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Michael Curtiz, One of the Great Film Directors


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> {quote:title=TomJH wrote:}{quote}For those interested

>

> Friday, October 19 at 11:45 pm EST

>

> Flamingo Road (1949). High powered melodrama, starring Joan Crawford, Zachory Scott, Sydney Greenstreet and David Brian.*One of my favorites!*

 

If I could be with you, one hour tonight

If I were free to do, the things I might

I want you to know, that I wouldn't go

Until I told you honey how I love you so...

 

ps- don't forget Gladys George, she's not in it much, but when she is, she really makes the most out of it!

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Oct 14, 2012 3:26 PM

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> {quote:title=clore wrote:}{quote}Have you seen THE MAN IN THE NET Addison? ...

>...Ladd was just going through the motions by this point and Curtiz doesn't seem interested enough to tell him to have done otherwise.

>

> Easily the worst that I've seen from Curtiz and I doubt that I'm missing more than a dozen of his post NOAH'S ARK titles.

 

Well, I like *The Man in the Net*. I agree that Ladd's performance is a bit somnambulent, but I think it suits his situation. He's more than a bit stunned by what's happened.

 

To me, a major theme of the film is how the "respectable" people of the day are quick to distrust a 'bohemian artist', given the slightest excuse. But, kids don't judge, and certainly not based on such biases. Also, I love Carolyn Jones...

 

*Captain Blood* is easily my favorite Curtiz film, but Addison, I agree that all on your list of 10 are great.

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AddisonDeWitless wrote:

It's the only film I've seen of hers where I really get a sense of her electricity and full range of talent- there are hints of it in All That Heaven Allows, but that's not really an "actor's" movie and while she's solid in Johnny Belinda, The Lost Weekend, the stupid Magnificent Obsession and The Yearling, I think she could have been better- although in each case save for Weekend, I think it was likely the fault of the director.

 

I'd put Wyman in the same class as Gene Tierney- an actress who was never truly allowed to plumb the full depths of her emotions and talents, but if she had been, she could have set fire to the celluloid no doubt.

 

*TomJH wrote:*

*. . small pleasure that it is, watching Jane Wyman in show biz girl peppy mode, full of exuberance (a real contrast to her role as the homesteader wife in The Yearling, which she was filming on the MGM lot at the same time).*

 

This was actually one of Jane's last roles in her old guise of exuberant, wisecracking (blonde) dame. With THE LOST WEEKEND, followed quickly by THE YEARLING, and soon enough JOHNNY BELINDA, a new image emerged for Miss Wyman, and as she won an Oscar and hit true stardom at this time, as one of the "Great Actresses" of cinema, she rarely went back to the old image of the late 30s-mid 40s. With notable exceptions like LET'S DO IT AGAIN, she went into the 50s specializing in soapish melodrama that allowed her Acting to be on display front and center.

 

 

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}Tierney was so much better looking than Wyman that the two can't be compared. It affected their roles, their bearing, their screen presence and personality---everything.

I meant that Wyman and Tierney were alike in the sense that I think *both had tremendous potential and untapped dramatic talents that most directors refused to allow them to reach into, or most of their projects did not require them to harness*.

 

The similarity ends there, absolutely. Wyman has always looked kind of like a plastic chipmunk lawn ornament- Tierney was- quite possibly- the most beautiful woman ever to be in films. But each- in spite of one Oscar nod for Tierney and four (and one win) for Wyman, never (to me) got to *really show what they could do onscreen.* They're both so harnessed and constrained, no doubt by the studio bosses and their directors, as well as the material they were doing (often corny junk or homogenized stuff for the masses.)

 

So yes, in screen presence, personality, beauty and bearing- they're night and day- but the common thread of their repressed acting abilities binds them (in my mind, at least.)

 

ps- Gene started out bad, but got better. Jane started out pretty interesting, but got blander.

 

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Oct 15, 2012 7:42 PM

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Oct 15, 2012 7:44 PM

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This has been, in my opinion, a good thread about Michael Curtiz, a far too often overlooked film director who had a remarkable Hollywood career. And I have appreciated the participation of others who clearly have very much enjoyed much of his work.

 

I would also appreciate it, however, if we could keep this thread on track about Curtiz and his films, and NOT get sidetracked on other issues that have nothing to do with him.

 

Thanks very much for cooperating.

 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ5xI4J3-eWnmT_g_X6-Vy

 

A Hungarian director who was a driving force behind some of the great films of American cinema.

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Michael Curtiz was a fine director. But let's face some reality. He was not the "author" of his most famous film, CASABLANCA. Anyone who has read Round Up the Usual Suspects would realize that the true "author" of that film was Hal Wallis. Credit for that film belongs mostly to him, not Michael Curtiz.

