Woody Allen's roots in American popular culture are broad and laced with a variety of European literary and filmic influences, some of them paid explicit homage within his films (Ingmar Bergman and Dostoevsky, for example), others more subtly woven into the fabric of his work from a wide range of earlier comic traditions. Allen's genuinely original voice in the cinema recalls writer-directors like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Preston Sturges, who dissect their portions of the American landscape primarily through comedy.
The American 1970s may have been dominated by a ?New Wave? of younger, auteurist-inspired filmmakers including George Lucas, Peter Bogdanovich, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola, all contemporaries as well as sometime colleagues. It is, however, an outsider to this group, the older Robert Altman, perhaps that decade's most consistent chronicler of human behavior, who could be characterized as the artistic rebel most committed to an unswerving personal vision.
There were many ways to make it as a bigtime Hollywood director in the 1970s. Robert Benton's experience provides a common mode: a successful screenwriter turned director. Benton teamed with another aspiring author, David Newman, to pen the script of Arthur Penn's wildly successful, highly influential Bonnie and Clyde (1967), a film that showed Hollywood how to meld comedy, melodrama, and social commentary. The story of how Benton and Newman came to write Bonnie and Clyde is the stuff of Hollywood legend.
No American film director of his time explored the possibilities of the mobile camera more fully or ingeniously than Busby Berkeley. He was the M?li?s of the musical, the corollary of Vertov in the exploration of the possibilities of cinematic movement. His influence has since been felt in a wide array of filmmaking sectors, from movie musicals to television commercials.
Budd Boetticher will be remembered as a director of westerns, although his bullfight films have their fervent admirers, as does his Scarface-variant, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond. Since Boetticher's westerns are so variable in quality, it is tempting to overcredit Burt Kennedy, the scriptwriter for all of the finest. But Kennedy's own efforts as director (Return of the Seven, Hannie Caulder, The War Wagon, etc.) are tediously paced dramas or failed comedies.
Of all trades ancillary to the cinema, few offer worse preparation for a directing career than criticism. Bogdanovich's background as Hollywood historian and profiler of its legendary figures inevitably invited comparisons between his movies and those of directors like Ford, Hawks, and Dwan, whom he had deified. That he should have occasionally created films that deserve such comparison argues for his skill and resilience.
Frank Borzage had a rare gift of taking characters, even those who were children of violence, and fashioning a treatment of them abundant with lyrical romanticism and tenderness, even a spirituality that reformed them and their story.
Although his namesake was the poet Robert Browning, Tod Browning became recognized as a major Hollywood cult director whose work bore some resemblance to the sensibilities of a much different writer: Edgar Allen Poe. However, unlike Poe, Tod Browning was, by all accounts, a quiet and gentle man who could nonetheless rise to sarcasm and sardonic remarks when necessary to bring out the best from his players or to ward off interference from the front office.
Prior to the release of To Sleep with Anger in 1990, Charles Burnett had for two decades been writing and directing low-budget, little-known, but critically praised films that examined life and relationships among contemporary African Americans.
Although in the last resort I find his work more distinctive than distinguished, Tim Burton compels interest and attention by the way in which he has established within the Hollywood mainstream a cinema that is, to say the least, highly eccentric, idiosyncratic, and personal.
In a career spanning three decades, James Cameron has strategically positioned himself as the ?guru? of high-tech, muscular, blockbuster dramas that rely heavily (some would say solely) on state-of-the-art special effects.
The critical stock of Frank Capra has fluctuated perhaps more wildly than that of any other major director. During his peak years, the 1930s, he was adored by the press, by the industry and, of course, by audiences. In 1934 It Happened One Night won nearly all the Oscars, and through the rest of the decade a film of Frank Capra was either the winner or the strong contender for that honor. Long before the formulation of the auteur theory, the Capra signature on a film was recognized. But after World War II his career went into serious decline.
As perhaps the most influential of the independently produced feature films of its era (1958-67), Shadows came to be seen as a virtual breakthrough for American alternative cinema. The film and its fledgling writer-director had put a group of young, independent filmmakers on the movie map, together with their more intellectual, less technically polished, decidedly less commercial, low-budget alternatives to Hollywood features.
