Albert Zugsmith

Albert Zugsmith (April 24, 1910 – October 26, 1993) was an American film producer, film director and screenwriter who specialized in low-budget exploitation films through the 1950s and 1960s.

Albert Zugsmith
Born(1910-04-24)April 24, 1910
DiedOctober 26, 1993(1993-10-26) (aged 83)
OccupationDirector, producer, screenwriter
Years active1952–1974

With a background in music promotion (Ted Weems, Paul Whitman) public relations (one of his clients in depression era Chicago was Al Capone), journalism and brokering communication properties (radio, newspaper, early television), Zugsmith became independently wealthy and began producing films at RKO during the Howard Hughes years. Zugsmith's most significant credits are a string of four genre masterpieces produced in the late 1950s, all for Universal Studios: the science-fiction classic The Incredible Shrinking Man, Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind, and the camp exploitation films produced for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer High School Confidential and The Girl in the Kremlin.[1] An archive of some of his shooting scripts and screen plays are housed in the Special Collections department at the University of Iowa.


Zugsmith was a journalist and publicist. In 1939 he moved in to brokering sales of communication properties like newspapers and radio and television stations; he was very successful, doing up to $250 million worth of sales, and became a millionaire off his commissions. He was a film buff and wanted to move into film producing.[2]

American Pictures Corporation

Zugsmith formed American Pictures Corporation, along with Peter Miller, Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen They planned to make six films a year for five years out of a fund of $3.5 million.[3]

They did a three picture deal with RKO to make Captive Women (1952), Sword of Venus (1953), and Port Sinister (1953). No film cost more than $100,000.[4]

It was a film he made for Columbia that established him - Invasion, U.S.A. (1952), which earned profits of over a million dollars. He followed it with Paris Model (1953), a comedy and Top Banana (1954) with Phil Silvers.[5]


Zugsmith's success saw him receive a long term contract at Universal. While there he produced Female on the Beach (1955), a melodrama with Joan Crawford and Jeff Chandler; The Square Jungle (1955), a boxing film with Tony Curtis; Raw Edge (1956), a Western with Yvonne de Carlo and Rory Calhoun; Red Sundown (1956), a Western with Calhoun, directed by Jack Arnold; and Star in the Dust (1956), another Western with John Agar and Mamie Van Doren, directed by Charles F. Haas.[6]

Zugsmith had a big hit with Written on the Wind (1956) starring Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, Lauren Bacall and Dorothy Malone, directed by Douglas Sirk. Also popular was The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) from the script and novel by Richard Matheson.

Zugmsith produced The Tattered Dress (1957) with Chandler, The Girl in the Kremlin (1957), and Slaughter on 10th Avenue (1957), a film noir.

He did The Tarnished Angels (1957) which reunited Sirk, Hudson, Stack and Malone, and Man in the Shadow (1957) with Chandler and Orson Welles, directed by Arnold. He did The Female Animal (1957) with Hedy Lamarr from his own story, directed by Harry Keller.

Zugsmith's next film was Touch of Evil (1958), which had Welles attached to play the villain; Charlton Heston agreed to star if Welles directed which happened, although some additional scenes were directed by Harry Keller after Zugsmith left the studio.


Zugsmith says he left Universal because he was unhappy Edward Muhl had been made subservient to Al Daff[7] He over to MGM where he signed a six picture deal. The association started well with High School Confidential! (1958), starring Russ Tamblyn and Van Doren and directed by Jack Arnold. It was a big hit.[8][9]

He followed it with a series of movies at MGM: Night of the Quarter Moon (1958); The Beat Generation (1959), with Van Doren and Steve Cochran, co written by Matheson, and directed by Haas; The Big Operator (1959) with Van Doren, Cochran and Mickey Rooney, directed by Haas; and Girls Town (1959) with Van Doren, also directed by Haas. All these lost money.[8]