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Filmgoddess, if you look at one my earlier posts in this thread you will see that I give credit to Hal Wallis' influence, not only on Casablanca, but virtually all the most famous films Curtiz made at Warners, because they all had the same man as producer.

 

Still, Wallis knew talent (pain in the butt that it could be at times) and he wanted Curtiz on the big projects. They were a great team, and it's true that for the most part, the quality of Curtiz's work dropped after Wallis left Warner Brothers. Certainly, though, it's my understanding that Wallis really was involved in the production of Curtiz's most famous film, Casablanca.

 

 

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You don't have to be an auteur to be a great director. For me, Curtiz' hallmarks are the results he gets from his actors and his cameramen. The editors probably worked as much with Wallis, Blanke et al as they did with Curtiz. It's all about intensity, movement and pacing.

 

I think the snobbery surrounding auteurism is tiresome. A finely tuned machine can do just as well as a single skilled artisan. Warners proved it many times over.

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*Finance wrote:*

*Wasn't Curtiz generally just a director for hire, rather than an"auteur"?*

 

 

He was NOT a "director for hire", he was under contract to Warner Brothers.

 

You don't have to be an auteur to be a great director. For me, Curtiz' hallmarks are the results he gets from his actors and his cameramen. The editors probably worked as much with Wallis, Blanke et al as they did with Curtiz. It's all about intensity, movement and pacing.

 

*I think the snobbery surrounding auteurism is tiresome. *A finely tuned machine can do just as well as a single skilled artisan. Warners proved it many times over.

Amen to that! I couldn't have said it better. Although the "Auteur Theory" holds that auteur directors are "Artists" and all others "artisans" (if you're generous) and "hacks" (if not).

 

Edited by: Arturo on Oct 17, 2012 6:53 PM

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Ray, you articulated it beautifully. This goes right back to my original posting here. Hitchcock, Hawks and Ford, among others esteemed by the auteur theory, were not the only great directors. Unfortunately, because Michael Curtiz was a Warners house director, there has been a tendency over the years for most critics to be rather dismissive of his achievements.

 

Curtiz had, when you consider his overall body of work, every bit as impressive a film career, certainly during his prime years, as any director. Yes, at his best, he worked wonderfully with producer Hal Wallis as part of a team. While Wallis was the boss it was largely the vision of Curtiz that we saw, fully acknowledging the wonderful contributions of the cinematographers and editors, as well. No other director at Warners during the '30s and '40s, though, had as many of the studio's big projects handed to them as Curtiz.

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Leonard was at MGM.

 

Other key Warners directors would include Lloyd Bacon, Roy Del Ruth during the early '30s, William Dieterle, David Butler, Ray Enright, Peter Godfrey, Edmund Goulding from 1937 to 1944, Mervyn LeRoy during the '30s, Archie Mayo during the '30s, Jean Negulesco and Irving Rapper, as well as Vincent Sherman during the '40s, and Raoul Walsh.

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Tom, thanks for reminding us who the directors at Warners were. I'm a big fan of the films Jean Negulesco made at WB, and some of Mervyn LeRoy's WB films are among his best.

 

 

Ray and Tom, I couldn't agree more about the excellent work some of the house directors did, and the distinction drawn by the auteurists is generally not helpful.

 

 

Finance, Robert Z. Leonard is sometimes grouped with Sam Wood and Jack Conway among the best house directors for MGM at the time.

 

 

I'm glad that people are beginning to appreciate the work of Michael Curtiz and some of his gifted contemporaries.

 

 

 

 

 

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I have stayed out of this thread to see how it would develop. I have found the comments very interesting. Since WB is my favorite studio like many here Curtiz was directed some of my favorite movies. So many, but unlike Howard Hawks Curtiz doesn't have a unique style. But as others have noted sometimes having a strong style leads to repeating certain 'themes' over and over again in movie after movie. Take Hawks and the dialog between the male and female leads. Very similar dialog used in multiple movies with different stars like Grant, Bogie and Wayne. Thus while I love what Hawks does with that one can say there is a lack of creativity when it is used multiple times. Others here have pointed this out with regards to Hitchcock and I agree with their take.

 

So is Curtiz a great film director? One side of me says 'of course,,, it takes a great director to direct so many great films'! But another side of me wonders if those movies were directed by another of the WB 'in-house' directors (but with the same crew, producers, actors, especially character actors etc..), would those films of been less great? If someone like Hawks directed them would they have been better or the inverse, e.g. if Curtiz directed The Big Sleep would it not of been as good? Of course these questions can never be answered.

