Jean Negulesco, director of the popular 1950s films “How to Marry a Millionaire,” starring Marilyn Monroe, and “Three Coins in a Fountain,” has died in Spain. He was 93.
Negulesco, a Romanian who became a U.S. citizen but had lived in Marbella, Spain, for 25 years, died Sunday in the Mediterranean coastal city of heart failure.
“He was one of the now-gone generation of Europeans who lent style to film,” said Times Arts Editor Emeritus Charles Champlin at the news of Negulesco’s death.
As a director, Negulesco was praised initially for his strong romantic melodramas in the 1940s and 1950s but later lost favor with critics.
An artist and Paris stage decorator, he came to the United States in 1927 to exhibit his art. He got into films a few years later as an assistant producer, and then worked his way up in directing, earning his first directing credit for “Singapore Woman” in 1941.
When he directed Joan Crawford in the 1946 film “Humoresque,” she asked him to describe the wealthy patroness of the arts that she was to portray. Typically, he painted a portrait and sent it to her.
Negulesco worked with many of the top leading ladies of the day and clearly enjoyed it.
“I have found nothing to compare to the beauty of the American girl,” he told The Times in 1953. “She is more confident and independent than the girls in Europe, and she stays young longer.”
He described Betty Grable as “genuine . . . unpretentious . . . with such a sense of humor"; praised the young Lauren Bacall for “poise and experience beyond her years,” and said Marlene Dietrich “looks better now than she did 20 years ago.”
The pipe-smoking Negulesco was also complimentary about Miss Monroe, the reputedly troublesome star who appeared with Miss Grable and Miss Bacall in his 1953 romantic comedy, “How to Marry a Millionaire.”
“When I started work with Marilyn, I realized she was one of the most atomic personalities ever to come out of Hollywood,” he told The Times. “But I was surprised to find how hard she worked and how much she wanted to give a good performance.”
Negulesco’s 1954 box office success “Three Coins in a Fountain” won Academy Awards for cinematography and for the title song, which many believe carried the picture, and was nominated for an Oscar for best picture.
His European background as an artist and stage designer helped him as a director; Negulesco once told The Times: “A person who knows pictorial values and can create a story for the eyes finds it easier to do a motion picture. He can rely much less on dialogue.”
Negulesco’s other films include “Johnny Belinda” in 1948, “Daddy Long Legs” and “The Rains of Ranchipur” in 1955, and “Boy on a Dolphin” in 1957.
His final directing credit was “The Invincible Six” in 1970. He appeared in the French film “Un Officer de Police Sans Importance (An Unimportant Police Officer)” in 1973.