Zugsmith later said "after telling me that I would have decent budgets, MGM never gave me a decent budget while I was there... I didn't get along very well with Mr Benny Thau... I never cared for MGM. They gave me all kinds of curves: bad cameramen that happened to be under contract, and so on. I wasn't one of the 'clique'. They wouldn't back me up on the set or anything else."[10]

Zugsmith turned director with The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960) which he filmed with Rooney, who also starred; Van Doren was in the cast. It was made independently outside MGM, for Universal.[9]

"I pick my titles to get 'em into theatres," said Zugsmith. "Thousands of exhibitors say amen to that."[2]

Back at MGM Zugmsith produced Platinum High School (1960), with Rooney, directed by Haas.[9]


Zugsmith was billed as sole director for College Confidential (1960) starring Steve Allen, from a story by Zugsmith, at Universal.

He then bought stock in Allied Artists and directed three films for them Sex Kittens Go to College (1960) with Van Doren and Tuesday Weld; Dondi (1961), a kids film with David Janssen; and Confessions of an Opium Eater (1963) with Vincent Price.[11] Zugsmith later said "Allied Artists was a very depressing period in my life. Maybe it showed in the films I made there. I was very depressed there. I didn't like it; I felt imprisoned; I had to get away."[12]

He produced Zigzag (1963) in the Philippines then produced and directed The Great Space Adventure (1963).

He produced Russ Meyer's Fanny Hill (1964), but the two men disliked working together. He directed some scenes of When Strangers Meet (1964).[13]

He wrote and directed The Incredible Sex Revolution (1966); directed Psychedelic Sexualis (1966), Movie Star, American Style or; LSD, I Hate You (1966) and The Chinese Room (1968); produced and wrote Sappho Darling (1968); and directed Two Roses and a Golden Rod (1969), The Very Friendly Neighbors (1969), and The Phantom Gunslinger (1970) with Troy Donahue.

In 1973 he said in an interview "many of the talents that I have developed or worked with have suffered by not continuing with me. And I have suffered by not continuing with them."[14]

Zugsmith's last credit was directing Violated! (1975).

Personal life

His older sister, Leane, was a leading proletarian novelist in the 1930s. He was married to Ruth (Feldman). Al also had two daughters, Suzan and Patricia (Patty) and a son Michael. Sue became the Mayor of Claremont, California.

Partial filmography


  • Flynn, Charles; McCarthy, Todd (1975). "Albert Zugmsith". In Flynn, Charles; McCarthy, Todd (eds.). Kings of the Bs : working within the Hollywood system : an anthology of film history and criticism. E. P. Dutton. p. 412-420.


  1. C. Jerry Kutner, 'Bright Lights Film Journal', "Albert Zugsmith's Opium Dreams: Confessions of an Opium Eater", November 1, 1997, Retrieved December 26, 2014
  2. Entertainment: Zugsmith Success Story Is Unusual Los Angeles Times 28 Nov 1959: 12.
  3. Schallert, Edwin (July 18, 1951). "Lupino Company Comedy Rated Good for Forrest; Invasion Film Planned". Los Angeles Times. p. B9.
  4. Flynn & McCarthy p 412-413
  5. Phil Silvers in 'Top Banana' J. B.. The Christian Science Monitor 31 Mar 1954: 5.
  6. Joan Crawford, Jeff Chandler to Costar Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 15 Oct 1954: B10.
  7. Flynn & McCarthy p 416
  8. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  9. Rooney to Rejoin Albert Zugsmith: 'Platinum High School' Vehicle; Trade Paper Raps High Prices Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 5 June 1959: A9.
  10. Flynn & McCarthy p 417
  11. Producer Says Sex Really Sells Movies By James Bacon. The Washington Post, Times Herald 4 Sep 1960: H2.
  12. Flynn & McCarthy p 423
  13. 'Fanny Hill' Lot's of Tease, No Show Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times 16 Mar 1965: c8.
  14. Flynn & McCarthy p 421
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