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lzcutter

Most Influential 20th Century Director

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As for artistic influence, I see a lot of Corman in directors such as Tim Burton, Tarantino, Rodriguez, Del Toro, Wes Craven, John Landis, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and the current makers of low budget movies like the Saw films. In his own way, he was perhaps one of the most influential filmmakers, whether director or producer, of the last third of the 20th century.

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Steven Spielberg - all his movies have great relevance and meaning.

another being Alfred Hitchcock who is legendary in his won right

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I think that, in terms of the directors who have acknowledged his influence -- from Maurice Tourneur, John Ford and even Sergei Eisenstein near the beginning of the last century to James Cameron and Steven Spielberg at the end of it -- as well as the millions who flocked to see his movies, the greatest director of the 20th century has to be Cecil B. DeMille.

 

Today, people forget what an innovative director DeMille was at the beginning of his career, when he was doing things with lighting, the moving camera, costuming, and his choice of story matter that no one had ever tried before. He was one of the first to use more than one camera in filming a scene. Like many of his peers, he worshipped D. W. Griffith, and he was one of the few who gave his idol work when Griffith fell on hard times.

 

DeMille didn't invent the movie epic, but he is its best-known progenitor -- how often do we invoke his name when the subject comes up? From both versions of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS to THE KING OF KINGS, THE SIGN OF THE CROSS, THE CRUSADES, THE PLAINSMAN, UNION PACIFIC, and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, DeMille proved himself a master at combining epic sweep with straightforward, intimate storytelling. He has been accused of excess in many of his films, mainly his Biblical subjects, but careful watching reveals that he added nothing that didn't advance his story (a big reason that writers loved him -- to DeMille, the story came first).

 

He was a master showman who knew his audiences well, and strived to please them. People who worked with him said he knew more about their crafts -- writing, cinematography, makeup, etc. -- than any other director. The movie business flowed through his veins.

 

Indeed, it is hard to tell the story of American filmmaking without Cecil B. DeMille. Besides Griffith, he has probably influenced more directors mentioned in this thread than any other.

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Well, there aren't any influential 19th century directors...and the 21st is only five years old, so that tends to leave...the 20th century, doesn't it?

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All around some great choices and good arguments.

 

Hats off to Coffeedan for pointing out DeMille's strengths which often get overlooked due to his bible epics.

 

And to jonparker for remembering Roger Corman. Corman and to a lesser degree, the late, great Sam Arkoff made it possible for a generation of film makers to cut their teeth and learn their trade. Oh for the days of drive-in theatres that made that all possible. The one guy who made a small fortune by following their example (and it probably didn't hurt that he hung out with the kids of some of the best independent minded directors), Tom Laughlin. Say what you will about "Billy Jack" (and yes, it doesn't hold up thirty years later, but the mn made a mint by taking the distribution into his own hands after Warners botched the release.) Hopefully he made Corman and Arkoff proud.

 

Thanks to all who responded.

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I think you're right, coffeedan. Cecil B. DeMille was probably the most influential. And while I think John Ford made some wonderful movies, my favorite all-time director has to be David Lean. Look at "Hobson's Choice" and "Great Expectations" and "Brief Encounter" for a start and then to "Summertime" and "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Doctor Zhivago." Wow! And didn't he do "A Passage to India," one of my very favorites? What other gems have I left out?

 

Lots of wonderful directors in the brief history of the movies. Lean and Wilder and Ford and Hitchcock and Tourneaux and Welles and Wyler. And the list goes on. Someday you may add Spielberg and Howard and Cameron to your list, but not quite yet; these guys are just getting started!

 

Ralph

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And to jonparker for remembering Roger Corman.

 

That was MattHelm that remembered Corman. I'm not sure I agree that he was the most influential in terms of style, although Matt makes a good case for his personal influence. Regardless, I will never pass up the chance to see a Corman film.

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Although nobody probably would admit it, D.W. Griffith. The blockbuster, the drama, the crime-drama, the melodrama, and most of the cliches we love about the movies stem from his refinement of them. DeMille certainly is one of the greats, as in Wyler, Hitchcock, Murnau, Lean, Kurosawa, and Spielberg (who's probably the most influential in a modern sense in terms of what constitutes a money-making mega-hit), but whether Griffith's influence has been watered down since his downfall in the mid-twenties, he's undeniably one of the great directors and many of those who followed, varying from von Stroheim to Raoul Walsh, owe him a huge debt.

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Johnny,

 

Excellent points about Griffith. He created much of the techniques of storytelling we still use today. That's why I excluded him when I started the thread because I was afraid everyone would say Griffith.

 

But, without him, the history of American film would probably be quite different.

 

Oh, and don't forget he influenced Alan Dwan as well.

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If we're talking the latter half of the 20th century then my vote goes to George Lucas for created Star Wars which has become so ingrained in popular culture.

 

Also Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock.

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Alfred Hitchcock definitely. Mainly because he started the whole suspense thriller. And they often compare movies to him. Also, most people know who he is.

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Sorry, I didn't get through all of the responses to read your original post before I wrote what I wrote. I've just weeded through them all and only now realized that you had preferred to exclude Griffith. I wish I had more time in a day to do everything I need to do in a thorough manner. I've spent the better part of three hours tonight writing about The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle and needed a break. I guess coffeedan qualified DeMille. And nobody else mentioned Allan Dwan, so I won't either, even though the man had an incredibly long and diverse career. Somebody mentioned Roger Corman. I went on a Corman kick recently and saw Bucket of Blood for the first time. He's pretty influential, sure. I don't know. Either DeMille or Hitchcock, for reasons others have already gone into. It's hard to dispute their towering presence in film, though I'd like to find evidence to the contrary. I guess Ray Enright, Lloyd Bacon, Robert Siodmak and Robert Florey are out of the question. They didn't influence anybody, but I love their work.

