Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The John Huston Blogathon: Day 6

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

by John Greco

"No one at Warner Brothers was expecting much from what was a low-budget production. They even wanted to call the film “The Gent From Frisco.” George Raft, it is well known, refused to work with an untried director, turned down the lead role opening up the position for Humphrey Bogart, and with that began the “beginning of a beautiful friendship” as Rick Blaine (Bogart) says to Captain Renault (Claude Rains) in another Warner classic a few years later, between the director John Huston and actor Humphrey Bogart. His performance here was a major step in the creation of the Bogie persona which achieved its completion in Michael Curtiz’s “Casablanca.” Huston and Bogart would make six films together. This being his first film Huston made drawings of all the camera setups so as not to appeared unprepared on the set came time to actually shoot."

The Committee for the First Amendment: Huston vs. the HUAC

by Adam Zanzie

"Huston later talks about how the Committee had to clear its own name, since obviously such a group could not be opposed to the HUAC without itself being suspected of Communism. Among others, Huston's group included Bogart and Bacall, as well as Edward G. Robinson, Burt Lancaster, Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. But eventually, the heat got too strong--particularly for the actors involved in the group. I highly doubt the public could have cared what the filmmakers thought of the HUAC hearings, but actors were another matter: audiences pay to see movies because of the actors. They usually care about what the actors think in real life. So, eventually, Bogart and Bacall were so stung by the criticism that they had to quit. They had to pack up their bags and go home. Huston was left to fight it alone, with his fellow filmmaking artists."

Under the Volcano (1984) and Prizzi's Honor (1985)

by Kevin J. Olson

"When thinking about Adam's question and main theme for the blogathon – whether or not we can call John Huston an auteur – I knew that I wanted to consider this question while placing it within the context of Huston's late era; in this case two of the final three films he ever made. Prizzi's Honor – a dark comedy about the mobster genre – was unlike anything done at the time, and the film that preceded his penultimate project, Under the Volcano, perhaps the best movie about drinking ever made (containing one of the best performances of a drunk by Albert Finney). Each film's merits aside, were they proof that Huston was an auteur, and if they did prove that he was, what then is Huston's mark on the medium? The obvious answer is Huston's love for literature. Almost all of his films are adaptations of some sort, some from quite famous and important authors (Flannery O' Connor, Malcolm Lowry, and a little nobody with the last name Joyce, I think…), and even though his films aren't flashy or pretentious they may just be some of the most consistent pieces of work since the likes of Howard Hawks or John Ford. There's something warmly familiar about Huston's films, and there's something gratifying in the consistency at which he churns out quality picture after quality picture; in addition, there's always something postmodern or theological going on beneath the surface of his films; and the wrestling of those bigger topics is Huston's indelible thumbprint on film. To watch a John Huston film is somewhat of a con game; it's easy to find yourself thinking that what you're watching is simply quality filmmaking, but there's a lot more going on in the frame than a mere competence of filmmaking 101."

To wrap up Day 6, I just wanted to stop and tell everybody how much FUN this blogathon has been so far. I rarely ever get to read this much stuff on Huston, but everybody has finally come together to make it happen. I can't thank you guys enough for it.

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