Powell and Pressburger:
1949 The Small Back Room
1948 The Red Shoes
1947 Black Narcissus
1946 A Matter of Life and Death
1945 ‘I Know Where I’m Going!’
1944 A Canterbury Tale
1949 The Dim Little Island (short)
1947 The Cumberland Story
1946 A Defeated People
1945 A Diary for Timothy
1945 Myra Hess
1944 The True Story of Lilli Marlene
1944 The Eighty Days
1944 V. 1
1943 The Silent Village
1943 Fires Were Started
1942 Listen to Britain
1941 The Heart of Britain
1941 The Heart of England
1941 Words for Battle
1940 London Can Take It!
1940 Spring Offensive
1940 Welfare of the Workers
Neil, How Green Is My Valley is a fine film, no argument there, I was stating that the title seems Hallmark Hall of Fame. I know, context of comments is always important.
Good to see Jennings here. He’s still not very well known outside UK, and even in UK only among cinephiles interested in older films, rather than general filmgoers.
Here’s an interesting documentary on Jennings:
the novel How Green was my Valley
note, none of the leading performers in the film were Welsh.
The author of the novel was of Welsh parentage but born in England and was not raised in South Wales. Maybe this doesn’t matter- of course great novels can spring from imagination rather than familiarity- but some took it as from authentic personal experience.
What do actors do? They pretend to be people they are not.
When I see a movie about Detroit or SE Michigan, I do not worry about whether or not the film gives a correct or accurate representation of a place that I am very familiar with. Instead I am concerned with what the film is doing on the whole. If I am interested in anthropological accuracy, I will visit Wales in person.
Also, I think it is important to remember that Ford was rarely interested in depicting a place or time with any sort of verisimilitude. Everything is filtered through his mind. It’s always Ford up on the screen, not Wales or the West or French Polynesia or the Mohawk Valley.
“Off the top of my head I can’t think of a director who made three films as good as these, back to back. Brilliant work…”
um, JOHN FUCKING FORD:
Stagecoach (1939)Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)The Grapes of Wrath (1940)The Long Voyage Home (1940)Tobacco Road (1941)How Green Was My Valley (1941)
I’ll concede that Tobacco Road is not among his best (a lot of yokel schtick), but his great cycle includes six masterpieces in three years
“It’s always Ford up on the screen, not Wales or the West or French Polynesia or the Mohawk Valley.”
Very true, you have to accept that Utah is not a suitable stand-in for upstate New York.
I love John Ford, in fact he’s my single favorite director, but his best work was really scattered throughout his career, and as such I can’t see him really belonging to a single decade. Sure he had Grapes, Valley, and Clemetine in the 40’s, but in the 50’s he had Wagon Master, The Quiet Man, and The Searchers, and he had his share of unfocused projects in both decades.
I’ll have to join Matt Parks in voting for Raoul Walsh. The 1940’s was his decade.
Just take a look at his output in those 10 years.
They Drive By Night
The Strawberry Blonde
They Died With Their Boots On
His remaining 14 films from the decade range from Entertaining to Very Good. The sheer volume and quality he achieved was astounding. None of these films reach the heights of The Grapes of Wrath or Fort Apache, but neither are they as leaden as The Fugitive or as utterly stupefying as Tobacco Road. Of course, Ford’s failures are part and parcel of what made him great as a director, an artist has to risk great misfires to hit the greatest targets.
The Passionate Friends
This Happy Breed
In Which We Serve
The Red Shoes
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
The Thief of Bagdad
One of Our Aircraft is Missing
A Canterbury Tale
A Matter of Life and Death
I Know Where I’m Going
The Small Black Room
I’ll add my voice to the growing chorus of those who are a bit mystified at John Huston’s inflated reputation.
His best work seems like imitation Howard Hawks (Falcon, Madre, African Queen). He produced scores of films with seeds of good ideas, but apparently lacked the will or directorial focus to fully resolve them (Key Largo, The Red Badge of Courage, We Were Strangers).
The Misfits is absolute garbage, a self-conscious attempt at making a ‘great’ film that, at it’s core, seemingly has nothing to say.