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Johnny,

 

I think it was on Intolerance that Alan Dwan invented the crane shot. He was an assistant director on the film working with Griffith and had been an engineer before getting bit by the movie bug. He figured out how to do a crane up?) to the walls of Babylon if I remember the story correctly and this was long before cranes for movie making had been invented. Involved an elevator and a tower I believe. Will have to look the story up now that I think of it.

 

Great choices for Directors by the way.

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lzcutter,

 

Yesterday, after you mentioned Alan Dwan, I looked up his filmography--359 directorial credits, spanning 1911 to 1961...wow!

 

Thinking about inventive directors, uhm...what's his name? Liza Minnelli's dad?

 

Vincente Minnelli--invented the 'crab dolly'. The crab dolly allowed camera movement in any horizontal direction and, using a manual operated arm, move the mounted camera up and down.

 

I don't know how influential Vincente Minnelli was style-wise, but crab dollies are in use today (I just looked it up). Some of those dollies are pretty expensive!

 

Rusty

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Rusty,

 

Alan Dwan is one of those journeymen directors who was able to direct most anything. My favorite of his is probably "Robin Hood" with Doug, Sr. He devised the mechanics that allowed Doug, Sr to do many of the stunts in that movie. "The Iron Mask" with Doug, Sr is another one of my faves.

 

I didn't know much about him until I saw him as part of Brownlow's "Hollywood" series when it was first broadcast here in the states back in the late 1970s.

 

Brownlow included a lengthy interview with him in "The Parade's Gone By".

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For all you Corman fans, Roger will be turning 80 next week.

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Chuck Jones.

 

For all the right and wrong reasons.

 

 

Well, if you're gonna go there, how about Tex Avery? Between the two of them, I'd say they pretty much set the pattern for every cartoon gag in the 20th century. (And yeah, I realize this is a sweeping statement, but think about it)

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I knew about the crane shot but I can't remember if I was aware Dwan was the man responsible. It certainly seems new to me. There's a good bit on the filming of that sequence in Brownlow's three-part documentary on Griffith, but it's been awhile since I watched it.

 

Glad to know someone else appreciates the likes of Enright and Florey. So many underrated directors...

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Chuck Jones ... I don't know. Bob Clampett, Max Fleischer, Windsor McCay and Tex Avery, yes.

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MatHelm & traceyk65 -

I was wondering if everyone was going to just let my submission pass without comment. (Granted, I didn't exactly offer up a convincing defense. I was hoping it would spur some thought of one's own)

 

But, with "influential" as the operative word, Chuck Jones sure seems to be the inspiration for a whole generation of filmmakers. How else can one explain all these adolescent (sophomoric?) live action comedies that are being churned out by the studios? (Think of any David Spade / Adam Sandler / Ben Stiller film.) All that bad slapstick that passes for comedy certainly seems to be a worthy but failing effort to recreate the magic of Chuck Jones.

 

Chuck Jones created characters that were/are "fleshed out" much better than any of the characters in these type of contemporary comedies. There are characters more real in a Chuck Jones cartoon than in a Farrelly Brothers film; Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Wile E Coyote are better developed and more nuanced. And the humor often isn't just situational but character driven. I'll take any Pepe LePew cartoon over a tepid romantic comedy starring a Dawson's Creek alumnus. The brilliant often became the sublime simply because these two-dimensional drawings seemed more alive than characters portrayed by flesh and blood actors.

(See "The Dot and The Line")

 

And deserved or not, Chuck Jones seemed to know that it works best for only 7 minutes. Sadly, 95 minutes of "live action" cartoon humor is an exhasperating experience and that is the "wrong reason" of his influence today.

 

But, to paraphrase,

"Well, what did you expect...a happy ending?"

 

Kyle in Hollywood

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You're right in that if any of these young directors were really paying attention they would know how to set up a gag, know there is humor in silence or in a reaction. It doesn't always have to be loud. It doesn't have to be crude. It doesn't have to be cheap. (Does this make Mel Blanc one of our great actors? Think of his range of characters, most of which you listed.)

 

I wonder if the producers who give the ok to Spade or Sandler or, heaven help us, Rob Schneider really know anything or care about the movies.

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I see Chuck Jones as more an influence in visual style that other artists drew upon, but not so much as direction. He introduced the more abstract background art and slightly updated the look of the characters, most notably, their eyes and line work. As for direction, I'm sure it was somewhat of an influence, but a lot of people think he took the Looney out of the toons. If you compare his characters' personalities with their Avery/Clampett predecessors, Jones made them much more smug and gave them attitudes. Daffy Duck no longer lived up to his name, he became straight man to Bugs. I think Jones was better suited for non-Warners stuff like the Grinch and the adaptation of Kipling's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.

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But they do have to be loud and crude and cheap and if their target audience is adolescent boys.

 

And Spade and Sandler and Schneider movies make money. It's sad, but it's a fact of life.

 

If it was your money on the line, who would you get to star? Sandler or DeNiro? Streep or Lohan? Streep and DeNiro will get you the critics, Sandler and Lohan will sell the tickets.

 

You know this as well as I do. This is nothing new, it has always been this way. When you're hot, you're hot; when you're not, you're not. Pity.

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