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Ringo Redux

Being an appreciation of the other “Stagecoach,” the one in color and CinemaScope directed in 1966 and newly released, for the first time in anamorphic widescreen, by the boutique label Twilight Time, including some observations on how the unassuming Douglas makes the material its own, nudging it from Ford’s self-consciously mythic vision toward something more modest, pragmatic, and humanly scaled, all right here in the New York Times.

249 comments to Ringo Redux

  • Terrific piece, Dave! We are long overdue for a re-consideration of Gordon Douglas. I once interviewed Bud Molin, who edited Douglas’s THEY CALL ME MISTER TIBBS!, and he spoke about the director’s dedication. “He lived at the studio,” Molin told me. “They give him a little bungalow to live in while they were shooting.” Molin said that every night Douglas would want to carefully go over the whole day’s shooting with him. I don’t think that’s necessarily typical among many directors of that era.

  • I thought Ford’s shootout was brilliant too; a gradual buildup, Ringo throwing himself towards the camera (which is low on the ground), cut to Claire Trever starting at the sound of gunshots, cut to a bar, and the villain walking in for a drink. If it seems perfunctory, that’s because Ford holds the crucial information back till the last possible minute. The final reveal has been borrowed over and over again, not the least by Mario O’Hara and the fate of his heroine in Three Years Without God.

    Nice alternate point of view, Dave. And since our host welcomed news of the contemporary film world, would anyone violently object to my assertion that the best mainstream movie of the year so far has been Bennett Miller’s Moneyball–which isn’t saying much, but is at least something?

  • Tom Brueggemann

    The third version of Stagecoach – Ted Post’s 1983 TV movie – had an amazing cast as well:

    Kris Kristofferson (as Ringo)
    Johnny Cash
    Waylon Jennings
    Willie Nelson
    Anthony Newley
    Anthony Franciosa
    Elizabeth Ashley
    John Schneider

    Fox Movie Channel showed the Douglas version letterboxed some years ago, and after dropping my pro forma objections to a remake, I found it enjoyable and distinctive as well.

  • I haven’t seen the Ted Post version, but isn’t Dave a fan of some of Post’s other work, like HANG ‘EM HIGH and MAGNUM FORCE?

  • Johan Andreasson

    Haven’t seen the 1966 remake of STAGECOACH, but as a fan of poster artist Norman Rockwell I’ve learned that this is where he makes his only appearance as an actor in a Hollywood movie (a small part as a poker player).

    Rockwell’s portraits of the actors also appears in the end credits:

  • Robert Regan

    Douglas’ Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye is an excellent adaptation of the novel by Horace McCoy who, of course, also wrote the recently discussed They Shoot Horses Don’t They as well as one of the best Hollywood stories, I Should Have Stayed Home.

    Since we’re back in the West this week, it’s not too far off-topic to say a few words about the new Treasures set, The West. I had certainly been looking forward to Fleming’s Mantrap with the irrepressible Clara Bow and La Cava’s Womanhandled, and I was not disappointed. The big surprise, though, and possibly the best film in the set is The Lady of the Dugout, an amazing collaboration between “One-Take” Woody Van Dyke and real-life Western bad man Al Jennings. Engrossing throughout, it is probably (1918) the earliest film to have flashbacks within a flashback! Does anyone know of an earlier use?

    Another fascinating aspect of the set’s fiction films is the feminist slant. These movies, from the early teens through the mid twenties, are loaded with smart, strong, resourceful women and weak, unreliable, even abusive men. Not a swoon to be seen here!

  • Sam O. Brown

    Peter wrote: “…isn’t Dave a fan of some of Post’s other work, like HANG ‘EM HIGH and MAGNUM FORCE?”

    Perhaps Dave can either confirm or challenge the claim I have read that Eastwood had a major hand in the directing of MAGNUM FORCE

  • Brad Stevens

    “Perhaps Dave can either confirm or challenge the claim I have read that Eastwood had a major hand in the directing of MAGNUM FORCE”

    This is mentioned in Frayling’s Eastwood biography, with quotations from the actors whom Eastwood directed (he seems to have been responsible for all of Hal Holbrook’s scenes). Eastwood also directed the whole of TIGHTROPE without credit. And I remember a BBC interview around the time of BIRD in which he was asked if he was superstitious about BIRD being his 13th film as director, and he insisted that he had directed three films without credit (he refused to say what they were).