Although Joel Coen had worked as an assistant film editor on commercial projects and had made valuable contacts within the industry (particularly director Sam Raimi), he and brother Ethan decided to produce their first feature film independently, raising $750,000 to shoot their jointly written script for Blood Simple, a neo-noir thriller with a Dashiell Hammett title and a script full of homages to Jim Thompson. Though Joel received screen credit for direction and Ethan for the script, this distinction is somewhat artificial both here and in their subsequent productions.
Francis Ford Coppola became the first major American film director to emerge from a university degree program in filmmaking. He received his Master of Cinema degree from UCLA in 1968, after submitting his first film of consequence, You're a Big Boy Now (1967), a freewheeling comedy about a young man on the brink of manhood, to the university as his master's thesis.
George Cukor's films range from classics like Greta Garbo's Camille, to Adam's Rib with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, to the Judy Garland musical A Star Is Born. Throughout the years he managed to ?weather the changes in public taste and the pressures of the Hollywood studio system without compromising his style, his taste, or his ethical standards,? as his honorary degree from Loyola University of Chicago is inscribed. Indeed, Cukor informed each of the stories he brought to the screen with his affectionately critical view of humanity.
Between the mid-1940s and the late 1950s, Jules Dassin directed some of the better realistic, hard-bitten, fast-paced crime dramas produced in America, before his blacklisting and subsequent move to Europe. However, although he has made some very impressive films, his career as a whole is lacking in artistic cohesion.
For much of his forty-year career, the public and the critics associated Cecil B. De Mille with a single kind of film, the epic. He certainly made a great many of them: The Sign of the Cross, The Crusades, King of Kings, two versions of The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Show on Earth, and others. As a result, De Mille became a symbol of Hollywood during its ?Golden Age.? He represented that which was larger than life, often too elaborate, but always entertaining.
Jonathan Demme has proven himself to be one of the more acute observers of the inner life of America during the course of a directorial career that began in the early 1970s, though he began as just another prot?g? of the Roger Corman apprentice school of filmmaking. Demme's concern with character?focused particularly through the observation of telling eccentricities?is perhaps his trademark, combined with a vitality and willingness to use the frameworks of various genres to their fullest extent.
In 1992, after almost forty years in the business, Clint Eastwood finally received Oscar recognition. Unforgiven brought him the awards for Best Achievement in Directing and for Best Picture, along with a nomination for Best Actor. Indeed, this strikingly powerful Western was nominated for no less than nine Academy Awards, Gene Hackman collecting Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the movie''s ruthless marshall, ?Little Bill? Daggett, and Joel Cox taking the Oscar for editing.
Blake Edwards is one of the few filmmakers from the late classical period of American movies (the late 1940s and 1950s) to survive and prosper through the 1980s. If anything, Edwards's work has deepened with the passing decades, though it no longer bears much resemblance to the norms and styles of contemporary Hollywood. Edwards is an isolated figure, but a vital one.
Robert Flaherty was already thirty-six years old when he set out to make a film, Nanook of the North. Before that he had established himself as a prospector, surveyor, and explorer, having made several expeditions to the sub-Arctic regions of the Hudson Bay. He had shot motion picture footage on two of these occasions, but before Nanook, filmmaking was only a sideline.
John Ford has no peers in the annals of cinema. This is not to place him above criticism, merely above comparison. His faults were unique, as was his art, which he pursued with a single-minded and single-hearted stubbornness for sixty years and 112 films. Ford grew up with the American cinema. That he should have begun his career as an extra in the Ku Klux Klan sequences of The Birth of a Nation and ended it supervising the documentary Vietnam! Vietnam! conveys the remarkable breadth of his contribution to film, and the narrowness of its concerns.
The seven feature films John Frankenheimer directed between 1961 and 1964 stand as a career foundation unique in American cinema. In a single talent, film had found a perfect bridge between television and Hollywood drama, between the old and new visual technologies, between the cinema of personality and that of the corporation and the computer.
