@Lemonglow – I think you missed my point. For the purposes of this thread, I don’t really think its important to know what Ford thought of Huston or why. It’s more important to know what we, Mubi members, think of each director. And I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that simply by watching their movies, we would understand why Ford would call Huston a “phony”. I simply mean that by watching each director’s body of work, especially in the 40s, it’s plain to see who is the better director. It seems evident to me at least.
I fully understand Ford’s ability to hold grudges, be mean-spirited, and be completely capricious in both public and private dealings. But I fail to see why that matters here.
@ Jerry – What is this evidence? Besides I know of no darker WW2 film come out of Hollywood than than The Long Voyage Home.
Also, I would never describe They Were Expendable as light and sunny.
I understand your point about Tennessee Williams work, but I think the phoniness in Night of The Iguana is exaggerated even for Williams, and I think I know why. Despite the ornate and mannered stylization of his dialogue, one thing Tennessee Williams understood perhaps better than any other living artist was the unique social mechanisms of the southern United States. As someone who grew up in Arkansas, I can testify that he nails the south. He can conjur all of the petty hypocrisy and neuroses that really define a very specific regional life. This is why his drama with all-southern characters, like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof or Baby Doll , ring with more emotional truth than Iguana.
@Jerry and Nathan,
You guys bring up a great point: Ford made some really bitter war films. He was certainly no simple cheerleader for the US military. I think he valued it as a cultural institution, but he certainly didn’t support military force unquestioningly. Fort Apache makes that rather plain. I also think the end of his greatest film about WWII, My Darling Clementine , suggests a very uncertain future for the United States.
Jerry and others:
I won’t hijack this thread with reams of evidence, but here’s a short version:
But Huston’s actions in that context were (on purpose or not) a bit more publicized and a bit more dramatic, and few folks in Hollywood have ever been more attuned to the symbolic gesture than Ford.
He recognized that Huston’s anti-HUAC moves “played better” than his own,
just as he suspected that certain Hollywood figures who served during WWII often received
more commendations than he did. Ford’s letters to various officials hinting at,
or sometimes downright requesting, commendations can make for tough reading.
Also, yes, yes, it’s widely understood that THEY WERE EXPENDABLE was a downbeat, somber, serious picture. With such a feel-good title, what else would it be?!
But to understand why Ford might harbor some resentment concerning his in-uniform work versus Huston’s, look at the history of DECEMBER 7TH and the related film THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY.
Then consider what happened with Huston’s in-uniform pictures made later in the war, specifically SAN PIETRO and LET THERE BE LIGHT.
Again, I’m in no way implying that Ford was a blind, uncritical supporter of the armed services;
Capra? for the 40s?
yes, i’ve seen a handful of the documentaries and all his features from that decade, all were great
1948 State of the Union
1946 It’s a Wonderful Life
1945 War Comes to America (documentary)
1945 Two Down and One to Go (documentary short)
1945 Here Is Germany (documentary)
1945 Know Your Enemy – Japan (documentary)
1945 Your Job in Germany (documentary short)
1944 Arsenic and Old Lace
1944 Tunisian Victory (documentary)
1944 The Battle of China (documentary)
1943 The Battle of Britain (documentary)
1943 The Nazis Strike (documentary short)
1942 Prelude to War (documentary)
1941 Meet John Doe
His Here is Germany documentary is very interesting. Instead of creating a propaganda film, he created a nice documentary on the founding of Germany, and its customs and culture, in an effort to show that they were indeed humans like the rest of us, instead of some crazy nazi power machine arch-nemesis.
I’m just not a big fan of Capra, the Ron Howard of his generation (but I do love Arsenic and Old Lace )
Naw, Howard never directed something nearly as good as It Happened One Night . . . or The Bitter Tea of General Yen or Mr Deeds Goes to Town or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or Lost Horizon or You Can’t Take It With You or Meet John Doe or Arsenic and Old Lace or It’s a Wonderful Life or State of the Union or A Hole in the Head (OK, maybe as good as A Hole in the Head).
…the Ron Howard of his generation
Damn, Uli. That’s some harsh stuff. Howard couldn’t hold a candle to Capra as far as I’m concerned.
Preston Sturges! :-)
Not really a fan of Ford. McLagen’s drunken sheningans kill almsot every ounce of good will I have left. I have admiration for the cinematography of My Darling Clemintine and The Fugitive and some of Wayne’s acting in a handful of films, but the craziness of some of his ensemble casts and background music turn me a bit cynical.
I far prefer:
Howard Hawks: His Girl Friday, Ball of Fire, Air Force, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Red River, I was a Male War Bride.
Alfred Hitchcock: Rebecca, Foreign Correspondent, Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious.
Orson Welles: Kane, Ambersons, Lady from Shanghai and his underrated MacBeth.
Michael Powell: Thief of Bagdad, One of our Airplanes is Missing, I Know Where I’m Going, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcisus, The Red Shoes.
Ernst Lubitsch and Fritz Lang did great work here too.
I would have to say Howard Hawks:
His Girl Friday
The Big Sleep
To Have and Have Not
Ball of Fire
While he may not have made as many films as some of the other directors of the forties, his films are still thrilling today and his sensibilities very modern. As much as I love Ford, Red River reaches a level of intensity and pure style that gives me a cinematic high Ford never has.
I would give the edge to Preston Sturges in so much as we are talking about only one decade of a directors work. Earlier someone pointed out that when you factor in the end of the 30s and the early 50s, it’s no contest. So true, but I’m only looking at the 40s. His work is the 40s in my mind. Hitchcock and Welles are a close 3rd and 4th after Sturges and Ford. However, the Archers’ movies during this time are some of my absolute favorites but I don’t think they capture the feel of the 40s. Their films seem more of a means to escape the hard times of the 40s.