  • I met Ted Post around 1973, probably in connection with “The Harrad Experiment” and before “Magnum Force,” and I remember him being a very affable, very professional guy, flattered and a little amazed that college kids would be interested in his work as a filmmaker. Certainly nobody at the time was claiming Clint as the auteur of “Magnum Force” (he was just getting started as a director, and was very much under the sway of Don Siegel), but there was a lot of talk about John Milius’s script, which seemed to have been fashioned to demonstrate that Harry was not a fascist, as Pauline Kael had so delicately characterized him, but someone generally suspicious of institutional authority (which would describe Eastwood as well as Milius).

    It was an open secret at the time of its release that Eastwood had directed “Tightrope” (a film I have always found overrated — just a blunt restatement of Eastwood’s main themes for those who had been to thick to grasp them previously), and when pressed, and he certainly directed the two Clyde the Orangutan movies, but assigned the credit for the first one credit to his stunt director, Buddy Van Horn, and for the second to his long time assistant James Fargo, because he was grasping for critical respectability with “Josey Wales” and “Bronco Billy” at the time and didn’t want his name on these lowbrow projects (as immensely entertaining as they are). My guess would be that the third “uncredited” Eastwood is “The Enforcer,” also credited to Fargo but steeped in Eastwood’s themes (particularly, that of the annihilating woman, played here by Tyne Daly in a role the very witty reviewers of the period characterized as “Dirty Harriet”).

  • Do the Schickel or McGilligan bios go into any detail about Eastwood “pulling a Hawks”? Or a Spielberg? Assuming, that is, that the long time suspicions about There Thing … and Poltergeist are true.

  • Alex

    I guess Douglas might merit a good grade for his remake of the Ford-Nichols “Stagecoach,” surely a lot higher one than Van Sant would merit for “Psycho” (surely no giggling such as deserves for “King Kong,” no ignomy such as Arau deserve for “The Magnificant Ambersons”) But what are the great remakes, the ones that equal or surpass excellent precedents? Huston’s “The Maltese Falcon” and Hitchcock’s own “The Man Who Knew Too Much”? Goulding’s “Dawn Patrol”?

  • Brad Stevens

    “what are the great remakes, the ones that equal or surpass excellent precedents”

    I find William Friedkin’s SORCERER more impressive than Clouzot’s THE WAGES OF FEAR.

  • jbryant

    Interesting about the Eastwood “ghost directing.” It should probably be pointed out that whereas Buddy Van Horn’s only directorial credits are for three Eastwood films (AWWYC, THE DEAD POOL, PINK CADILLAC), at least James Fargo has multiple credits, including Chuck Norris’ FORCED VENGEANCE, lots of TV (HUNTER, THE A-TEAM, BEVERLY HILLS 90210) and, after more than a decade away from the megaphone, a 2011 biker movie called BORN TO RIDE. Van Horn has continued to be stunt coordinator for all of Eastwood’s films, including the upcoming J. EDGAR.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    And Eastwood’s next project as an actor, but not a director (at least officially) is Trouble With the Curve, to be the directorial debut of his producing partner Robert Lorenz, likely costarring Sandra Bullock (he plays a veteran baseball scout going blind, she’s his daughter).

    This looks like it will be squeezed in before he directs Beyonce in a remake of A Star Is Born (delayed because of her pregnancy). I’m not sure what his not directing this means – it will be his first performance in a film he hasn’t directed since In the Line of Fire. Maybe he thinks his chances of winning his long hoped for best actor Oscar will be improved by not competing against himself in other categories.

    Superior remakes – An Affair to Rememeber (same director), Sirk’s Imitation of Life and The Magnificent Obsession.

  • Alex

    William Friedkin’s SORCERER is, at least, an impressive remake of THE WAGES OF FEAR.

    I guess I’d pick Cukor’s GASLIGHT over Dickinson’s…

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Star Is Born (Cukor) is another superior remake.

  • Johan Andreasson

    It’s a close race, but I think Tex Avery’s remake NORTHWEST HOUNDED POLICE is even funnier than his own DUMB-HOUNDED.

  • I don’t think Jim McBride’s “Breathless” is as good, or as important, as Godard’s. But it is still an interesting crime thriller with one of Richard Gere’s best performances and it also has an interesting American pop-like style.