Sam Fuller's narratives investigate the ways that belonging to a social group simultaneously functions to sustain and nurture individual identity and, conversely, to pose all sorts of emotional and ideological threats to that identity. Fuller's characters are caught between a solitude that is both liberating and debilitating, and a communality that is both supportive and oppressive. Unlike Howard Hawks, whose films suggest the triumph of the group over egoism, Fuller is more cynical and shows that neither isolation nor group membership is without its hardships and tensions.
Perhaps no other director has generated such a broad range of critical reaction as D.W. Griffith. For students of the motion picture, Griffith's is the most familiar name in film history. Generally acknowledged as America's most influential director (and certainly one of the most prolific), he is also perceived as being among the most limited. Praise for his mastery of film technique is matched by repeated indictments of his moral, artistic, and intellectual inadequacies.
Well known in Europe, but more of a cult favorite than a box-office draw in his native United States, Hal Hartley has been held in high critical esteem for his quirky feature films and shorts and, incidentally, for putting Long Island on the map of famed cinematic locales. Writing his own screenplays, punctuating the dramas with his own sparse music, and working regularly with the same actors and technicians, Hartley is a model of the resolutely independent film artist.
Howard Hawks was perhaps the greatest director of American genre films.
The work of James Ivory was a fixture in independent filmmaking of the late 1960s and 1970s. Roseland, for example, Ivory's omnibus film about the habitu?s of a decaying New York dance palace, garnered a standing ovation at its premiere at the New York Film Festival in 1977, and received much critical attention afterward. However, it was not until A Room with a View, his stately adaptation of E. M. Forster 's novel, that Ivory gained full international recognition.
Jim Jarmusch has risen quickly to the forefront of young, independent American filmmakers. Recognition has been his from the very beginning with the release of his first film, Stranger Than Paradise, a work that won a Camera d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival (for best ?first film") and "Best Picture? from the National Society of Film Critics. The key to Jarmusch's success is a well-defined and thoughtfully conceived stylistic approach and a coherent circle of interests.
Elia Kazan's career has spanned more than four decades of enormous change in the American film industry. Often he has been a catalyst for these changes. He became a director in Hollywood at a time when studios were interested in producing the kind of serious, mature, and socially conscious stories Kazan had been putting on the stage since his Group Theatre days.
Buster Keaton is the only creator-star of American silent comedies who equals Chaplin as one of the artistic giants of the cinema. He is perhaps the only silent clown whose reputation is far higher today than it was in the 1920s, when he made his greatest films. Like Chaplin, Keaton came from a theatrical family and served his apprenticeship on stage in the family's vaudeville act. Unlike Chaplin, however, Keaton's childhood and family life were less troubled, more serene, lacking the darkness of Chaplin's youth that would lead to the later darkness of his films.
Few American directors have been able to work within the studio system of the American film industry with the independence that Stanley Kubrick has achieved. By steadily building a reputation as a filmmaker of international importance, he has gained full artistic control over his films, guiding the production of each of them from the earliest stages of planning and scripting through post-production. Kubrick has been able to capitalize on the wide artistic freedom that the major studios have accorded him because he learned the business of filmmaking from the ground up.
Although many of his individual films are periodically reviewed and reassessed by film scholars, Gregory La Cava remains today a relatively under-appreciated director of some of the best ?screwball comedies? of the 1930s. Perhaps his apparent inability to transcend the screwball form or his failure with a number of straight dramas contributed to this lack of critical recognition. Yet, at his best, he imposed a vitality and sparkle on his screen comedies that overcame their often weak scripts and some occasionally pedestrian performances from his actors.
Spike Lee is the most famous African-American to have succeeded in breaking through the Hollywood establishment to create a notable career for himself as a major director. What makes this all the more notable is that he is not a comedian?the one role in which Hollywood has usually allowed blacks to excel?but a prodigious, creative, multifaceted talent who writes, directs, edits, and acts, a filmmaker who invites comparisons with American titans like Woody Allen, John Cassavetes, and Orson Welles.
It is ironic that A Hard Day's Night, the one film guaranteed to ensure Richard Lester his place in cinema history, should in many ways reflect his weaknesses rather than his strengths. If the film successfully captures the socio-historical phenomenon that was the Beatles at the beginning of their superstardom; it is as much due to Alun Owen's ?day in the life? style script, which provides the ideal complement to (and restraint on) Lester's anarchic mixture of absurd/surreal humour, accelerated motion, and cinema v?rit?, to name but a few ingredients.
