John Huston

Alan Sharp's movies reflected the confusion, failures, and darkness of the 1970s—and maybe that's why no one wanted to see them.

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The National Film Preservation Foundation recently restored Let There Be Light, a 1946 documentary by John Huston (narrated by his father, the actor Walter Huston) about psychologically damaged veterans of World War II being treated at an Army hospital in Long Island. The film was suppressed for 34 years, ostensibly for the same sort of privacy concerns cited in the 25-year suppression of Frederick Wiseman's 1967 documentary Titicut Follies, about a Massachusetts state prison for the criminally insane.

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You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo John Huston: Courage and ArtBy Jeffrey Meyers (Crown Archetype, 475 pp., $30)  Guantánamo has become a dreadful word, signifying a morass of military, legal, political, diplomatic, and humanitarian complications.

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Where Soldiers Come From International Film Circuit Point Blank Magnolia Pictures Iron Crows Min-Chul Kim No, it won’t. That is the answer as to whether the flood of documentaries about current wars will lessen. Why should it? Don’t we all frequently wish that film had been invented in time for Troy? Where Soldiers Come From is unique. It is about war, about Afghanistan in particular, but it is more about civilization than about combat.

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When the announcement was made that Norman Mailer’s An American Dream was to be made into a movie, my reaction was that John Huston was the only man who could do it. And what a script it could be for him! But Huston was working on The Bible.  A quarter of a century had passed since The Maltese Falcon, it was a long time since San Pietro and The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Red Badge of Courage and The African Queen.

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Short Cuts

Robert Altman: The Oral Biography By Mitchell Zuckoff (Knopf, 592 pp., $35) Here is your exam question: who is the last American movie director who made thirty-nine films but never won the Oscar for best director? Name the film by that director that cost the most money, and name the film of his that earned the most. Clue: The Departed, which must have been around Martin Scorsese’s thirtieth picture, and did win the directing Oscar, cost $90 million (four times as much as any of this man’s films cost)--so don’t go that way.

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I. I just got back from Hollywood, where I had breakfast with Ricardo Mestres at the Bel Air Hotel. Mestres shot from Harvard to the head of Disney’s Hollywood pictures, only to release a string of flops so unremittingly horrible that finally, after a deathwatch that seemed to go on for years, he lost his job. But there he was, with a spanking new title, dressed with casual confidence in khakis and a plaid shirt, working on his second breakfast of the day. The head of Warner Brothers’ film division sat across from us, the new chairman of Disney in the corner.

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The Maltese Falcon is the first crime melodrama with finish, speed and bang to come along in what seems ages, and since its pattern is one of the best things Hollywood does, we have been missing it. It is the old Dashiell Hammett book, written back in the days when you could turn out a story and leave it at that, without any characters joining the army, fleeing as refugees or reforming bad boys, men or women.

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