Victor Fleming, John Ford

wizard of oz wc small

This week in the New York Times, a look at Warner Home Video’s shiny new Blu-ray edition of “The Wizard of Oz,” which includes a documentary on Victor Fleming among its copious extras, and and anti-climactic review of WHV’s no less handsome standard definition disc of John Ford’s superb “Wagon Master” — the latter a topic already extensively chewed over in these pages, but if anyone has anything left to say, now’s the time.

242 comments to Victor Fleming, John Ford

  • Joseph McBride

    The death of one’s parent leaves a loss that can’t be repaired, but I think true immortality comes when someone lives in someone else’s memory. I wish I could talk again with my mother and father, but I think of them often.

    Mike Wilmington and I met in Madison in the late sixties. He taught me much I know about film and about acting in particular (I directed him twice onstage in THE ZOO STORY and in a film, CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR). He was part of our Wisconsin Film Society group (which also included Errol Morris and many other nascent filmmakers) and the Memorial Union Film Committee, which picked films to show in 35mm. In the latter group there were many memorable arguments over films between the auteurists and the hardcore leftists, who tended to see the world from different aesthetic poles despite some common philosophical views. Once Mike gave such an impassioned fifteen-minute plea for us to show Hawks’s EL DORADO that even the most ardent American-film-and-John-Wayne-hating Marxists were stunned into voting for it. Mike and I started writing about Ford after attending a film class at which some of the students mocked SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON throughout (the instructor unfortunately had to show it in black-and-white, because that’s the only way you could get the film in 16mm at the time). My radical friend Ken Mate, on the other hand, loved that film and THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT. Mike and I spent two years studying and talking about Ford at a time when his reputation was largely in eclipse in this country, with the honorable exceptions of Sarris, Bogdanovich, and a few others (including Blake Lucas, whose tribute to Ford in the L.A. Free Press I found heartening and encouraging).

    I always think of Sarris’s line in THE AMERICAN CINEMA (1968), “The last champions of John Ford have now gathered around 7 WOMEN as a beacon of personal cinema.” Sarris wrote in his review of that film in the Village Voice about how he had ventured into the wilds of 42nd Street to review it, and how he even he “braced [him]self for the worst.” (Those were the days when the critical establishment reflexively sneered at “women’s pictures,” as did most reviewers of that film.) But Sarris felt Ford’s “standing would not be jeopardized if he chose to direct the Three Stooges in a nudist movie, much less seven actresses in a Chinese adventure. I could have saved my defensive rationalizations. . . . The beauties of 7 WOMEN are for the ages, or at least for a later time when the personal poetry of film directors is better understood between the lines of genre conventions.” Now we need Sarris’s collected works between two covers. Their beauties are for the ages as well.

  • Sarris and the Library of America One of the first things I thought when the book arrived was, Gosh, they should do this for Sarris: one volume of the Voice Observer reviews, and a second for everything else, from Film Culture to Film Comment.

  • I’m going through the Farber collection now, and I think it’s pretty clear that if one can’t revere Farber while frequently disagreeing with him, well, then, one can’t really revere Farber! That’s a BIT of an oversimplification, but not much more than a bit.

  • Some nice things have been said about parents here. My parents are still alive, thankfully, but my dear grandmother his been dead for a few years and I find that I miss her on the oddest occations, like earlier today when I saw Julie & Julia, which she would’ve loved.

    Michael, I don’t remember the particular scene you’re referring to, but it doesn’t matter. I can understand perfectly why people dislike his films. They’re awful on many levels. I think one might say that he isn’t interested in story, character, dialogue, and perhaps not even narrative. The only thing that matters is to get maximum impact from every single scene, like an assault on all senses. That is probably why some have said that the latest Transformers is more of a collection of short digital artworks or video installations. Personally I’m reminded of cinéma pur. And it works in a films such as Transformers, which is pure nonsense (as Bay implies in his reply Joseph refers to, at Wesleyan University). But when he’s making a film that actually needs characters and dialogue, such as Pearl Harbour, the result is perfectly horrible.

    I spend most of my days talking about Bergman, so I’m somewhat amused of defending Bay all of a sudden. But now I’d much rather talk about Ford.