  • Oliver_C

    Carpenter’s Thing, Cronenberg’s Fly and Ozu’s Weeds.

  • Alex

    Yeah,to my taste “Star Is Born” is much better than Wellman’s, indeed a very great — and surprisingly grave–film.

    As for the two “Breathless” films, McBride’s has always seemed to me like a film so effective as to merit being be placed alongside Godard’s, however less innovative and influential and enriched by a place in a master’s oevre the remake may be.

    Having this month seen both van Sant’s radiant, if disconcertingly fey, “Restless” and Guy Green’s surprisingly affecting “Light in thr Piazza,” I must say that I’d fancy a van Sant remake of “Piazza.”

  • Barry Putterman

    It should be remembered that Ted Post directed a lot of “Rawhide” episodes and the relationship might have been one where Post was mentoring Eastwood in assuming the overall responsibility of directing.

    Since Blake Lucas still seems to be otherwise occupied, I will cast his absentee ballot for Douglas’ YOUNG AT HEART as a superior remake. My vote, should i eventually cast one, would most certainly go elsewhere however. Shouldn’t directors remaking their own films be a separate category though?

  • “Carpenter’s Thing”

    Strictly speaking Carpenter’s film is not a remake (except for duplicating the titles of the Hawks movie.) Carpenter’s version is a new adaptation of John W. Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There?” that follows the premise of the original story that Hawks abandoned.

    Maybe we should ask, “What is a re-make?” I would say that a new version of an original screenplay is definitely a re-make but new adaptations of novels don’t necessarily qualify, especially if they’re old war horses like “The Three Musketeers.”

  • Have only seen a little of Ted Post’s huge volume of TV work.
    A noticeable trend: virtual reality. Or reality vs illusion.

    See TWILIGHT ZONE: A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. An man is going along with his daily life. Suddenly some one calls “Cut!” He discovers he is an actor in a film. Very eerie.

    Also the TV film DO NOT FOLD, SPINDLE OR MUTILATE. Four older women create an imaginary young lady, and enroll her in a computer dating service, as a joke. Then she seems to take on a life of her own.

    The most interesting part of MAGNUM FORCE is the contest on the training -simulation. More virtual reality.
    Alex Cord was part of the huge world of pre-1967 Old Hollywood. Just before the changeover to New Hollywood in 1967. He was one of countless pre-1967 actors who could look convincing in cowboy clothes.

    He was in the first episode of BRANDED to be broadcast, SURVIVAL (1965). It’s out on DVD.
    He and Chuck Connors are trapped together in the desert.

    Have never seen the 1966 remake of STAGECOACH. Before 1967, Westerns were a big deal. Then they vanished into a cloud of screen hitmen and drug dealers…

    Cord eventually starred in one of Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction TV movie projects, GENESIS II (1973) It’s Lightly Likable, if memory serves.

  • Both the Niblo and Minnelli versions of THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE are good. They are drastically different, though.

    LA CHIENNE (Renoir) was much transformed as SCARLET STREET (Lang).

    THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR (Lang) was infinitely better than the Joe May version – at least what I could stand watching of it.

    Both LE SAMOURAI (Melville) and GHOST DOG (Jarmusch) are highly creditable remakes of THIS GUN FOR HIRE.

    Andrew Sarris said that Warner Brothers did so many remakes of its own films, that the script department was known as “the echo chamber”.

  • Alex

    Mike Grost,

    Great pairings.

    Never realize that ” LE SAMOURAI (Melville) and GHOST DOG (Jarmusch) are … remakes of THIS GUN FOR HIRE.”

  • Alex,

    Thank you!

    I think Mr. Jarmusch has stated that LE SAMOURAI is part of the inspiration for GHOST DOG.
    In any case the plots are close.
    But the remarkable visual style is Jarmusch’s own.

    Baggy pants version:
    Jackie Gleason was an unknown night club comic in the 1940’s. Centerpiece of his act: a 40-minute version of THIS GUN FOR HIRE, with Gleason playing all the parts. It was reportedly totally absurd.
    A Hollywood talent scout saw it, and signed Gleason up.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Mike –

    Westerns, both on film and TV, were a big deal in the US far beyond 1967.

