William Dieterle (Germany, 1893), who had acted in Berlin productions of
theater director Max Reinhardt and had become a cinema actor as well,
debuted as filmmaker with
Der Mensch am Wege (1923), based on the Leo Tolstoy's short story "Where Love Is, God Is" and featuring an unknown Marlene Dietrich,
but remained more famous as an actor.
After making Geschlecht in Fesseln – Die Sexualnot der Strafgefangenen/ Sex in Chains (1928),
Rustle of Spring
(1929), and especially the biopic
Ludwig der Zweite/ Ludwig II (1929),
he emigrated to the USA in 1930 and was hired by Warner Bros.
He was initially employed to direct German versions of the studio's films,
but had chances to direct original films starting with
The Last Flight (1931).
After directing an average of six films per year, including
Jewel Robbery (1932),
Lawyer Man (1933) and
Fog Over Frisco (1934),
Dieterle finally had a chance to
work on better material with the great Max Reinhardt,
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), a Shakespeare adaptation realized in
Dr Socrates (1935), a gangster film starring Paul Muni.
The biopic The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), again starring Muni, was a big success, and
was followed by other famous biopics:
The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Juarez (1939),
Dr Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940), A Dispatch Reuter's (1940) and
Tennessee Johnson (1942).
The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), a noir variation on the Faust legend, is possibly his best film.
He directed two vehicles for Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones: Love Letters (1945) and Portrait of Jennie (1948).
Another film noir was The Turning Point (1952).
He returned to the biopic with Magic Fire (1955), about Richard Wagner, and Omar Khayyam (1957).
He retired in 1965 and moved back to Germany, working again in theater.