  • Agreed, Glenn – with Farber, I learned that the least interesting aspect of any critic’s work is whether or not they liked the picture.

  • Brian Dauth

    As a queer, I have always been fascinated by Farber’s fervent pleas for the masculine: “Unless the actor lands in the hands of an underground director, he causes a candy-coated effect that is misery for any spectator who likes a bit of male truth in films.” Huh?

    Farber hates the new “stunning mixtures of mannerism, smooth construction, and cleverly camouflaged hot air” (Pansy alert! Pansy alert!)

    Manly Manny wants the “naturalistic” which is associated in his writing with adjectives like “hard,” “tough,” solid.” When he doesn’t like something, it is “girlish,” “soft,” “whispering.” So while it is easy for me to disagree with Farber (read his comments about Cukor and THE MARRYING KIND), I am not quite sure how to revere his paranoia.

  • Blake Lucas

    “The death of one’s parent leaves a loss that can’t be repaired, but I think true immortality comes when someone lives in someone else’s memory. I wish I could talk again with my mother and father, but I think of them often.”

    I’m sure you are aware, Joseph, of how much this sounds like the perspective of Huw in HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (speaking of great Ford non-Westerns). Of course I mean that as a compliment–you say it in an eloquent way that immediately recalled that movie and to mind.

    I just want to add that I agree with Junko and Joseph about Ford’s non-Westerns and Westerns in context of his whole body of work. Though some of his greatest films are Westerns, I would say among all his masterpieces, only about a third of them are in that genre. I especially love Westerns and I’m glad that Ford saw and explored the rich potential they had for him, but he certainly wasn’t tied to them. To me, when people say this, they are taking a narrower view of him as an artist than he deserves, perhaps not wanting to acknowledge how great he really is, and the many aspects of his artistry. It’s not as if the Westerns are all the same movie either.
    I won’t name any specific titles, and am fine with any one’s preferences, which are bound to vary. But it’s just a mistake with Ford or any other great artist to say “Stick to the one thing we know you do well.”

  • Blake Lucas

    That’s interesting Brian (at 8:37). I think you have just inadvertently hit what makes him antagonistic to THE QUIET MAN, which has its share of “men” and fights and things like that, but may have too much of a soft, tender and “feminine” side for him, like so much Ford.

    If he didn’t like THE MARRYING KIND either, he is way off for me re 1952 films. But I must add that I always found him an interesting, very individual voice. You don’t have to take on the exact critical perspective of someone like this to learn something from them.

  • Joseph McBride

    Yes, Blake, I was channeling HOW GREEN without specifically thinking of it. And how do great historical figures (such as Martin Luther King Jr. or JFK) live on? In our memory. We think of them so often, and what they said and did still means a great deal to us today. The same is true of great artists — perhaps even more directly, since their work lives in front of us today. I agree with you on Ford’s non-Westerns being a major part of his legacy but will add the observation Peter Fonda makes in BECOMING JOHN FORD that THE GRAPES OF WRATH is a Western. Ford’s Irish relative and collaborator Michael Killanin pointed out, “I’ve always said [THE QUIET MAN[ was a Western made in Ireland rather than an Irish film.” I mentioned that WEE WILLIE WINKIE is an “Indian Western.” And it’s often observed that 7 WOMEN is a “Chinese Western,” about the end of civilization and with a pair of antagonists who are female versions of those in FORT APACHE. So I suppose the West with all of its themes and myths and ramifications forms the dominant philosophical and historical base for Ford whether he is strictly working in that genre or not. And Borges observed that “New England invented the West.” Ford as a kid in Portland, Maine, would doodle idealized, heroic profiles of cowboys and Indians on his school papers.

  • Tony Wiliams

    OZ and Ford have certainly made this week one of the most stimulating so far on this site. I’ll only add that 18 months ago I began viewing WEE WILLIE WINKIE with apprehension fearing the worst concerning the combination of Shirley and the North West Frontier. To my surprise, the film really worked with Ford taking the archetypes and making them his own rather than engaging in mere formulaic repetition of what had gone before. It added to my appreciation of him as a great film artist but this only works for viewers who are prepared to put prejudices behind them and not damn in advance as Joe and Mike found with certain audiences in Madison days. Ford can accomplish really surprising things that not many others can.

