Michał Waszyński

Michał Waszyński (29 September 1904 – 20 February 1965) was first a film director in Poland, then in Italy, and later (as Michael Waszynski) a producer of the major American films, mainly in Spain. Known for his elegance and impeccable manners, he was, by the people who knew him, known as "the prince".

Michał Waszyński
Michał Waszyński, reżyser, 1934.jpg
Michał Waszyński in 1934.
Mosze Waks

(1904-09-29)29 September 1904
Died20 February 1965(1965-02-20) (aged 60)
OccupationProducer, Film director
Years active1922–1948

Waszyński was born as Mosze Waks into a Polish Jewish family as Michał Waks in 1904 in Kowel, a small town in Volhynia (now in Ukraine), which at the time was part of Imperial Russia. As Germany occupied this part of Europe during World War I, he moved first to Warsaw and later to Berlin. As a young man he worked as an assistant director of the legendary German director F.W. Murnau. Upon his return to Poland he changed his name to Michał Waszyński and converted to Catholicism.

In the 1930s Waszyński became the most prolific film director in Poland, directing 37 of the 147 films made in Poland in that decade, nearly one out of four. Along with the popular films in Polish directed to a wide local audience, he directed an important film in Yiddish The Dybbuk, today a monument of the rich cultural life of East European Jewry before the Holocaust.

At the beginning of World War II Waszyński escaped from Warsaw, which was being bombed by German planes, to Białystok. That city was taken in mid-September 1939 by the Germans, but within weeks, as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the city was given to the Soviet Union and occupied by its army. Waszyński began a new career as a theater director, first in Białystok and later in Moscow.

In the summer of 1941, after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Waszyński joined the newly formed Polish Army of general Władysław Anders (loyal to the Polish government in Exile in London) and subsequently was relocated to Persia (Iran), and later as a soldier of the 2nd Corps of the Polish Army to Egypt and Italy. As a member of the army film unit, he filmed the Battle of Monte Cassino, where the Polish Army suffered great losses, but helped to win the day.

After World War II, he stayed in Italy, where he directed a Polish-language feature film about the Battle of Monte Cassino, and then three Italian films.

Later in his career, Waszyński worked as a producer for the major American studios in Italy and (primarily) Spain, credited as Michael Waszynski. His credits include The Quiet American (1958) (associate producer), El Cid (1961), and The Fall of the Roman Empire (film) (1964) (executive producer and associate producer).

He died of a heart attack on 20 February 1965 in Madrid, and was buried in a ceremonious Catholic funeral in Rome.