I like The Asphalt Jungle, and Huston’s talent as a screenwriter is undeniable, but for the most part I sympathize with John Ford’s characterization when he labeled Huston “a phony”.
Yeah but John Ford could’ve never pulled off that role in Chinatown.
I’ll give you that one, lol.
It would be hilarious to see just how crotchety and uncooperative Ford would be as an actor, though.
Anyone making the case that there is no ONE greatest director of the 1940s could cut and paste this excellent thread for use as Exhibit A.
They wouldn’t need further evidence, and probably would not even require a closing argument.
By the way, some of the more prolific filmmakers listed here
would have been proud to have helmed CRISS CROSS or THE KILLERS, which is what Robert Siodmak did.
In that context, someone must have directed ORPHEUS and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
I’m still trying to grasp how an excellent actor, screenwriter, and director responsible for
THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, THE MALTESE FALCON, NIGHT OF THE IGUANA,
PRIZZI’S HONOR, and THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING gets dismissed as a lightweight and a phony.
I really wish Ford, who might be my all-time favorite maker of pictures (definitely top 5),
had not called Huston a phony.
The ugly sound that rock makes as it shatters glass all around the Ford household is hard on the ears.
It would take little effort to list the many reasons Ford resented Huston,
but it would be immensely difficult to find one not rooted in pure personal envy.
I really wish Ford, who might be my all-time favorite maker of pictures (definitely top 5), had not called Huston a phony. The ugly sound that rock makes as it shatters glass all around the Ford household is hard on the ears.
It would take little effort to list the many reasons Ford resented Huston, but it would be immensely difficult to find one not rooted in pure personal envy.
Actually, he called him a “faker,” which is not the same as a “phony.” The context is one where he was judging films, not people. Why would he be envious of Huston, and not McCarey, Capra, Walsh, Garnett, Henry King, and Sam Fuller- all who he praised in the same interview? I think the reason Ford did not like Huston is very obvious: Huston’s films wear their arrogant self-awareness like a badge of honor. Huston judges and sentences. Ford (and the other filmmakers he mentions) observes and empathizes. It’s too bad Ford died before Huston entered the 1980s. I think he would have approved of Huston’s 80s films.
Jerry- According to my “John Ford Interviews” book, the exact part of that quote is “I don’t like John Huston – He is a phony.” But your point is right, he was very generous with the other directors you mentioned, and I don’t think he had any particular vendetta against Huston, I think he was giving his genuine opinion of Huston’s work up to that point (1966). Of course, Huston’s 60’s films are among the most egregious examples of wearing the “arrogant self-awareness like a badge of honor”. (great description, btw). I admittedly haven’t seen much of 80’s Huston, so you’re comments intrigue me, I’ll have to load up my queue and give them a shot.
I actually like Huston as an actor and screenwriter, I just think he has an inflated reputation as a director. The guy admittedly made several good films, but the frequency with which his name pops up in these “Best American Directors”-type lists just plain befuddles me. In terms of cinematic achievement, I just don’t see how his body of work can be ranked alongside Ford, Hitchcock, Capra, Wilder, Hawks, Chaplin, Keaton, Griffith, etc etc. (Or for that matter less frequently lauded directors like Walsh, Fuller, Tourneur and Anthony Mann). I’m not against people liking John Huston’s work, I just don’t get his stature, that’s all.
I’m curious why someone would think Walsh, Fuller, Tourneur, and Mann are “less frequently lauded.” anyone who knows anything about that era of American filmmaking holds them just as highly. to say they are “less frequently lauded” only validates the viewpoint of the ignorant, so why bother?
why is there a tone among some people on this site like they’ve discovered Raoul Walsh and that he’s some kind of unheard-of treasure?
The quote I have seen uses the term “phony,” but the context is beside the point.
No matter what Ford thought of Huston’s films, there is little chance that he would rise above his personal animus toward Huston to judge him as a director.
Ford was notorious for personal—and quite capricious—grudges and vindictiveness. That much is documented by those who loved, admired, and worked with Ford.