Although his most lucrative Oscar-winning film, Rain Man, was set in conservative Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and several points in between, Barry Levinson has never forgotten his roots and is still regarded by Marylanders as the ultimate Baltimore filmmaker. Diner, the film that launched his directing career in 1982, was based in the Baltimore suburb of Forest Park, where he grew up. So was Tin Men, made five years later.
A genuine Hollywood highbrow, Albert Lewin trod the line between the commercially viable and the artistically daring in his own inimitable way. Friends with the likes of writers Djuna Barnes and Robert Graves, artist Man Ray and director Jean Renoir, Lewin had given up a nascent career as scholar and critic to pursue the grail of movies. Impressed especially by the most stylized and fantastic aspects of silent cinema, from Sj?str?m to Stroheim, Caligari to Keaton, Lewin left New York for Hollywood in 1922 and?just prior to Sam Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer?joined Metro Pictures early in 1924.
Joseph H. Lewis simultaneously supports and confounds the critical methodology of authorship.
Joseph Losey's career spanned five decades and included work in both theater and film. Latterly an American expatriate living in Europe, the early years of his life as a director were spent in the very different milieus of New Deal political theater projects and the paranoia of the Hollywood studio system during the McCarthy era. He was blacklisted in 1951 and left America for England where he continued making films, at first under a variety of pseudonyms.
In whatever capacity George Lucas works?director, writer, producer?the films in which he is involved are a mixture of the familiar and the fantastic. Thematically, Lucas's work is often familiar, but the presentation of the material usually carries his unique mark. His earliest commercial science-fiction film, THX 1138, is not very different in plot from previous stories of futuristic totalitarian societies in which humans are subordinate to technology. What is distinctive about the film is its visual impact.
Although Sidney Lumet has applied his talents to a variety of genres (drama, comedy, satire, caper, romance, and even a musical), he has proven himself most comfortable and effective as a director of serious psychodramas and was most vulnerable when attempting light entertainments. His Academy Award nominations, for example, have all been for character studies of men in crisis, from his first film, Twelve Angry Men, to The Verdict.
The undoubted perversity that runs throughout the works of David Lynch extends to his repeated and unexpected career turns: coming off the semi-underground Eraserhead to make the semi-respectable The Elephant Man, with a distinguished British cast; then bouncing into a Dino de Laurentiis mega-budget science-fiction fiasco, Dune; creeping back with the seductive and elusive small-town mystery of Blue Velvet; capping that by transferring his uncompromising vision of lurking sexual violence to American network television in Twin Peaks; and alienatin
Though he has directed only two feature films, Terrence Malick has received the kind of critical attention normally reserved for more experienced and prolific filmmakers. His career reflects a commitment to quality instead of quantity?an unusual and not always profitable gamble in the film industry.
Rouben Mamoulian is certainly one of the finest directors in American film history. While not considered strictly an auteur with a unifying theme running through his films, the importance of each of his movies on an individual basis is significant. Mamoulian did not have a large output, having completed only sixteen assignments in his twenty-year career in motion pictures, principally because he was also very active in the theater.
Few of Mankiewicz's contemporaries experimented so radically with narrative form. In The Barefoot Contessa, Mankiewicz (who wrote most of the films he directed) let a half-dozen voice-over narrators tell the Contessa's story, included flashbacks within flashbacks, and even showed one event twice (the slapping scene in the restaurant) from two different points of view.
Anthony Mann incidentally directed films in various genres (the musical, the war movie, the spy drama); however, his career falls into three clearly marked phases: the early period of low-budget, B-feature films noir; the central, most celebrated period of westerns, mostly with James Stewart; and his involvement in the epic (with Samuel Bronston as producer).
It is no small irony that Paul Mazursky's best film is one he wrote (with Larry Tucker), but was not given the chance to direct. I Love You Alice B. Toklas, like most of Mazursky's work, stages a humorous, if somewhat predictable, encounter between deadening forms of everyday life (especially the monotonous regularity of heterosexual monogamy) and the bewildering, if attractive, otherness of nonconformity.