  • tgregory

    Joseph, you haven’t heard anything about the upcoming Criterion release of STAGECOACH by any chance, have you? It’s been all but confirmed, but as it isn’t yet official, no details have been released (release date, supplements, whether it’s getting a Blu Ray, etc). I’m getting a little restless in waiting to hear something concrete about it, having just rewatched the film this past summer and being reminded of how masterful it is. The revisionism regarding this picture strikes me as even more baffling than with THE GRAPES OF WRATH. It sort of seems to me that people fixate too much on how important it was to the development and reestablishment of the Western. I think when scholars and critics dwell on a film for being innovative or influential, people too often tend to forget that it may be notable for more than just historical reasons.

  • Joseph McBride

    I haven’t heard anything specific about the STAGECOACH Criterion edition. The recent Warners DVD looked excellent, I thought. I saw a 35mm print at the Library of Congress that looked great (made from Wayne’s nitrate print), and this DVD closely approximated it. I think it’s impossible for us who weren’t there to know how it felt to see this landmark film in 1939. I talked with Claire Trevor, who recalled being “overcome” with excitement at the first preview in Westwood (“I forgot I was in it, it was so riveting”) and how she argued as she walked up the aisle with a blasé Hollywood columnist who said merely, “It’s a very good Western.” She said, “I almost hit him in the face. It was a classic. It was a great movie!” My father, who was a film, radio, and TV reviewer for the Milwaukee Journal, always raved about the experience of seeing it in a theater in 1939. It and THE MALTESE FALCON were his favorite films. Orson Welles used STAGECOACH as his cinematic textbook. STAGECOACH summed up the archetypes and gave the Western a new artistic stature. We see it more as, well, a very good Western. I can’t help finding the extensive use of back projection for the Monument Valley scenes a problem; none of the principals went to Monument Valley. I can’t help contrasting this with Ford films that use Valley locations more extensively, such as FORT APACHE, THE SEARCHERS, CHEYENNE AUTUMN, et al. But we can appreciate the stunning impact of the key Valley landscape shots that Ford does include in STAGECOACH. The introduction of Wayne (filmed in southern California) is superb. And the characters and dialogue are marvelous.

  • Joseph McBride

    And I should add that I never really appreciated STAGECOACH until I saw it in that good 35mm print. I didn’t “get” it or the fuss over it until then. In the same way, I didn’t “get” CHEYENNE AUTUMN until I finally saw it in 35mm widescreen at the LA County Museum of Art in 1994 (and I still can only imagine seeing it in 70mm). Sometimes there is just no substitute for seeing a film on the big screen. I gather, from what I have heard, that the famous long shot of the coach passing through the mesas of Monument Valley was a revelation for people who saw STAGECOACH in 1939, like a glimpse of a New World, or more precisely a privileged glimpse into our mythic past. The first time you see something like that is a life-changing experience that can’t be replicated. We see Monument Valley in too many commercials these days.

  • Gregg Rickman

    Miguel, thanks for the post on J. M. Tasende (10.02.09 @ 7:53 am). Like Manny Farber, Tasende comes at Ford from a graphic art perspective, which is not at all inappropriate given Ford’s strong compositional skills. Brian, good comment on Farber’s pugilistic skills – he famously got into a fistfight with one renowned 1940s figure (Jackson Pollock? Delmore Schwartz?), although I forget just who.

    While I’m very much looking forward to reading his collected criticism, I read Farber as I read Pauline Kael, as verbal performance art. The performances can be dazzling, the insights variable. His paintings are of a piece with his writing. Overall I would place him behind Otis Ferguson (but ahead of James Agee) as a mid-century critic. Once you get to Sarris (and the other auteurists of the 1960s) things change; the work under discussion becomes more important than the critic’s word-jazz (Manny Farber as Ken Nordine!). That said, I think it is in the 1960s-70 when Farber peaked, in his great essays on Godard, Fassbinder and TAXI DRIVER. It’s a shame (as someone – Jonathan Rosenbaum? – has commented that his collected writing does not include his art criticism, as I would love to read his pieces on Pollack and company.) And if his comments on say THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE aren’t praise, I do learn something about Ford from them; Shinbone IS a town “where the cactus were planted last night” and thus I am pointed to acknowledge the film’s artificiality (which wasn’t an accident).

