He was born in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel in 1897 under the name of Hans Detlef Sierck and was a theatre director from 1922 to 1937, concentrating on classic playwrights. In 1934 he was hired by UFA, Germany’s most influential movie company, which released his first feature film. His films made Zarah Leander a famous star. Despite his great success he left Germany in 1937 because of his opposition to the policies of the Third Reich. After a brief stay in France and Holland, he was invited to the U.S. where he continued his career with a series of melodramas. His early American films stand out as atypical but competent thrillers. In 1959 his “Imitation of Life” became Universal-International Studios’ most successful film commercially. Incidentally, it was his last one. He retired from filmmaking and returned to Europe. He died in Switzerland in 1987.