What do directors like Tod Browning, Frank Capra, Cecil B. DeMille, Michael Haneke, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, George Marshall, Leo McCarey, Raoul Walsh, James Whale, John Woo and William Wyler all have in common? They directed a remake of one or more of their movies at one point during their careers.

Now that producer/writer Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich have announced that they are planning to do a remake of their 1994 science-fiction adventure movie "Stargate" the topic became hot and relavant once again. To be fair, we still don't know what the exact plans are and for all we known it eventually is going to turn out to be more of a reboot/sequel rather than just an ordinary remake but it's still interesting and fun to note how he hardly is the first or only director throughout the decades who came up with the idea and how it's far more common than you may think.

Rather than just simply listing every single remake, have a look at some of the more interesting and obscure ones.

The first

The first remake to be directed by the same director was not remade one- but two times, by the very same director! In 1914 acclaimed director Cecil B. DeMille directed his first ever movie "The Squaw Man", alongside the more experienced director Oscar Apfel. In 1918 Cecil B. DeMille solo-directed another version of the Edwin Milton Royle play titled, once again, "The Squaw Man" (a lost film with only the last reel extant) and finally, in 1931, he directed a sound version of the same movie, also titled "The Squaw Man" again, which turned out to be a big flop and was Cecil B. DeMille's final MGM movie but it was well received by the critics at the time.
The Squaw Man (1914)
The Squaw Man (1918)
The Squaw Man (1931)

The most

The director with the most remakes of his own movies behind is name is the Japenese Yasujiro Ozu. Throughout his 35-year long career he remade 3 of his own movies. The first one "Ohayô" was a remake of his earlier film "Otona no miru ehon - Umarete wa mita keredo" and in the very same year of 1959 he remade another one of his earlier films; "Ukikusa monogatari", which he remade as "Ukikusa". He must have gotten the hang of it since only one year later, in 1960, he remade his 1949 movie "Banshun" into "Akibiyori". It makes him the only director who ever remade 3 of his own earlier films. His movies, remakes and originals, are all hold in very high regards, so remakes really don't necassarily have to be an inferior or redundant thing.
Ohayô (1959)
Ukikusa (1959)
Akibiyori (1960)

The most sought after one

Estimates are that 90% of all movies made prior to 1929 are lost, due to various different reasons. Arguably the Holy Grail of lost movies is the 1927 silent-movie "London After Midnight".  Why? Because it's a movie by Tod Browning starring Lon Chaney as a vampire like character, 4 years before Tod Browning made the ultimate vampire classic "Dracula", starring Bela Lugosi as the titular character. The last known copy of "London After Midnight" was destroyed in the 1967 MGM vault fire. There are still a whole bunch of still photographs of the movie floating around, to add to its legacy and in 2002 Turner Classic Movies produced a 45 minute reconstruction of the film, using these very same photographs.
However years before that, in 1935, director Tod Browning made "Mark of the Vampire" starring Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi. It's fun to say that "London After Midnight" is the most famous lost- and most sought after movie but to be completely fair, it doesn't say an awful lot about the actual quality of the movie of course. Judging by the remake "Mark of the Vampire", it isn't exactly a brilliant film or classic by any means and accounts by filmgoers and film historians, who had seen the movie before its destruction, suggesting that it was neither one of Tod Browning's or Lon Chaney's strongest films, confirms this even further.
London After Midnight (1927)
Mark of the Vampire (1935)

The first foreign one

Whenever for instance an European or Asian movie is succesful and gets highly praised, it's of course time for Hollywood to step in and decide to do an American remake of it, much to the annoyance of lots of people. However, Hollywood itself isn't just the only one tp 'blame' in all of the cases. Sometimes the director's of the original step in to do the remake themselves.
The first one to do this was the Mexican Emilio Fernández, who in 1950 remade his Mexican 1946 movie "Enamorada" into "The Torch", starring Gilbert Roland, Paulette Goddard and Pedro Armendáriz who reprised his role from the 1946 original.
Enamorada (1946)
The Torch (1950)

The most years in between

Since a director's career usually lasts only a couple of decades, most remakes by the same directors also were done within only a few years of the original. There however are a few exceptions of course but the ones that take the cake are Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 remake of his 1923 movie version of "The Ten Commandments" and Roger Vadim's "And God Created Woman", which is a 1988 remake of the French movie "Et Dieu... créa la femme", which he had made 32 years earlier, back in 1956. The 1956 original starred Brigitte Bardot, while the 1988 starred Rebecca De Mornay in the lead role. Needless to say which one is the better- and more sexy movie.
Et Dieu... créa la femme (1956)
And God Created Woman (1988)

The Best

And finally, it's time to pick the best one. This actually is quite hard- and completely subjective of course. There actually is a suprisingly amount of good remakes to pick from and honorable mentions shouls go to Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and Raoul Walsh's "Colorado Territory" but the absolutely best one is a movie directed by the same man who was the very first person to do a remake of his own movie and the director who we started this list of with; Cecil B. DeMille.
The movie I'm talking about is the 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments" starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price, among many, many, others.
Now to be fair, I haven't seen the 1923 original by the same title but I sincerely doubt it matches the grandeur and beauty of the 1956 full-color and sound remake. 
The Ten Commandments (1923)
The Ten Commandments (1956)

So why do some directors remake some of their own movies? Well, this varies of course. Sometimes it's by choice, sometimes it's by 'force'. Sometimes directors will feel the need to revise some of their earlier movies to correct some of their mistakes or because they feel it's in need of an update, due to social changes. Or sometimes it's just simply because more modern techniques have become available that weren't available yet at the time, such as sound and color, as would have been the case for some of the earliest remakes.
But sometimes it's also all about the $$$ of course. Studios that hold the rights will push directors to come up with another version of their succesful earlier films or they will lure succesful directors from abroad to come to Hollywood to remake their European or Asian movie and 'help' them to make their dreams come true of becoming a succeful Hollywood director, while making tons of $ in the process.

However as this list also shows, a remake doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. I'm also not opposed to Roland Emmerich having another go at "Stargate". I just wish they would make it a sequel rather than a remake, seeing how the movie is only 20-years old and none of the effects, story or acting really feels that outdated.

About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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