    1969 had The Wild Bunch, True Grit, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid for example.

    John Wayne made Westerns until 1976.

    Clint Eastwood made The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976, followed by Pale Rider.

    Apart from series, How the West Was Won had two mini-series in the late 1970s.

    Lonesome Dove was a huge hit in 1989, followed by several sequels.

    Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven, two of the three Westerns to win the BP Oscar, were 1990 and 1992 respectively.

    Sure, there was a decline in volume and quality after the 1960s, but the genre continued being popular for a long time after that.

  • Ted Post directed close to half of PEYTON PLACE during its five-year run. The actors and producers I’ve talked to were split on him — some thought he was an “actor’s director,” the others basically said he was a hack, but nobody made any claims for him as an auteur. (Whereas the other alternating director, Walter Doniger, had a laundry list of showy compositions and camera moves.) One of my PEYTON PLACE sources remembered Post reading Variety while the cameraman set up his shots. Post’s THE BABY has a cult following and a recent DVD release, but I think it’s awful.

    As Dave pointed out, Alex Cord was basically an unknown when he made STAGECOACH; he had just come out from New York and changed his name from Alex Viespi. So I think Mike’s categorization of him as “old Hollywood” is probably a mistake. I always thought of Cord as too modern/urban to be convincing in westerns (maybe because I first noticed him in THE BROTHERHOOD), but if he’s a Texas horse rancher now, then what do I know.

  • Barry Putterman

    Just for the record, Rex Ingram directed the 1921 FOUR HORSEMEN rather than Fred Niblo.

  • David Cohen

    Mike, it’s certainly true there were a lot fewer Westerns after the mid 1960s, particularly since John Ford, Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher and Andre de Toth, among others, weren’t making them anymore. But in addition to the list Tom supplied above, you did have lots of prominent Westerns still floating around – I grew up with “Little Big Man,” “Once Upon the Time in the West,” “The Hired Hand,” “Two Mules for Sister Sara,” “The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid,” and “Blazing Saddles,” among others. Though, I never actually made it through “Heaven’s Gate” of “The Missouri Breaks.”

  • David Cohen

    Mike, it’s certainly true there were a lot fewer Westerns after the mid 1960s, particularly since John Ford, Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher and Andre de Toth, among others, weren’t making them anymore. But in addition to the list Tom supplied above, you did have lots of prominent Westerns still floating around – I grew up with “Little Big Man,” “Once Upon the Time in the West,” “The Hired Hand,” “Two Mules for Sister Sara,” “The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid,” and “Blazing Saddles,” among others. Though, I never actually made it through “Heaven’s Gate” or “The Missouri Breaks.”

  • Johan Andreasson

    Not sure which count as actual remakes and which are new adaptations of the story, but speaking of westerns and old warhorses one of the most filmed stories must be Peter B. Kyne’s novel “The Three Godfathers,” published in 1913. The novel is apparently also something of a remake, based on Kyne’s own short story, “Bronco Billy and the Baby,” which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1910.

    Here are the versions I’ve come up with on a relatively quick search. I’m sure there are more:

    Bronco Billy and the Baby (1915)
    The Three Godfathers (1916, with Harry Carey)
    Marked Men (1919, John Ford, also starring Harry Carey, considered a lost film)
    Action (1921, regarded as lost)
    3 Bad Men (John Ford, 1926)
    Hell’s Heroes (1930, William Wyler)
    Three Godfathers (1936, Richard Boleslawski)
    3 Godfathers (1948, John Ford)
    The Godchild (TV, 1974)
    Tokyo Godfathers (2002, Satoshi Kon)

  • jbryant

    I think McBride’s BREATHLESS is streaming on Netflix.

    When I was a teen in the early 70s, seems like I saw a lot of theatrical Westerns (THE COWBOYS was a favorite). And there were a lot I couldn’t see because of the R rating — the revisionist stuff like DOC and DIRTY LITTLE BILLY. I realize most of those weren’t successful, but they kept churning ’em out.

  • Great remakes: The Maltese Falcon, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Ocean’s Eleven, (Hamlet, Carmen, Dracula… ). Of Les Misérables there are surprisingly many good remakes.

  • Barry,
    Thank you for the correction on Rex Ingram! I love his work, especially THE PRISONER OF ZENDA and SCARAMOUCHE. (The sound film remakes of these are markedly inferior, IMHO.)