There is plenty of evidence suggesting Ford recognized that Huston’s willingness to make far darker pictures about WWII rendered the latter a somewhat more “honest” director, or perhaps one less enamored of the armed forces than was John Ford.
After the war, Huston’s teaming up with Sam Speigel to form a production company mirrored Ford’s own efforts in that direction away from the big studios, and Ford—the master of double standards—resented it.
Huston also took a stronger position, at least by appearances, against HUAC than Ford did.
More to the point, Huston mirrored Ford in many personal ways, not least of which was being a magnificently full-of-shit “character” who made impressions for the sake of making impressions.
Apart from enjoying his wildest episodes as Ford began to age, Huston cut a swathe through Hollywood’s women in a fashion that Ford never did.
Worst of all, Huston claimed Ireland as a first love, buying treasured property there and earning citizenship in the mid-1960s.
Ford regarded that as a kind of invasion, going so far as to put in writing that Huston’s setting up camp in that emerald was a bad thing because Huston’s politics were all wrong.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Ford, an emotionally vulnerable man and fabulous alcoholic,
allowed his private feelings to govern his public/professional life.
You almost never see the guys I called “less frequently lauded” make it into these “Top 10” or “Top 25” lists. You’re right that they are usually from the viewpoint of the ignorant, so it’s stupid for me to even bother with them, but I can’t help but get irked occasionally when I see true artists overlooked in favor of lesser directors.
Concerning Walsh, I think some (myself included) feel that Walsh’s career doesn’t get celebrated enough. The volume, quality, and accessibility of his films should make him more of a household name than he is. But currently, I can’t possibly imagine him being the subject of an American Masters documentary the way Ford, Cukor, Kazan, Keaton, Chaplin and even (ugh) George Stevens have. It would be nice to push him back into the cultural mainstream a bit.
You may have a point about Ford’s personal animus, but his assessment of Huston as a filmmaker isn’t that different from what others in the critical community (like Godard and Sarris) had to say about Huston’s work up to that point. It’s hard for me to imagine Ford really enjoying a picture like The Asphalt Jungle or The Maltese Falconwhether Huston had directed them or not. In any event, I can certainly see how someone could find a film like The Misfits , or even Night of The Iguana phony.
For the purposes of this thread, I am not interested in Ford or Huston as people or public figures. The films, from both directors, say more than enough.
Compared to Ford, I still stay Huston is lightweight. He made some decent pictures, but shouldn’t really be in the “greatest directors of the 40s” conversation.
“You almost never see the guys I called “less frequently lauded” make it into these “Top 10” or “Top 25” lists. You’re right that they are usually from the viewpoint of the ignorant, so it’s stupid for me to even bother with them, but I can’t help but get irked occasionally when I see true artists overlooked in favor of lesser directors.”
well, I have the greatest respect for Walsh’s films, and he still didn’t make it onto my personal list of the top 20 directors of the 40s:
1) John Ford
2) Preston Sturges
3) Bob Clampett
4) Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
5) Roberto Rossellini
6) Yasujiro Ozu
7) Robert Siodmak
8) Howard Hawks
9) Vincente Minnelli
10) Otto Preminger
11) Billy Wilder
12) Alfred Hitchcock
13) Michael Curtiz
14) Mikio Naruse
15) Kenji Mizoguchi
16) Ernst Lubitsch
17) Orson Welles
18) Anthony Mann
19) Norman McLaren
20) Henri-Georges Clouzot
(I mean, he had pretty strong competition)
But he was well represented on my personal top-400 of the 1940s if that makes you feel any better. He accounted for 2% of the list (Huston accounted for .25% of the list).
Truffaut: “The worst Hawks film is more interesting than the best of Huston.”
Well, to each his own.
I would personally rank Walsh higher than Siodmak, Minnelli, Curtiz, Lubitsch, and maybe even Sturges, although that would be a very close call. Since we’re talking 1940’s, I would rank Walsh higher than Mann, too. (Although Mann was my #1 choice for the 1950’s).
Good list, though. You’re right, there was some pretty strong competition in the 40’s.
