Longtime film director Henry Koster, whose credits include “Harvey,” “The Bishop’s Wife” and “My Man Godfrey,” has died of complications after liver surgery.
Koster, 83, had been admitted to a hospital in Camarillo in August for gall bladder surgery and died Wednesday after the subsequent liver surgery.
Born Hermann Kosterlitz, he began his film career in Germany in 1925 after attending the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. He worked as a painter, cartoonist and film critic before becoming a screenwriter. He had 50 films to his credit when he fled the country soon after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933.
He directed films in Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest and Vienna until he was hired in 1936 by Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Pictures.
Koster’s American credits include “Harvey” (1950), starring James Stewart as the imbibing companion of a 6-foot-tall invisible rabbit, and “My Man Godfrey” (1957), with David Niven and June Allyson, a remake of the 1936 film about a wealthy family that invites a tramp to be their butler.
Other directorial efforts included “Three Smart Girls,” “One Hundred Men and a Girl,” and “It Started With Eve,” three of the Deanna Durbin vehicles credited with saving Universal from possible financial failure. Other Koster pictures were “Music for Millions,” “The Inspector General,” “A Man Called Peter,” “The Naked Maja” and “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation.”
In 1947 he was nominated for an Academy Award for directing “The Bishop’s Wife,” in which Cary Grant portrayed an angel sent to Earth to keep a bishop distracted by finances (David Niven) in touch with his wife (Loretta Young) and his parishioners.
He also directed Richard Burton’s first film, “My Cousin Rachel,” and “The Robe,” the first picture filmed in CinemaScope.
Koster’s final film was “The Singing Nun” in 1966.
He is survived by his wife, former actress Peggy Moran, and two sons.