 

 

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One of the main cases that I make for Curtiz's greatness as a director is the success that he had in such a great variety of film genres. (Just how many genres do we associate with Hitchcock, for the sake of comparison). Whether it was the exuberance of a swashbuckler such as The Adventures of Robin Hood or the melodramatic high voltage impact of a film noir drama like Mildred Pierce or the high spirits of an old fashioned musical like Yankee Doodle Dandy, Curtiz was the director of some of the most famous and memorable films that Warner Brothers made during the late '30s and early '40s.

 

Even after Curtiz's best years appeared to be behind him (and he no longer had Hal Wallis as producer), he then helped bring great depth to the human drama to be found in his last (and most neglected) masterpiece, The Breaking Point. Personally, I think that a very strong case can be made that Curtiz's version of To Have and Have Not has far more emotional impact than the more famous and celebrated Hawks-Bogart version. The Hawks version is fun to watch because of the interplay between Bogie and Bacall, but the Curtiz version, with John Garfield's vulnerable anti-hero portrayal, is, to me, a truly haunting film, capped by that closing shot of the little boy looking for his father.

 

And look at the quality of the performances in Curtiz's films: from swashbuckling Flynn, the greatest costume hero of them all, to Bogart's brooding romantic anti-hero in Casablanca, to Crawford, swathed in furs, producing a gun from underneath them in her Oscar-winning performance, to Cagney as the peak of his screen magnetism as tough little Rocky Sullivan, perhaps the most loveable of all screen hoods, in Angels with Dirty Faces.

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Hi Tom, you wrote, "He (Curtiz) then helped bring great depth to the human drama to be found in his last (and most neglected) masterpiece, The Breaking Point. Personally, I think that a very strong case can be made that Curtiz's version of To Have and Have Not has far more emotional impact than the more famous and celebrated Hawks-Bogart version. The Hawks version is fun to watch because of the interplay between Bogie and Bacall, but the Curtiz version, with John Garfield's vulnerable anti-hero portrayal, is, to me, a truly haunting film, capped by that closing shot of the little boy looking for his father."

 

Just an F.Y.I The Film Noir Foundation (FNF) is showing The Breaking Point this month (twice) in Washington DC on October 21st and October 23rd.

 

The FNF writes, "John Garfield gives perhaps his greatest performance as world-weary fishing boat skipper Harry Morgan in this superb and darkly noir adaptation of Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not," *one of the best, if unjustly neglected, films of the noir era, and a forgotten "gem" of* *Michael Curtiz.*

 

 

Just to let you know that what you have been saying for over a year now regarding this Michael Curtiz's film, others e.g. FNF seem to be hearing you. This makes 3 times this year that the FNF as aired this powerful film.

 

 

I am still trying to figure out who thought of the last scene in the film, with Wesley's son alone on the dock looking for his father. Was it Curtiz who came up with that ending shot, or someone else? What are your thoughts? Was Curtiz the type of director who was known for such powerful endings in dramas he did? I personally can not think of any other of his films where such a "haunting and heartbreaking" ending scene is used.

 

 

Lori

 

Edited by: Lori3 on Oct 19, 2012 1:12 AM

 

Edited by: Lori3 on Oct 19, 2012 1:13 AM

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*I am still trying to figure out who thought of the last scene in the film, with Wesley's son alone on the dock looking for his father. Was it Curtiz who came up with that ending shot, or someone else? What are your thoughts? Was Curtiz the type of director who was known for such powerful endings in dramas he did? I personally can not think of any other of his films where such a "haunting and heartbreaking" ending scene is used.*

 

Lori, I agree that a sensitive ending like that is certainly not typical of Curtiz films. Was it Curtiz who thought of that long shot, with that isolated little figure of the boy in the middle of it (absolutely heart-breaking), or what it his cinematographer, or the producer, or the screenwriter, or maybe they all collaborated on it. Only someone who goes through the Warners production notes (which, quite possibly, still exist) would perhaps come up with a definitive answer.

 

I theorized earlier in the thread that tough guy Curtiz may have been mellowing a bit. It's just a theory, though. Adding to that theory is another later '50s Curtiz production, The Proud Rebel. It's a little remembered western emphasizing (like Breaking Point) human relations. It, too, has scenes of considerable sensitivity involving a father (played by Alan Ladd) and his mute son. One scene, in particular, stands out for emotional impact - that in which the father has to tell his son that he was forced to sell their dog, to whom the boy is totally devoted. It's a scene which could also provoke a tear or two from members of an audience, I feel.

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Finance, you write in vague terms. What is the reason why Curtiz does not have a bigger reputation as a director. (We've heard the auteur theory before, so I hope you're not returning there again).

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