In this fourth installment of this series, we examine three more famous directors, and look at their first movie and the production behind getting the movie made. In this case, the directors today are Francis Ford Coppola, Cecil B. DeMille, and Michael Bay.
Francis Ford Coppola most famously directed the Godfather trilogy, as well as Apocalypse Now and The Outsiders. In 1963, Coppola had recently graduated from UCLA and had directed two “soft-core nudie” movies in his credits. Following those movies, he was given the opportunity to direct his first “mainstream” movie, Dementia 13. Coppola was a sound technician on Roger Corman’s movie The Young Racers, and Corman gave him an opportunity to direct a low-budget horror film with a total budget of $42,000. Coppola, who wrote the film himself, was given complete freedom during production, only for Corman to disapprove of the rough cut that Coppola showed him and shoot with a new director a new introduction for the film. The film starred William Campbell, Luana Anders and Patrick Magee, who had all just completed filming of The Young Racers. Dementia 13 follows Louise Haloran (Anders), who after her husband dies of a heart attack, tricks her husband’s family into letting her move into their Irish castle. While she tries find a way receive some of the family fortune, a mysterious ax-crazy killer appears and starts killing people… The movie was released on September 23, 1963, as a double bill with Corman’s movie X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes and was given mixed reviews from critics.
Cecil B. DeMille, before Steven Spielberg eventually became the most famous director name, was one of the most famous directors of the classic era, having directed such classics as The Ten Commandments (1956) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). But way back in 1914, along with his co-director Oscar Apfel, DeMille was given an opportunity to direct his first feature, a silent western called The Squaw Man. The movie has the distinction of being the very first feature-length movie filmed in Hollywood, with location shots in the surrounding areas in California. In The Squaw Man, Dustin Farnum plays James Wynnegate, who is accused of taking money from an orphan’s fun (his cousin actually took money from the fund). On the run, he rescues the daughter of an Indian Chef from a local outlaw named Cash Hawkins and they fall in love and have a child together. The movie was released on February 12, 1914 and made $244,700 at the box office (which may not sound like much today, but at the time was quite a bit of money).
While there’s no denying that Michael Bay isn’t the most critically lauded of directors, his franchise films, like Transformers 3 and 4, and have made billions of dollars (see here). He also directed such major movies as Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. In the early 1990s, Michael Bay was successful director of music videos and commercials, which attracted the attention of famous movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer. He and producer Don Simpson gave Bay his first feature-length film, Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, which was filmed on location in Miami, Florida. Lawrence and Smith play Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowery, respectively, play buddy cops investigating the theft of a heroin bust that was sitting down in evidence. After Lowery’s ex-girlfriend is killed by the kingpin Fouchet, who is responsible for the theft of the heroin, her best friend Julie escapes to the police and specifically asks for Lowery, leading to all sorts of mayhem for the buddy cops. The movie’s budget was $19 million and made $141.4 million at the box office, despite mixed reviews, showing Bay’s ability to make a bankable movie regardless of critical response.
These directors’ first theatrical movies are as varied as they come, from a low-budget horror to a silent western to a buddy cop action-comedy. Each one, with their own weaknesses and strengths, show the emerging talent of these filmmakers. Check out these first movies from Coppola, DeMille and Bay.