    Joseph, thanks for the good commentary on Ford. We’ve been discussing 1939 as a key year, and in the popular imagination it wasn’t just OZ and (gak) GWTW, it was also (as “Entertainment Weekly” understands) MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and STAGECOACH. And if Ford later purified STAGECOACH into WAGON MASTER, he would also eventually film his own version of MR SMITH – James Stewart in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE! The 1962 film works brilliantly as a revision of Capra’s.

  • Blake Lucas

    I’m fine with descriptions of an “Irish Western,”
    a “Chinese Western,” an “Indian Western” (that one could get confusing!) even though I wouldn’t describe these films that way myself, but the point is that someone like Michael Adams, who says Ford’s Westerns have aged well and his other films have not is probably thinking of these films as non-Westerns and wasn’t including them with the ones he thought had aged well.

    So it’s just the typing of Ford as a Western director, subject to the absurd comment Trevor told you about re the STAGECOACH preview, which I have a problem with. A Western can be as great as any film, but when someone starts saying someone can only be great in that genre they are probably intimating he is not one of the all-time greats, just great in a certain niche. I think you are absolutely right, by the way, Joseph, that most of us have been a little blase about STAGECOACH if we weren’t around in 1939, especially not seeing anything like a good print until more recently. Personally, I can only imagine how this answered the faith of those who believed what a Western could be back in 1939. It must have been enthralling, and my own father also verified that from seeing it then.

    Anyway, re the “Chinese Western” you and Mike Wilmington had a line I especially enjoyed at the time and just looked it up again now: “The entire film takes place in and around the tiny mission (one is tempted to write “fort”)…”

  • Brian, you have certainly raised an under-discussed, sometimes even evaded aspect of Farber, that particular inflection of cultural machismo in his writing. (Jonathan R also addresses this in one of his pieces on Farber.) I suspect that it’s something that partly comes from that ‘mid century’ artworld ethos: a lot of art critics were writing like that at the time of Abstract Expressionism. But I do think the 60s and 70s mark a real change in Farber, no doubt in part because of the writing collaboration with Patricia Patterson: there’s much less macho talk of ‘hard’ cinema there! And it’s surely interesting that his later writing concentrates a lot on icons of queer modern cinema: Warhol, Fassbinder, Akerman. In his teaching, too, he covered a lot of different ground: he celebrated Rohmer, for example, whose work is ‘feminine’ more than it is ‘masculine’. And at the end of his life he was into Kiarostami, Hou Hsiao-hsien …

  • Gregg Rickman

    Adrian, great comment. The one time I saw Manny Farber speak (at a community college in Orange County around 1978) he was very appealingly modest. A female friend and I braced him about his pan of SHERLOCK JR he wrote in the early 1960s; he shrugged, laughed, and said he was wrong. I can see how he would have been a charismatic teacher for many in his later life. And I have just reread his comments on Keaton; they are bracing and thought provoking (just are his comments on Ford and so many others).

  • About Ford I’d like to say that one of the things I love about his films, and there are few, if any, oeuvres I love as much as I love Ford’s, is when he lets the narrative rest for a while, so that he can capture a moment or an image, and stay with it. Examples on such scenes are plentiful, but let me mention one in Rio Grande, with Wayne by the river. It’s beautiful, and it lets in air in the film, makes it more poetic. There are ertain scenes in The Long Gray Line have an Ozu-like serenity.

    In the question of western / non-westerns, I have to say that They Were Expendable in my opinion is among his three or four best films. And The Grapes of Wrath is more often than not exquisite.

    I still have vivid memories of the first time I saw Stagecoach. I was home alone a late, cold, windy Saturday evening, in my early teens, and had been invited to a party but didn’t go because I wanted to see this film on TV that I heard so much about. And I loved it.

  • Kent Jones

    “Even so-called photographed plays – for instance, George Cukor’s DINNER AT EIGHT – could once be made to produce that endless unreeling of divergence, asides, visual lilts which produce a vitality unique to the movies. With the setting and story of a Waldorf operetta, Cukor was able to get inflections and tones from the departments that professional cinematicians always class as uncinematic: make-up, setting, costumes, voices. Marie Dressler’s matronly bulldog face and Lee Tracy’s scarecrow, gigolo features and body are almost like separate characters interchangeable with the hotel corridors and bathtubs and gardens of Cukor’s ritzy and resilient imagination.” – Manny Farber, 1963

  • Blake Lucas

    This is just so right on, Frederik, and beautifully said! (re yours of 8:08 am)

  • Blake Lucas

    I meant Fredrik. Sorry!

