The Best American Film Ever Produced?

August 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Eva Marie Saint, Marlon Brando

Eva Marie Saint, Mar­lon Brando

If the 1954 film, On the Water­front is not the best Amer­i­can film ever pro­duced, it is with­out doubt among the ten best post—World War II Amer­i­can films. It was nom­i­nated for 12 Oscars, and won 8 includ­ing Best Pic­ture. It is ranked the 8th Great­est Amer­i­can film of all time by the Amer­i­can Film Insti­tute. The idea for On the Water­front began with an expose series writ­ten for The New York Sun by reporter Mal­colm John­son. The 24 arti­cles won John­son a Pulitzer Prize, and cou­pled by the April 1948 mur­der of a New York dock hir­ing boss, awak­ened Amer­ica to the killings, graft and extor­tion that made up every­day life on the New York water­front. The pro­tag­o­nist Terry Malloy’s fight against cor­rup­tion was in part mod­eled after whistle—blowing long­shore­man Anthony DiVin­cenzo, who tes­ti­fied before a real—life Water­front Com­mis­sion on the facts of life on the Hobo­ken docks and was to a degree ostra­cized for his deeds. DiVin­cenzo sued and set­tled, many years after, with Colum­bia Pic­tures over the appro­pri­a­tion of what he con­sid­ered his story. DiVin­cenzo recounted his story to writer Budd Schul­berg dur­ing a month—long ses­sion of water­front bar­room meetings—which some claim never occurred—even though Shul­berg attended Di Vincenzo’s water­front com­mis­sion tes­ti­mony every day dur­ing the hear­ing. Read more

1946: Hollywood & the Great Directors

August 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Lana Turner John Garfield The Postman Always Rings Twice Director Tay Garnett

Lana Turner, John Garfield, “The Post­man Always Rings Twice”, direc­tor Tay Garnett

The year 1939 is regarded by most film his­to­ri­ans as the pin­na­cle of suc­cess and legit­i­macy in the short his­tory of Hollywood’s Golden era. That year gave us the likes of Gone With the Wind, The Wiz­ard of Oz, Stage­coach, Mr. Smith Goes to Wash­ing­ton and many more.

The man­i­fest qual­ity of these great clas­sics is evi­dent and needs no fur­ther elab­o­ra­tion here. There are a num­ber of rea­sons for the achieve­ments of 1939, chief of which was the great Hol­ly­wood stu­dio sys­tem. If 1939 was a water­shed year for Hol­ly­wood, then the next great shift came in 1946, Hollywood’s most suc­cess­ful year ever, in terms of atten­dance. The motion pic­ture had grown up in the seven years since the release of Gone With the Wind. The great change of course came about with World War II, and it’s after­math. Read more

Mystique: Humphrey Bogart, the Peak Years

August 4, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

Humphrey Bogart 1941

Humphrey Bog­art 1941

From hard-boiled Sam Spade to cyn­i­cal Rick Blaine, from wise crack­ing shamus Philip Mar­lowe to down-on-his-luck Fred C. Dobbs, Humphrey Bog­art cre­ated a gallery of unfor­get­table char­ac­ters. Appear­ing in over 75 films, span­ning 26 years, Bog­art left an indeli­ble mark on Amer­i­can cinema.

Humphrey Bogart’s early career was hardly note­wor­thy. His roles ranged from rich play­boys to seedy hood­lums. In the film The Pet­ri­fied For­est (1936), Bog­art, on the insis­tence of his Broad­way co-star Leslie Howard, re-created his role of the cold-blooded killer Duke Man­tee. The film was a huge suc­cess and gave a tremen­dous boost to his career. Although his imme­di­ate roles remained con­strained to the hood­lums, and mal­con­tents he had por­trayed prior to The Pet­ri­fied For­est , he remained stead­fast in his pur­suit of excellence.

By 1941 Humphrey Bog­art was on the verge of cin­e­matic promi­nence. His sub­se­quent and now cel­e­brated roles were about to gar­ner Bog­art the accep­tance and adu­la­tion he so des­per­ately craved. A recog­ni­tion he rel­ished, as he set out for­tu­itously to cre­ate the now famous “Bog­art ” mys­tique, which would dom­i­nate the screen for the next decade. He was to remark later that there were few things about which he could feel gen­uine pride, and the 1941 clas­sic The Mal­tese Fal­con, was one of them. Read more

Film Noir and the Femme Fatale

July 16, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

High Heels on Wet Pavement

Los Ange­les 1948

Femme fatale—is defined as “an irre­sistibly attrac­tive woman, espe­cially one who leads men into dan­ger or dis­as­ter”. To me the most engag­ing sem­blance of a “femme fatale” is the stun­ning image of Lana Turner, as the cam­era pans from her ankles upward in that breath­tak­ing shot from The Post­man Always Rings Twice 1946. Read more

Double Indemnity & Film Noir

July 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Double Indemnity book cover

The per­fect Film Noir, weak man, strong woman

By the fall of 1943, Bar­bara Stan­wyck had starred in 43 films. She had shown ver­sa­til­ity with many styles. How­ever, there remained one type of role, and an inte­gral part of the spec­trum of any actress, that she had never done, and the time seemed right for it. It was still early enough in cin­ema his­tory for audi­ences to be shaken up by a thor­oughly evil woman.Stanwyck was well aware of the poten­tial in the role of Phyl­lis Diet­rich­son in Billy Wilder’s Dou­ble Indem­nity, Wilder remarked later how Bar­bara jumped at the chance of play­ing it. In an inter­view for Movie Digest in 1972, Bar­bara, recalled, “when Billy Wilder sent me the script of Dou­ble Indem­nity, and I read it, I real­ized that I had never played an out–and–out killer. I had played medium heav­ies, but never an out–and–out killer. And because it was an unsym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter, I was a lit­tle fright­ened of it. I went to his office, and I said to him, I love the script and I love you, but I’m a lit­tle afraid, after all these years of play­ing hero­ines to play the part of an out–and–out cold– blooded killer… Read more

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