    Was trying to refer to a massive decline in the numbers of Westerns in the post-classical Hollywood. Agree that a few were still being made in later years.

    On Alex Cord. From his IMDB bio:
    “Born Alexander Viespi in Long Island, New York in 1933, he was riding horses from the age of 2. Stricken with polio at the age of 12, he was confined to a hospital and iron lung for a long period of time before he overcame the illness after being sent to a Wyoming ranch for therapy. He soon regained his dream and determination of becoming a jockey or professional horseman.

    A high school dropout at the age of sixteen, he was too tall to become a jockey so he joined the rodeo circuit and earned a living riding bulls and bareback horses. During another extended hospital stay, this time after suffering serious injuries after being thrown by a bull at a rodeo in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, he contemplated again the direction of his life and decided to finish his high school education by way of night school. A voracious reader during his long convalescence, he later studied and received his degree in literature at New York University.”

    Cord’s first TV roles were in 1961, on the Western series LARAMIE and FRONTIER CIRCUS.
    On Ted Post:
    As said, have only seen a bit of his work. Was startled that three of the works seen (all mentioned in my post) had Virtual Reality aspects. This might just be a coincidence.
    Have no strong feelings about the quality of his direction. Just haven’t seen enough.

    Walter Doniger is indeed a personal filmmaker – despite his obscurity today.

  • Films remade as musicals rarely surpass the original source (A SONG IS BORN is no BALL OF FIRE, SILK STOCKINGS is not up to NINOTCHKA, HIGH SOCIETY can’t live up to THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, etc.) – but one I’d vote for is Richard Quine’s MY SISTER EILEEN (and I think the 1942 Alexander Hall film is a pretty likeable comedy).

    In the remakes/same director category I’m sure Blake Lucus would also vouch for COLORADO TERRITORY.

    edit: also, I don’t know if it’s sacrilege – but I thought THE BREAKING POINT was pretty great when I caught it for the first time recently.

  • Barry Putterman

    skelly, I also am sure that Blake would vouch for COLORADO TERRITORY. And additionally that ONE SUNDAY AFTERNOON is no STRAWBERRY BLONDE, in your musical remake category.

    THE BREAKING POINT is pretty great, but I don’t know whether you want to call it a remake. Dave once told me that when Gordon Douglas was asked how it felt to be remaking a classic John Ford western, he said that nobody could remake a John Ford film, he was just telling the same story.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    One pedantic question is whether two movies are based on the same source material (e.g., Maltese Falcon as novel originally) whether additional versions are remakes, at least in the same way those that are not are considered.

    There is at least a degree of difference at least between films that make original screenplays and those that share the same source material.

  • Robert Regan

    Right, Skelly, Silk Stockings is not up to Ninotchka, just as Mamoulian was not up to Lubitsch. However, Cyd Charisse’s solo dance is a treasure.

    Likewise, there is a charming and reflexive bit in A Song is Born. Where in Ball of Fire Barbara Stanwyck stands on a dictionary to reach Gary Cooper for a kiss, in Hawks’ remake it’s Danny Kaye who stands on the dictionary to kiss Virginia Mayo!

    DeMille may have set a record by making The Squaw Man three times in ’14, ’18, and ’31, and of course he made a total of twenty commandments. When Capra was treading water late in his career, he remade Lady for a Day and Broadway Bill. Renoir and Lang crossed paths as it were with La Bete humaine/Human Desire, as well as La Chienne/Scarlet Street. I give Renoir the prize for the former and Lang for the latter. I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned Ford’s Judge Priest and The Sun Shines Bright, and his Mogambo remade Fleming’s Red Dust. Poor Clark Gable! First he was torn between Jean Harlow and Mary Astor, then between Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly! Griffith made The Battle of the Sexes in ’14 and ’28, Duvivier did Poil de carotte silent and sound, Goulding remade The Trespasser as That Certain Woman, and more recently Haneke gave us two Funny Games. A Star is Born could be considered a remake of Cukor’s What Price Hollywood. There are plenty more examples, but to put an amen to it for now, Borzage made two Secrets.

  • I see that I spelled Blake’s name incorrectly – apologies!

    I’ve seen Borzage’s 1933 SECRETS (to me, kind of an odd effort). Does his 1924 original survive?