Leo McCarey has always presented auteur criticism with one of its greatest challenges and one that has never been convincingly met. The failure to do so should be seen as casting doubt on the validity of auteurism (in its cruder and simpler forms) rather than on the value of the McCarey oeuvre. He worked consistently (and apparently quite uncomplainingly) within the dominant codes of shooting and editing that comprise the anonymous ?classical Hollywood? style; the films that bear his name as director, ranging from Duck Soup to The Bells of St.
Between 1942 and 1962, Vincente Minnelli directed twenty-nine films (and parts of several others) at Metro-Goldywn-Mayer, eventually becoming the studio's longest-tenured director. Brought to Hollywood following a tremendously successful career as a Broadway set designer and director of musicals, he was immediately placed at the helm of MGM's biggest musical productions, beginning with Cabin in the Sky. Over the next decade-and-a-half, he gained a reputation as the premiere director at work in the genre.
In an era in which consistent visual style seems perhaps too uniformly held as the prerequisite of the valorized auteur, one can all too easily understand why Robert Mulligan's work has failed to evince any passionate critical interest.
The films of Mike Nichols are guided by an eye and ear of a satirist whose professional gifts emerge from a style of liberal, improvisational comedy that originated in a Chicago theater club and developed into a performing partnership with Elaine May in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In clubs and recordings, on radio, television, and Broadway, Nichols and May routines gnawed hilariously close to the bone.
Now considered by many a major cinematic stylist, Alan J. Pakula began his career as a producer.
It is as a director of westerns that Sam Peckinpah remains best known. This is not without justice. His non-western movies often lack the sense of complexity and resonance that he brings to western settings. He was adept at exploiting this richest of genres for his own purposes, explaining its ambiguities, pushing its values to uncomfortable limits. Ride the High Country, Major Dundee, and The Wild Bunch are the work of a filmmaker of high ambitions and rare talents. They convey a sense of important questions posed, yet finally left open and unswered.
Arthur Penn has often been classed?along with Robert Altman, Bob Rafelson, and Francis Coppola?among the more ?European? American directors. Stylistically, this is true enough. Penn's films, especially after Bonnie and Clyde, tend to be technically experimental, and episodic in structure; their narrative line is elliptical, undermining audience expectations with abrupt shifts in mood and rhythm. Such features can be traced to the influence of the French New Wave, in particular the early films of Fran?ois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, which Penn greatly admired.
Sydney Pollack is especially noted for his ability to elicit fine performances from his actors and actresses and has worked with leading Hollywood stars, including Robert Redford (who has appeared in five Pollack films), Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman, and Burt Lancaster, among others. Though Pollack has treated a cross-section of Hollywood genres, the majority of his films divide into male-action dramas and female melodramas.
Abraham Lincoln Polonsky's filmography is quite thin: his second film as director, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, was released twenty-one years after his first, Force of Evil. ?I was a left-winger,? he told Look magazine in 1970. ?I supported the Soviet Union.
The public persona of Austrian-born Otto Preminger has epitomized for many the typical Hollywood movie director: an accented, autocratic, European-born disciplinarian who terrorized his actors, bullied his subordinates, and spent millions of dollars to ensure that his films be produced properly, although economically. Before the Cahiers du cinema critics began to praise Preminger, it may have been this public persona, more than anything else, that impeded an appreciation of Preminger's extraordinarily subtle style or thematic consistencies.
Godard's magisterial statement, ?the cinema is Nicholas Ray,? has come in for a good deal of ridicule, not by any means entirely undeserved. Yet it contains a core of truth, especially if taken in reverse. Nicholas Ray is cinema in the sense that his films work entirely (and perhaps only) as movies, arrangements of space and movement charged with dramatic tension. Few directors demonstrate more clearly that a film is something beyond the sum of its parts.
Jean Renoir's major work dates from between 1924 and 1939. Of his 21 films the first six are silent features that put forward cinematic problems that come to dominate the entire oeuvre. All study a detachment, whether of language and image, humans and nature, or social rules and real conduct. Optical effects are treated as problems coextensive with narrative. He shows people who are told to obey rules and conventions in situations and social frames that confine them. A sensuous world is placed before everyone's eyes, but access to it is confounded by cultural mores.