This fascinating man who travelled in so many circles. Very talented. Something of a prick. Lots of dimensions. Certainly more interesting as a man than a lot of filmmakers working today. Do you think he did things that would last? Was he too contemptuous of what he did for a living?
He was a genius. People forget his first film was one of the all time noir classics, The Maltese Falcon. Add to that The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The African Queen and you have three classics of American cinema. He made a lot of other iconic films – Key Largo, The Asphalt Jungle, Fat City, Annie – and it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t get put in the same category as Wilder or Lean or some of his other contemporaries.
There are several of his films that I’ve been meaning to see – Prizzi’s Honor, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Under the Volcano, The Night of the Iguana, and Wise Blood.
And who can forget his terrific role in Chinatown. He was one of the greats.
and Beat The Devil…I think this is a major accomplishment.
With a strong tilt of the hat to German-born Billy Wilder, Huston, for me, is the greatest of American filmmakers. A natural born storyteller.
I would agree with you Christopher, he’s the greatest American filmmaker (or at least one of the greats) thanks to the fact that Wilder was German, and Lean and Hitchcock were British. heehee.
It’s a damn shame that The Dead has not received a Region 1 release because it’s a great movie similar in stature to some of his best work. A wonderful director, masculine but nuanced. Great stuff.
He was the only guy that could do equivalent justice on the screen to source material previously published in book form, and “The Maltese Falcon,” if memory serves me correctly, is considered the first work of film “noir,” so he has that one under his belt, too.
Lester, you are correct – film scholars generally place The Maltese Falcon as the first noir and Touch of Evil as the last (although, since The Maltese Falcon is a remake, does that mean the original isn’t noir?).
I didn’t get a chance to see the previous two versions of “Maltese Falcon,” which I understand were pretty bad. They’re included in the special edition set that I recently picked up. But I think the whole “noir” style was developed by either Huston or his cinematographer – with the sharp shadows and pulp style acting. Not sure about this.
Ok, I guess that makes sense in terms of technically placing the start of the genre. I’m not sure Huston and The Maltese Falcon are credited with CREATING film noir but I recognize for film historians needing a starting point for their own edification and Huston’s film seems a logicial choice.
I really should know this stuff since I took a film noir class several years ago.
Not great; better when I’m drunk. Daniel Day-Lewis is much better.
One of the greats. Even got better as he got older! Compare his later work to Billy Wilder’s? No contest.
Their last three films:
Prizzi’s Honor Vs The Front Page
Under the Volcano Vs Fedora
The Dead Vs Buddy Buddy
Not even close.
Good call Casey, but not really fair…Wilder’s style of movie making was out of fashion by the 70s & 80s
Overall I think Huston took more risks than Wilder and, unlike Wilder didn’t necessarily write his own screenplays allowing him to be more prolific and to take that leap into the “modern age”
A compare, however, works both ways….while Wilder was at the top of his game—- say between 1957 & 1961, he made Witness for the Prosecution, Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, One Two Three. Huston made Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (which I like), The Barbarian & the Geisha(!), The Roots of Heaven and The Unforgiven…a dull western with B. Lancaster, Doug McClure and a woefully miscast Audrey Hepburn
That’s not to say Huston wasn’t a great filmmaker…he’s one of my favorites…the early stuff: Treasure of the Sierra Madre; The Maltese Falcon; Key Largo…the fifties: Asphalt Jungle, Moby Dick, The African Queen, Beat the Devil (still waiting for a decent print of that one!), the sixties: The Misfits, The Night of the Iguana, Reflections in a Golden Eye…he ALWAYS bit off more than he could chew…sometimes successfully, sometimes not…he was an artist through and through!
those are my impressions
I enjoy Clint Eastwood’s impersonation of Huston in his movie, “White Hunter Black Heart”. The clever script by Peter Viertel traces Huston’s pre-production work on and filming of “The African Queen”. You should watch this, if you haven’t already. It’s one of my favorite Eastwood efforts and I found it illuminating in regards to Huston.
Yeah, I have mixed feelings about Huston. His brand of Hemingwayesque macho fatalism is a bit overvalued a bit, I think, and you have to rummage through a good deal of junk, but The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Fat City, Wise Blood, and The Dead are excellent. Key Largo, The Asphalt Jungle_, The African Queen, The Misfits, Night of the Iguana, The List of Adrian Messenger, Victory, and Prizzi’s Honor are good films. His adaptations of The Red Badge of Courage and Reflections in a Golden Eye are interesting if flawed.