    (Also – Mamoulian may not have been up to Lubitsch in 1957 – but it seems to me he was in 1932 – though now I’m straying from “remakes”)

  • Tom Brueggemann

    The 1924 Secrets is around. What I saw wasn’t in great shape (a bad dupe), but it was the whole film.

  • Robert Regan

    Yes, Skelly, at least five archives have prints or negatives of the original Secrets. The, so far, unrestored print at the Library of Congress is described by Herve Dumont as “integral”. Odd is the right word for these films, but they do have their moments, and both Talmadge and Pickford make the most of the “western” section. When he made the silent version, Borzage was on the brink of one of his peaks, the four last masterpieces before the coming of sound. Speaking of masterpieces, the remake came in between A Farewell to Arms and Man’s Castle!

    And, yes, it’s difficult not to be won over by Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll, but Miriam Hopkins was more fun with Lubitsch!

  • Barry Putterman

    Robert, possibly skelly would ask whether Maurice and Jeanette were also more fun with Lubitsch.

  • Robert Regan

    Weren’t they, Barry?

  • Barry Putterman

    Robert, just saying that skelly might have been thinking of LOVE ME TONIGHT more than DR. JEKYLL. Fun is where you find it.

  • Off Topic There is an interesting review in today’s New Yorker of three new books by and of Pauline Kael, which blessedly doesn’t mention Sarris once. The review covers the new LoA collection, a new bio of Kael that I hadn’t heard about, and Wolcott’s new memoir, in which Kael figures as Guinevere to his Lancelot.

    Perhaps the most interesting bit of information, at least new to me, is that apparently for “Raising Kane” Kael led on a scholar to think she was going to collaborate with him and instead appropriated his research for herself. The details can be found in the review, linked below:

  • Robert – it was certainly the (middle) western section of the 1933 version of SECRETS that stands out in my memory. Quite a harrowing seige.

    And, yes, was referring (perhaps vaguely) to LOVE ME TONIGHT which I would rank only behind TROUBLE IN PARADISE as favorites from 1932. Though I do like DR. JEKYLL (1931, no?) a great deal – I think Mamoulian’s first four films represent a rather impressive run of quality. One of the better streaks to start a film career.

    While we are referring to Borzage and 1932 – the one film that really impressed me that I see little written on is AFTER TOMORROW. I like it just as much as A FAREWELL TO ARMS. Any admirers?

  • nicolas saada

    talking about westerns, I have seen blake edward’s 137 minutes version of WILD ROVERS in theatre 1 of the cinematheque. A brand new 35 mm print was produced just for yhe blake edwards series there. It’s an impressive film, reminiscent of Peckinpah, with a Jerry Goldsmith score sounding like a Jerry Fielding. A truly impressive experience.
    Remakes better than their originals. Certainly FISTFUL OF DOLLARS captures the sheer energy of Kurosawa’s YOJIMBO. Leone being to Kurosawa what Mingus was to Ellington: a passionate admirer and a faithful reinventor of the original form.
    And Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED is a incredibly profound and smart variation of the original INFERNAL AFFAIRS. Having co written a film called SLEEPLESS NIGHT, directed by frederic jardin, which was picked up for remake rights at the Toronto film festival, I cannot wait to read what all of you wil have to say about the remake in two or three years from now !

  • Blake Lucas

    For some reason several people have mentioned my name, which I don’t mind, although like Anton Saitz, the most important thing for me is that it be spelled correctly (just kidding, Skelly).

    So I’ll confirm that I like YOUNG AT HEART more than FOUR DAUGHTERS–and might note this is a musical remake, so like MY SISTER EILEEN (Quine) is an exception to the view that these are never better. I recently saw the Hall MY SISTER EILEEN and found it a chore–and I was disappointed Quine’s own role (later expanded for the Bob Fosse character in his version) was so small since it’s fun to see him in his acting days. I believe opinions might be very split on FOUR DAUGHTERS/YOUNG AT HEART and I wouldn’t quarrel too much with that, as I like both directors, perhaps about equally in the long view, and only saw DAUGHTERS once. I do prefer Curtiz’ THE BREAKING POINT to Hawks’ TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT but there’s not much of a comparison to be made–the two films only share one sequence (which is from the book) and while the Curtiz can reasonably be considered an adaptation of the Hemingway novel, the Hawks really shares next to nothing with the book beyond the title.

