Josef von Sternberg was born Jonas Sternberg to an Austrian Jewish family in Vienna. From age two, his childhood was spent partly in New York City. He was forced by poverty to drop out of Jamaica High School and went to work in a Manhattan retail store. By 1915, he was working at a new job cleaning and repairing movie prints. It provided an entrée to the World Film Company, based in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where the new film industry was flourishing. He served as an apprentice filmmaker from around 1916 to the early 1920s (when he added the "von" to his surname). In 1923, he moved to Hollywood, and made his directorial debut with The Salvation Hunters in 1925. It became a critical and box office hit. Underworld (1927), an early gangster film, was his first big break. With The Last Command (1928), von Sternberg began almost 10 years as one of the most celebrated film directors in the world. In 1930, both his career and his personal life were transformed by the making of The Blue Angel. Chosen by star Emil Jannings and producer Erich Pommer to make Germany's first major sound picture, von Sternberg cast the young Marlene Dietrich as Lola Lola, the sexy nightclub dancer. Their love affair became legendary and von Sternberg directed Dietrich in six more films. However, after The Devil Is a Woman (1935), von Sternberg never again had the creative control he needed. Film historians today consider von Sternberg's greatest contributions to have been to the new language of film, particularly his handling of lighting and cinematography. His autobiography, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, was published in 1973.