steven did not receive grades one might call Harvard quality.
Because of this, he was not accepted to any film schools. Therefore, he later enrolled in California State College where he majored in English. In his spare time, he studied films and spent a lot of time trying to get into the parking lots of motion picture studios in an attempt to get producers to look into his films. Unfortunately, the studios would not budge. It would not be until Sidney Sheinherg, head of television at Universal Studios, caught a glimpse of Stevens twenty-five minute road movie, Amblin. After seeing it, Sheinherg offered Steven a seven-year contract to direct television episodes. He would go on to direct episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D., Columbo, and The Name of the Game (Corliss 80). Eventually Universal assigned Steven to his first made-for-television film, Duel.
Showing off his skills at editing and creating heart-stomping action sequences, the film was well received critically. Pauline Kael of the New Yorker writes, it is one of the most phenomenal debut films in the history of movies (Graham 531) Many critics still consider it the best American television movie ever made (529). Due to the films success overseas, Universal Studios handed Steven the adaptation of Peter Benchleys popular novel Jaws, a story of a great white shark terrorizing a seaside community. The film, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider, broke ground in many ways. Aside from eclipsing every box office record at the time, it broke ground in visual effects, constructing a mechanical, remote-controlled replica of a great white shark.
Steven reflects back on 1975 during the shooting of Jaws, it was the loneliest time of my life. Jaws exacerbates the loneliness by the sheer size of the Atlantic Ocean and the challenge of shooting a complete motion picture on the water (Corliss 78). Gary Arnold wrote of Jaws, There has never been an adventure-thriller quite as terrifying yet enjoyable as Jaws, and it should set the standard in its field for many years to come (Graham 529). And that it did. The film would set the standard in the thriller genre with films like John Carpenters 1978 slasher Halloween. Replace the seaside community with Haddenfield, Illinois and the shark with Michael Myers and you have a prime example of the Jaws influence.
Not only influencing the genre, the film had a lasting affect on ordinary moviegoers alike. Betty Martinelle, your average film fan recalls at the time, although it probably didnt keep most people out of the water that summer, theres hardly a person around that didnt at least take a good glance at the water before going in (Martinelle). Aside from establishing himself as Hollywoods director to watch out for, Jaws marked his first time collaborating with composer and former head of the Boston Pops, John Williams. He created the now famous two-note theme to the movie as well as doing the scores for everyone of Stevens films to come afterward. Grossing well over 200 million dollars, Jaws created the concept of the summer movie blockbuster. Coming off the phenomenal success of Jaws, Steven went back to his passion for science fiction with 1977s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The film, which Steven both wrote and directed, focuses on an alien-obsessed family man played by Richard Dreyfuss and his fascination with alien spaceships. Its a movie for people who like to …