Saturday, August 7, 2010
The John Huston Blogathon: Day 3
We Were Strangers (1949)
by Judy Geater
"Huston originally wanted to screen-test the then-unknown Marilyn Monroe for the lead role of Cuban revolutionary China Valdez, but was stopped by producer Sam Spiegel, although she did appear in Huston’s next film, The Asphalt Jungle. It’s fascinating to wonder how she would have played this fiery dramatic role and whether it would have changed the course of her career – but it is a pity if speculation about that is allowed to get in the way of appreciating the performance given by Jennifer Jones, who I think is excellent as China, showing a wide emotional range."
by Tom Hyland
"In the end, Freud has created his Oedipus complex, but is shouted down by his peers during a reading of this paper. Worse yet, he is turned down by Breuer, who respects his diligence and compassion, but cannot agree on the notion of childhood sexuality. Another of Huston's characters has found his meaning in a pursuit; while others mock him, he does not fail. He knows that his work has only begun. This makes him a man who is firmly rooted in John Huston's world. He may be looking more at the end results than the means, as did the gold seekers in Sierra Madre, but the goal, the journey, the pursuit, is what defines his existence."
Wise Blood (1979)
by Bryce Wilson
"Huston doesn’t even try to make it coherent. He wades hip-deep into material that would make less stout hearted directors faint. You remember the scene in Dead Man were Crispin Glover tells Johnny Depp he’s going to die and then stares unnervingly at him for about five minutes? Imagine that scene blown up to feature length and you’ll begin to understand what Wise Blood is like. Who else but Huston would keep the scene from the book in which a minor character steals a Gorilla suit and runs around attempting to shake hands with people? And not only keep it, but shoot it without once winking? Wise Blood may not work as a film on its own. But as an artifact, or concordance with the novel, it’s fascinating."
Prizzi's Honor (1985)
by Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.
"I’ve seen Honor several more times since my original trip to the theater, and to me it’s a movie that becomes more and more brilliant with each successive viewing. At the time of Honor’s release, Jack Nicholson was riding high after coming off a Best Supporting Actor Oscar win two years previous for his turn as the laconically lascivious astronaut Garrett Breedlove in the four-hankie weeper Terms of Endearment (1983). His interpretation of the dull-witted Partanna is, in my opinion, one of his all-time best film roles—a masterful comic performance in which his portrayal of a stereotypical dese-dem-and-dose mobster (similar to the kind played by actors like Nat Pendleton, Warren Hymer or Guinn “Big Boy” Williams in the films of the 1930s) masks a very dangerous individual to be around (the police only half-jokingly refer to Charley as “the All-American hood”). Film historian Danny Peary once posited in his wonderful book Alternative Oscars that Nicholson—nominated for his performance as Best Actor—should have taken home the trophy for his first-rate turn…and I’m not entirely unconvinced that Peary isn’t right."
Collaborations with Humphrey Bogart
by Ratnakar Sadasyula
"In a way, both Huston and Bogie had developed a not-too-favorable reputation in the industry; the former was considered an egomaniac, and Bogie was arrogant and notorious for rubbing people up the wrong side. Add to the fact that both were heavy smokers and boozers, too. Playing the gangster repeatedly made Bogie develop his own style--the cynical, bitter, deprecatory loner who has his own code of honor. In an industry filled with handsome lookers like Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Errol Flynn, Bogie was the odd man out, with his not too conventional looks."
Huston as a Modernist and Anti-Mythologist
by Andreas of Pussy Goes Grrr
"The nature of 'home' is also the subject of scrutiny in Huston’s work. In The Misfits, Pilot (Eli Wallach) has an unfinished house, abandoned after his wife’s death, which Roslyn and Gay appropriate as the site of their own domestic fantasies. But these efforts are doomed from the beginning, and the contrast between their reality and the “American dream” ideal proves the film’s bitter truths. In Fat City, washed-up boxer Billy (Stacy Keach) and barfly Oma (Susan Tyrrell) initially live together in a shrill burlesque of marriage. But inevitably they go their separate ways, and it’s because the American dream of marital bliss was not designed for a pair of alcoholics in desolate small-town California. Huston was intent on demolishing these myths on which much of American life was based, revealing the sickness and falsehoods underneath. And so, to come temporarily full circle, isn’t that what Huston was accomplishing by starring in Chinatown? He was at once Noah Cross, titan of industry, but also Noah Cross, the dirtiest of old men."
That's Day 3, folks. Sorry I'm so late! Mornings shifts are not fun, but I wouldn't think of missing a day of the blogathon.