Nathan, Re: “For the purposes of this thread, I am not interested in Ford or Huston as people or public figures. The films, from both directors, say more than enough.”
Actually, the films, from both directors, don’t necessarily indicate why Ford would call Huston a phony, which is what I was addressing. By the way, if you doubt (maybe you don’t) that Ford’s assessment of any person (or work by same) might not derive from a petty resentment, talk to Henry Fonda. Or Ford’s son.
That would be a neat trick in and of itself, but you probably know what I mean.
And no, Huston isn’t one of the “greatest” directors of the 1940s, but he’s one of the best. Agree with that business about a great run by Ford over that span.
I can’t think of a current-day analog.
Ransom, fully agree about the last two films you mention, but it’s not Huston’s fault that N of the I is a work of intrinsic phoniness.
All of Tennessee Williams’ work is phony.
That’s what makes it so appealing…except when it doesn’t.
But even if we don’t believe a word the characters are saying, in the right circumstances we hope they will going on saying it.
Huston was often adept at creating those circumstances, usually by gleaning some stellar performances from his players. Anyone looking to Williams for authenticity has caught the wrong streetcar, I guess.
I mean, we don’t watch CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF because we want to observe how real people act and talk.
Jerry- According to my “John Ford Interviews” book, the exact part of that quote is “I don’t like John Huston – He is a phony.”
I guess the interview was originally published in French, which is why different translations have popped up. So I take back my distinction between faker and phony.
There is plenty of evidence suggesting Ford recognized that Huston’s willingness to make far darker pictures about WWII rendered the latter a somewhat more “honest” director,
What is this evidence? Besides I know of no darker WW2 film come out of Hollywood than than The Long Voyage Home.
Huston also took a stronger position, at least by appearances, against HUAC than Ford did.
Where are you coming up with this?
From Gallagher’s Ford book:
The blacklisting of the McCarthy era disgusted him. “Send the
commie bastard to me, I’ll hire him,” he’d say. He had the Military Order
of the Purple Heart condemn the 1947 HUAC hearings as “defamatory and
slanderous…witchhunts.” Together with Merian C. Cooper, George
Stevens, John Huston, George Sidney and William Wyler, Ford signed a
telegram from the Screen Directors Guild’s Special Committee to the Speaker
of the House and the HUAC chair, disputing the constitutionality of smearing
people’s good names without giving them the right to defend themselves. “If
there are traitors in Hollywood or anywhere else, let the Federal Bureau of
Investigation point them out…but as citizens, let them have a fair trial,
protected by the guarantees of the Constitution. Such is the Bill of
When in 1951 the Department of Defense charged Frank Capra (of all
people!) with Communist involvement, Ford retorted, “I never heard him
[object] to the Congressional Investigation of Hollywood Communists. I
don’t believe he did. Frankly, I objected to it loudly and vociferously. I’ll
now go on record as saying I think it was a publicity stunt and taxpayers
would have saved a lot of money in rail fares if the investigation had stayed
in Washington.” In 1950, he refused to back Cecil B. DeMille’s loyalty
oath for the Guild. DeMille proposed that names of those declining to sign be
sent to the studios. Then, to confound opposition, DeMille rumored that
Guild president Joseph Mankiewicz was “pinko” (then a serious charge) and
attempted a quick coup by mailing out recall ballots — but only to his allies!
In opposition, the liberals forced a general meeting at which Ford’s
intervention, concluding four hours of debate, was decisive. He identified
himself for the stenographer, “My name’s John Ford. I am a director of
Westerns,” and declared himself “ashamed” at “what looks to me like a
blacklist. I don’t think we should…put ourselves in a position of putting out
derogatory information about a director, whether he is a Communist, beats
his mother-in-law, or beats dogs….I don’t agree with C.B. DeMille. I admire
him. I don’t like him, but I admire him.” The assembly passed Ford’s motion
for DeMille’s resignation and endorsement of Mankiewicz.
Ford made two tv movies about blacklisting in baseball in veiled protest of
Hollywood’s way – Rookie of the Year and Flashing Spikes.
Although you have but one string on your banjo, you pluck it with consistency.