Czechoslovakian director Milos Forman lost his Jewish father and Protestant mother to Hitler's concentration camps. Raised by family members, Forman studied at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in Prague, serving his professional apprenticeship as a writer of the pioneering Laterna Magika mixed-media presentations of the 1950s. Already an award-winning filmmaker thanks to a brace of short subjects, Forman directed his first feature, Black Peter, in 1963.
Loves of a Blonde (1965) and Firemen's Ball (1967), two sweet-tempered films with a distinctively Czech sense of humor, brought Forman to the attention of American critics. With the increasing artistic freedom prevalent in his country, Forman intended to spend the rest of his career in Prague, but when Russian troops marched into Czechoslovakia in 1968, the director shifted his base of operations to France. From there, he went to Hollywood for his first English-language film, Taking Off (1971), a modest comedy about changing family values of the 1970s that featured such stars-to-be as Georgia Engel and Carly Simon. The film proved to be a success, winning a number of awards, including a Special Jury Prize at Cannes.