    (Not everyone cares as much about their name being spelled right as Anton Saitz in A YEAR WITH 13 MOONS but I know some people do).

  • Kent Jones

    Fredrik, one of my favorite moments in Ford’s work comes early in WAGONMASTER, when Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. are sitting on the fence as the Mormons start their trek through the desert. They talk about Johnson’s unwillingness to take the job of escorting them, about the pretty girls who are riding away, there’s a brief interval, then one starts to sing and the other responds by completing the verse, their signal to each other that there’s a sudden change of heart. Then they get up and ride off with the wagon train. Part of the beauty of the scene is the attention paid to two underappreciated actors, finding themselves at the center of a movie, in a scene about two friends with time on their hands and freedom to choose under a wide open sky.

    As a side note, there are few sounds in movies I enjoy listening to more than that of Ben Johnson’s voice. I have a feeling that Ford felt similarly.

  • Barry Putterman

    The matter of machismo in arts criticism is one that continually pops up in all fields and all eras. Music for instance.

    I remember reading a Leonard Feather history of jazz in which he said that Paul Whiteman had tried to make a lady out of jazz, but Fletcher Henderson had more interestingly made a man of it. Or Gary Giddens’ biography of Bing Crosby, in which he is constantly trumpeting Crosby’s “masculine” baritone as opposed to the popular tenor balladeers who proceeded him. And I won’t even try to describe the kinds of shenanigans that takes place in rock criticism.

    Lots of different angles to this. Anxiety about working in the “non-muscular” field of the arts. Aggression and anarchy being defined as “male traits.” And a host of others.

    Maybe this can be carried over into a discussion of Disney vs. the Avery and Clampett school that is beloved by Junko and myself in this week’s page.

  • Gregg Rickman

    tgregory, Jim Kitses informs me that he has completed the commentary he wrote and delivered for the Criterion STAGECOACH. His commentary for THE FURIES was very good, and I am looking forward to hearing this one.

  • Blake, thanks for the kind words! And as a Swede in Scotland I’m used to misspellings and don’t mind at all. (Besides, as someone who posted the sentence “There are ertain scenes in The Long Gray Line have an Ozu-like serenity.” I’m in no position to judge…)

    Kent, I saw Wagon Master many years ago and I don’t remember specific scenes, only that I liked it very much. Tried to watch it today but could only find a despicable version recorded from BBC. I must order a new DVD version. I agree with what you say about Ben Johnson, he’s wonderful. After having seen Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis, I now feel I must see Johnson play the part in Dillinger.

    You mentioned Johnson’s voice. I recently saw Young Mr. Lincoln again, and one could write a thesis about the significance of Henry Fonda’s legs in Ford’s films.

  • Kent Jones

    Fredrik – That’s a very interesting comment about Fonda’s legs in YOUNG MR. LINCOLN. His slow stride (stiff upper body, arms hanging down, legs pulling forward one thoughtful step at a time) is accentuated and becomes a key visual feature. It all turns on that scene where he pushes back the pole with his foot, which feels so physically right: his back is against the door, and he’s motivated by fury.

    Ben Johnson’s Purvis is in another universe from Bale’s. Bale is interesting, though – terse, and terrifyingly so. Odd movie, PUBLIC ENEMIES – the most lulling gangster film I’ve ever seen.

  • Kent – Yes, and the legs abounds in My Darling Clementine as well.

    Public Enemies is indeed odd. I had to watch it two times before I knew whether I liked it or not. (As it turned out, I do like it.)

    My favourite anecdote regarding Manny Farber is when Greil Marcus agonized over something Farber wrote about Griffith’s The Muskeeters in Pig Alley. Farber wrote “but how many films since Musketeers of Pig Alley have been sustained?”, and the point is that since Marcus hadn’t seen Griffith’s film, he didn’t know what it meant, if it was a joke or if it was true.

