The most commercially successful filmmaker in Hollywood history, Steven Spielberg was born December 18, 1946, in Cincinnati, OH. A lifelong cinema buff, he began directing his first short movies while still a child, later studying film at California State University and winning notice for his 1969 short feature Amblin'. He first made his mark in television, directing Joan Crawford in the pilot for Rod Serling's Night Gallery and working on episodes of Columbo and Marcus Welby, M.D. Spielberg's first feature-length effort, 1971's Duel, a taut thriller starring Dennis Weaver, was widely acclaimed as one of the best movies ever made for television.
Spielberg permanently graduated to feature films with 1974's The Sugarland Express, but it was his next effort, Jaws, which truly cemented his reputation as a rising star. The most successful film of 1975, this tale of a man-eating Great White shark was widely recognized as the picture which established the summer months as the film industry's most lucrative period of the year, heralding a move toward big-budget blockbusters which culminated two years later with his friend George Lucas' Star Wars. Spielberg's follow-up, 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was another staggering success, employing state-of-the-art special effects to document its story of contact with alien life.