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|Leanings... Leanings... Safe and Secure From All Alarms... Posted on 10/26/2001.
A pleasant, if sad, feature on Charles Laughton's unfortunately brief career as a film director, marking the showing of a newly restored print. Night Of The Hunter, is, for my money, the greatest film made by an American studio. Remarkably daring and innovative, with every stylistic leap succeeding and ringing true. Amazingly experimental for a narrative film, particularly one produced by an American studio in 1955. Sadly, it's allegorical and fantastic nature can be too off-putting for moviegoers engorged on cinematic realism. Remember--it's only a moo-vie.
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NIGHT OF THE HUNTER is one of the all-time great films, but it was not made by an American, or any studio. It was an independent Paul gregory Production, distributed by United Artists Releasing Corporation. Gregory had already produced several stage plays, including at least three in the early 1950s with Laughton; DON JUAN IN HELL, JOHN BROWN'S BODY and THE CAINE MUTINY. I saw Laughton in the first two and LLoyd Nolan in the last.
Gregory presented his plays in theaters and in churches and school auditoriums throughout the United States. They were bare stage - no scenery - productions that also starred such actors as Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power, John Hodiak, Anne Bancroft and Charles Boyer, not to mention a future star, James Garner, as a non-speaking juror in The Caine Mutiny.
I met and spoke with Laughton, cinematographer Stanley Cortez and others connected to the production in 1955. Gregory apparently applied a great deal of charm in getting both investors and actors to contibute to his high-minded but low-budget stage and film produtcions. Two UCLA film students, Dennis and Terry Sanders were given the assignment of shooting the second unit Ohio River Valley sequences.
Simon Callow's comments about the Agee script are silly and false. The script has been published and Agee's contribution to the final film is clear. There is never any need to elevate one partner in a collaboration at the expense of others. NOTH is as much Robert Mitchum's creation as it is Lillian Gish's and Laughton's, Gregory's, Cortez's, and probably others whom I can't name. But I will name author Davis Grubb, on whose gripping novel virtually every element of the movie is based. Read the book. Read the script. Trash the Simon Callow.
Posted by BJMe @ 10/26/2001 11:23 PM PST [link to this comment]
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