    (Having seen The Musketeers of Pig Alley myself, I can testify that it isn’t much of a film, sustained or unsustained, although there’s an incredible shot of a line of men, with one at a time revealing his face, which I must say continues to haunt me to this day.)

  • Kent Jones

    Fredrik, you have it the wrong way round. There was a tribute to Manny at The New School, a panel which included Robert Polito, Jim Lewis, Luc Sante, Greil and myself. Manny and Patricia were in the audience. Greil mentioned Manny’s off-handed remark about the Griffith film in a piece called “Clutter” which is included in NEGATIVE SPACE (“how many movies since MUSKETEERS OF PIG ALLEY have been sustained?”) – he remembered being terrified by this passage the first time he read it, when he realized that it referred to a movie that was made in 1912.

    Personally, I neither liked nor disliked PUBLIC ENEMIES. I saw it twice because I was intrigued that someone would want to make a gangster movie in that way. It seemed like a rich man’s aesthetic, to me at least, with an exceptionally soft dramatic core – the more I think about Mann, the more that seems basic to his moviemaking. On the other hand, the settings, all historically accurate, were pretty striking. And he still has that odd way of filming people so that that really don’t look like themselves – Stephen Lang and Billy Crudup in this one. Strange guy, Mann.

  • Kent – you should know better who was actually there, I’ve only read about it. What I read was that he was scared because he didn’t know if it was a joke or if it actually was true that no film had been as sustained for the last 80 years.

    To me, Heat, Insider and Collateral are as good as modern film gets, on all levels, and I wouldn’t say they’ve got soft dramatic cores. But nowadays it feels like Mann is venturing into new territory, where the movies gets more and more abstract and weird. Public Enemies sometimes feels like a dream, shot in ultrarealistic images. The audience is not given much in terms of dialogue or explanations, instead we’re pretty much left to our own devices. There’s a certain arrogance about it, which I still don’t know what to make of. For the moment though, I like it.

  • Brian Dauth

    Blake: Farber’s criticism of THE MARRYING KIND is quite strange. He accuses Cukor of employing a “sneak camera without any heart or belief” (as if Cukor could ever do such a thing). He then complains that too many characters are shown in bathrobes and underwear with their behinds faced toward the camera (the page fairly perspires with panic).

    Adrian & Barry: It has always seemed to me that Farber was channeling 1950’s/1960’s anxieties over masculinity. He gives the impression in his writing of wanting to be regarded simultaneously as a) a regular Joe with whom a person could knock back a few beers; and b) a discerning aesthetician who looked with depth and care at films and then reported back with nuance about what he saw. Hence Farber champions a close/astute examination of movies even as he fulfills his role as embattled defender of male truth (under attack from all manner of Others).

    As far as the subsequent evasion of this fact, there is an interesting consequence of this binary: Farber’s not writing about whether he liked a film or not. Mannyphiles praise him for this approach, and are left with the odd situation that an advance in film criticism was motivated by a creepy/irresolvable binary that was part of Farber’s critical lens.

    Adrian & Gregg: I do think Farber’s pieces written with Patricia Patterson are less tendentious than his earlier solo work and the best of his output: the anxieties are more under control. His Fassbinder piece is good, but I still regret his wholesale adoption of Sontag’s nasty/phobic definition of camp which throws the piece off-kilter (but the version in the new collection seems to be an amended version of the Fassbinder piece in “Negative Space”).

  • Kent Jones

    Fredrik, I was bleary-eyed when I read your description of the Manny/Greil exchange this morning. My apologies – your description is accurate. By the way, I forgot that Stephanie Zacharek was also on the panel. Greil is now fond of quoting Manny’s 1946 review of THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS and the line, “It deals with four people who have lived cataclysmic, laughterless lives since they were babies.”

    Personally I like Michael Mann less and less. I tried to watch HEAT again recently and it seemed very silly to me. But that’s just me.

  • I’ve always been more addictive to Agee than Farber, and I’ve, unconsciously, memorized lines such is this one: “Otherwise it deserves, like four movies out of five, to walk alone, tinkle a little bell, and cry, unclean, unclean”.

    Oh, I hope the day never comes when I find Heat silly. It’s been a part of me for 15 years now…

  • Kent Jones

    Fredrik – I share your hope that the day will never come when you find HEAT silly.

