Coming out of a musical family and trained as a stage actor, Don Siegel became one of the most respected directors of action films in Hollywood. He began his career as a film librarian and advanced through the editing department at Warner Bros., where he frequently directed transition and linking footage in the early '40s, making two Oscar-winning short films during this same period.
Siegel became a feature director in 1946 with an offbeat mystery called The Verdict, starring Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. His second film, the much-underrated Night Unto Night, proved so difficult a subject -- as a psychological drama about a dying man (Ronald Reagan) and a suicidal woman (Viveca Lindfors, who was then Siegel's wife) -- that its release was delayed for more than two years. During the early '50s, Siegel made his reputation as an efficient, reliable, often inspired maker of action and crime films, most notably Riot in Cell Block H and Private Hell 36 (both 1954). His ability to transform difficult or lackluster script material into original, memorable, often startling motion pictures was established with 1955's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, one of the most unsettling, popular, and profitable science fiction films of the decade.