    There seem to be at least three groups of films here. One is remakes by directors of their own films. Here I’ll confirm also that although I consider HIGH SIERRA an outstanding and memorable movie (and far beyond its actual remake Heisler’s I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES, which is perhaps not negligible), I also believe Walsh was fighting some elements of the screenplay that John Huston is largely responsible for in order to do what he wanted (and he succeeded), especially as regards the Ida Lupino character–compare Jean Hagen in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE and you’ll see what I mean, and I say this as a great admirer of JUNGLE and of Hagen’s performance under Huston’s direction (and even Marilyn Monroe’s) but Huston simply does not love, respect and admire women of this type in the way Walsh does. So, as a Western remake in Walsh’s own hands, HIGH SIERRA is transformed into COLORADO TERRITORY, a sublime movie. And comparison will show that Walsh (and favorite screenwriter John Twist) purged every weak element to take this where he did, and make the heroine a true soulmate and not just someone the hero comes to love. No need to belabor the transformed ending I hope–it is one of the most moving of all time.

    Other remakes by directors of their own films can be great (as I feel with THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH), far surpassing the original, but at least as often, they can seem tired or outright ill-advised. POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES is much less than LADY FOR A DAY, and though I used to rank LOVE AFFAIR and AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER about equally, over the course of time I’ve come to feel the latter, despite much beauty in its own right, simply doesn’t have the magic of the first film. The songs alone almost account for this but it’s just fresher. Most bizarre of all to me, only seven years after the 1941 releases of both THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (great) and BALL OF FIRE (excellent at the least), Walsh and Hawks made color musical remakes of these films in 1948, ONE SUNDAY AFTERNOON and A SONG IS BORN, perhaps the least of all their films in both cases.

    A sub-category: Movies often described as remakes of earlier works by their directors that are not. John Ford’s THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT shares characters with JUDGE PRIEST but is a different story. GION FESTIVAL MUSIC (1953) is often said to be a remake of Mizoguchi’s earlier SISTERS OF THE GION (1936)–there are some similarities in the material and two sisters in each film but they seem completely different movies to me, especially in tone. These four films are good examples of great directors returning to material in a completely fresh way and I just don’t think the later works are remakes. All four of these can claim to be major works.

    Then there are films based on the same source material by different directors and need to be judged on their own–it sounds like Gordon Douglas wanted his STAGECOACH to be seen this way and it probably should be (I saw it once in 1966 and enjoyed it well enough but have no strong opinion about it–Dave’s piece made me interested to see it again). But in these cases I must admit that one version can create some extra antagonism toward the other, and in ways for which one can account. I feel this comparing Altman’s THIEVES LIKE US to Ray’s THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, for example, treasuring the earlier film and intensely disliking the later one.

    Then there are films that may fairly be called remakes, even if some elements are changed, like the setting. And maybe more often than not, these tend to suffer in comparison to the original. But not always. A few years ago I watched RED DUST again–is it really anything more than a moderately entertaining precode, enlivened by Jean Harlow’s always sparkling personality? In MOGAMBO, Ford transformed the same material into something uncommonly beautiful and profound, unlike what most people think of when they think of his films so it has had too little attention. I watched it again earlier this year, and it’s magnificent–absolutely piercing about the intricacies and complexities of male/female relationships and with a melancholy RED DUST couldn’t even hope to touch.

    Just want to add that sometimes if someone is not posting here it’s not necessarily from lack of interest and doesn’t mean one is not following the always stimulating threads each week. There may be personal reasons why there are times someone just feels they can’t articulate their thoughts as this blog deserves.

  • Johan Andreasson

    YOJIMBO and its remakes is another case of setting the same story in different environments. I think it’s at least partially based on Hammett’s “Red Harvest”, and besides A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS there’s also Hrafn Gunnlaugsson’s very good version WHEN THE RAVEN FLIES from 1984 set in Iceland during the Viking age. It’s got the laconic, flat style of the Icelandic sagas and a very rough technical quality , so if Kurosawa is Ellington and Leone Mingus, Gunnlaugsson is probably closer to a rural blues musician like Skip James. (There’s also a Walter Hill version of the story which I haven’t seen.)