    Ironically, the movie Agee is referring to is pretty good – I WALK ALONE, with Lancaster and Douglas, directed by Byron Haskin. As is THE MUSKETEERS OF PIG ALLEY, for that matter – worth another look.

  • Kent – I learned early on never to trust Agee’s dismissals. Although he does have very insightful things to say now and then, often he seems to prefer a snappy line before fairness. And he has trashed many films I like. But that’s OK, I read him more as a poet than as a film critic (and I love his fiction).

  • jbryant

    Yeah, I quite liked I WALK ALONE and was surprised when I came across the Agee quote. Then again, I’m a bit of a sucker for that kind of “nightclub noir.”

  • Bill DeLapp

    I’m way too late for this thread, but it jogged long-dormant memories of watching “Oz” on CBS (and for a time, NBC) throughout the 1960s and 1970s. I also recall when some of the commercial breaks took place, such as right after Frank Morgan says “I hope that little girl makes it home” before the twister hits. The first reel was always broadcast in black-and-white; there’s even a reel change when Dorothy leaves her bed when she lands in Oz, then the color reel commences with her opening the door to the Technicolor world. I don’t know if the annual “Oz” telecasts spurred sales of color TVs, although I’m guessing that NBC’s Bonanza and its Saturday Night at the Movies franchise (which had Fox flicks from the 1950s) during the early 1960s probably helped the cause. My dad told me that he saw an elderly gentleman literally drooling when a fresh-out-of-the-oven turkey was served during a color TV commercial. And this is nearly 50 years before Blu-Ray.

  • Peter Henne

    I haven’t had the time to look at recent postings and read some just now. I was saddened to hear that Mike Wilmington’s mother passed away. I met her through Mike and gave her a ride home several times from press screenings. We got to know each other a little bit on those rides and gradually she came to trust to me. She was lively and eccentric just as Joseph McBride writes, also guarded and tough. I liked her a lot. Maybe I shouldn’t say so, but I referred to her privately, and fondly, as Ma Wilmington because she reminded me of the mothers of outlaws in some films, especially Ma Jarrett in WHITE HEAT. My full sympathies to Mike Wilmington, in case he’s reading, and I look forward to reading his tribute to his mother.

  • Jerry J

    Can someone link me to the Dave K post that spurred all the referenced Wagonmaster talk? I’ve just seen it for the first time via this new dvd and I’m still blubbering about it. Thanks.

  • Peter Henne

    I simply want to add here how beautiful Wilmington’s tribute is for his mother Edna. This is well worth reading for anyone interested in film criticism because it gives insight into a family and the intellectual development of a film critic who possesses a poetic fire. I did not know hardly any of Edna Wilmington’s accomplishments until now, but I am thankful to have spent a little time with her, as I related in my last post. Edna Wilmington had a penetrating, fierce gaze that I will never forget, and I am grateful to her son for having filled in a picture.

  • Blake Lucas

    Jerry J, discussion of WAGON MASTER started two weeks before Dave K’s discussion of it in his DVD column, after Joseph McBride advised on the DVD coming out and said a few things about the film. So the discussion started on the Lars von Trier thread and there is a quite a bit of there, and then continuing intermittently through the next two threads (Carne, Litvak, Clement) and then this one following Dave’s piece.

  • Blake Lucas

    Meaning that under the WIZARD OF OZ poster above, Dave provides the link to the column in which he also writes about WAGON MASTER. I hope the previous was not confusing. And needless to say there is no reason not to share your own thoughts about the movie now if you are inclined. No good subject ever gets exhausted here, that I am aware. Even less good ones come back–like the Return of the Represssed.

  • Michael Worrall

    Fredrick wrote: I think one might say that he isn’t interested in story, character, dialogue, and perhaps not even narrative.

    Fredrick, apologies for my very late response.

    Well, those who who have been on a_film_by and Dave’s blog know that I don’t have a strong interest in the above either, and I was not implying that Bay’s stylistic choices had to be grounded in character or story. The scene I was speaking of is a “love scene” that takes place in the evening before the big battle. I just don’t get a sugar high from Bay’s supposedly kinetic editing and camerawork. (Eisenstein does the trick for me, though closer to a feeling of ecstasy than a Twinkie high.)