Michael Curtiz was born Manó Kertész Kaminer to a middle-class Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary. His father was an architect and his mother an opera singer. He made his stage debut as a child in one of his mother's operas. At age 17, Curtiz ran away from home to join the circus, performing as a juggler, acrobat and mime. He later attended Markoszy University and the Royal Academy of Theater and Art in Budapest. He then became an actor and director with the Hungarian National Theatre. He spent six months working on his craft in Denmark, returning to Hungary to serve in the army during World War I. He went back to filmmaking in 1915 and left Hungary four years later, settling in Vienna. There he directed a number of movies and caught the attention of Jack Warner, head of Warner Bros. Studios in the USA. In 1926, Warner brought Curtiz to Hollywood, where he became a prolific filmmaker. He directed four or five films a year in several different genres, among them The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Casablanca (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and Mildred Pierce (1945), now considered classics. He was famous for his skill in creating lavish productions on minimal budgets, as well as for his autocratic ways. He directed many Academy Award-winning performances. Curtiz made his last film in 1961, a year before his death at age 74.