On a side note, Eastwood’s take on Huston is his White Hunter, Black Heart is priceless
Brilliant director, passionate actor, intelligent writer. Every sense of the work ‘filmmaker’. Genius.
I love John Huston, including both his work and his personality. While I know that he was, perhaps, a difficult man sometimes, or, at least, when it came to relating information, I still find him to be absolutely charming when it comes to watching him do an interview. He’s like a Grandfatherly-type, or toward the end of his years.
I do think his films will, or, at the very least, should, last. The work that he’s produced is not only some of Bogart’s best work, as well, but clearly identifies universal traits found in most every person (especially in something like Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon, Under the Volcano, etc.). His films come with a form of grandeur that, I think, is lost today. At the end of Under the Volcano, for example, when Firmin dies, there is a big loud blare of the music, a very romantic sound, like the falling of a great hero. Although I am more used to people dying a more quite (even if more violent) death nowadays, it was still quite thrilling to see someone follow through with techniques that have been used since sound was put to image.
Also, as an actor I think he did very well, specifically as the bastard in Chinatown. What a great man.
Easily one of my favourite directors of all time. From a dark and paranoid Bogie in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the epic adventure and friendship of The Man Who Would Be King, and the gritty Americana of Fat City, he was a director of considerable talent. Even with a list of other films not considered too classic or good, he’s still directed some of the most memorable films of all time.
And Stacy Keach’s performance in Fat City? Fucking mind-blowing. Should you choose to compare it to Brando’s Oscar-winning role the same year in The Godfather, I’d say without hesitation that Keach should’ve taken home the prize, or at least been nominated. It resonates in how simply haunting Keach made the character of Tully. It’s a character I have a hard time getting out of my mind.
Key Largo has the best blocking/staging in all of cinema.
John Huston has been mentioned as one of the Hollywood elite who took part in the gang rape of the young child daughter of Dr. George Hodel of ‘Black Dahlia’ murder case fame of the 1940’s. Dr. Hodel’s infamous ‘Franklin House’, where this and supposedly many other horrible acts were performed, still stands in Los Angeles today. It has been implied that Hodel was a practicing Satanist.
Robert R… not sure this should be the forum for unsubstantiated character assassination? not sure what the libel laws are in respect to dead people but I’d be careful.
as for Huston as a filmmaker, wildly uneven but on his day one of the best.
Musycks: I’m just giving the flip-side to Hollywood idolatry. Since Huston’s death this incident has been written about in at least two non-fiction books on the ‘Black Dahlia’ case, and even had an episode of the CBS news program “48 Hours Mystery” mention it.
By the way THE AFRICAN QUEEN and THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING are two of my favorite Huston films.
I also enjoy his acting work in the underrated, underseen…“Winter Kills”
I’m really loving all of this, but nobody’s yet mentioned The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean from 1972. If you haven’t, please see it, as it’s a real zany hoot of a film. Newman considered it some of his best work.
In the past 24-hours I’ve been able to consider and write about Huston, Rohmer and Altman’s *Nashville*_, three of my very favorite beings/_objets of cinema — what a great day!
Christopher – glad you’re having a good time!
And per your recommendation a couple weeks ago, Roy Bean is on my list of movies to rent!
Mackintosh Man though….don’t rush to rent it.
John Huston is one of my favourite directors. Night of the Iguana is a fantastic film as well as Wise Blood (great book too). Not to mention the Asphalt Jungle, Beat the Devil, Key Largo, African Queen, Misfits, Maltese Falcon, and Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I’ve never been a huge fan of The Man Who Would Be King, but then again I don’t like Sean Connery much (though I love Michael Caine), so I’m biased on that one. Reflections of a Golden Eye is marvelous, perhaps one of my favourite Huston films.
He was a great actor as well (as previously mentioned). He’s the best thing in Chinatown and his role in Casino Royale is pretty good (as well as the scene with Orson Welles and Peter Sellers in the casino).
And whoever said that Huston was an asshole, is way off. How the hell did you come to that conclusion? I’ve seen many interviews with him and he doesn’t seem that way at all. He’s very direct and has very dry humour, but that doesn’t mean he’s an asshole … or does it? heh
I think he was a difficult guy…. I read his autobiography ‘An Open Book’ and he was pretty hard living. I love Roy Bean, it’s got a great ragged edge to it. and Man Who Would Be King is a gem.
Robert R…. I’m just saying it’s a slippery slope to go down, but thanks for giving sources for the accusations.
Something like the greatest ever.
JOSHUA and all other Huston fans —
Next Tuesday, June 30, ‘09, Sundance will broadcast Huston’s THE DEAD at 7:55 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (PDT). Set your DVR’s !!!