Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Honey Pot.
Full details of a complete retrospective spotlighting two-time Oscar-winning director, screenwriter and producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz were revealed by the Film Society of Lincoln Center Friday, as well as additions to the Revivals section and the Short Film selections for the 52nd New York Film Festival opening next month.
Titled Joseph L. Mankiewicz: The Essential Iconoclast, the retrospective was first announced in June. Rarely screened titles include Mankiewicz’s directorial debut, Dragonwyck (1943), a story of obsession starring Vincent Price and Gene Tierney, and the black comedy The Honey Pot (1967), considered Mankiewicz’s “comeback” after filming the troubled Cleopatra. The Honey Pot stars Rex Harrison as a man who stages an elaborate practical joke on three women (Susan Hayward, Edie Adams, and Capucine) he has invited to visit him on his supposed deathbed. House of Strangers (1949), meanwhile, stars Edward G. Robinson as a domineering patriarch betrayed by his sons and The Late George Apley (1947) features Ronald Coleman as a Beacon Hill blue blood who tries and fails in small ways to revolt against the ironclad social restrictions of his community. The Quiet American (1958), another highlight in the retrospective, is his adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel starring Michael Redgrave and Audie Murphy. The film was cited as the favorite film of that year by another great filmmaker—Jean-Luc Godard.
Previously announced titles include such classics as All About Eve (1950), The Barefoot Contessa (1954), 5 Fingers (1952), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Guys and Dolls (1955), A Letter to Three Wives (1949), and Julius Caesar (1953).
Mankiewicz won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay for A Letter to Three Wives in 1950 and won the same two prizes for All About Eve in 1951. He also received a half-dozen additional Oscar nominations during his filmmaking career.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center also announced films that will screen in NYFF Revivals at this year's festival, which takes place September 26 – October 12. Revivals is an annual spotlight celebrating and revisiting classic films that were pivotal in shaping world cinema.
Today's Revivals list includes previously unveiled titles Jamaica Inn (1939), Alfred Hitchcock’s final British film, starring Charles Laughton and an 18-year-old Maureen O’Hara in a story of smugglers on the Cornish Coast; Anthony Mann’s The Man from Laramie (1955), starring James Stewart and one of the first Westerns to be shot in CinemaScope; Moana with Sound (1926/1980), a film project combining the efforts of Robert Flaherty and Frances Hubbard Flaherty, who filmed the traditional rituals and ways of life of Samoans, and their daughter Monica Flaherty, who returned to the islands with Ricky Leacock 50 years later to create a soundtrack for the film (Robert Flaherty’s 1935 short film A Night of Storytelling, featuring renowned storyteller Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin reciting an ancient Gaelic tale, will screen with Moana with Sound); and a restoration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s classic The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) that was closely supervised by Powell’s widow, legendary film editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
Two Shorts Programs were also announce today, with 13 films from over a dozen countries set to screen. Highlights include Sergei Rostropovich’s Ophelia, starring Hanna Schygulla as an aging actress facing Alzheimer’s and discovering the power of memory; Selma Vilhunen and Guillaume Mainguet’s The Girl and the Dogs, which premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes this year, about three girls making an unexpected detour on their way to a party; Tommy Davis’s Hepburn, about a toddler used as a distraction for an assassination attempt; Marcelo Grabowsky’s Chlorine, in which paradise is about to be lost for a rich family; and Federico Adorno’s La Estancia, about peasants kicked off their land returning to bury the dead. The Shorts were programmed by Florence Almozini (Senior Programmer, FSLC), Isa Cucinotta (Programmer, FSLC), and Laura Kern (Managing Editor, Film Comment).
Additional special screenings, events, filmmaker conversations and panels, as well as the full Convergence program, will be announced in subsequent days and weeks.
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Robert Flaherty & Frances Hubbard Flaherty/Monica Flaherty's Moana with Sound.
52nd NYFF Revivals additions and descriptions follow:
Alfred Hitchcock, UK, 1939, 4K DCP, 99m
Alfred Hitchcock’s final British film was one of his least favorites, because of his dislike of costume pictures in general and his disagreeable experience with Charles Laughton in particular—“He’s a talented amateur,” Hitchcock would later tell François Truffaut, “not really a professional.” But he was frequently given to underrating his own work, and such was the case with this dark, moody adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel about a group of smugglers on the Cornish coast that forces ships to run aground in order to loot their holds. Laughton may have been relatively undisciplined and vain (the actor brought in J.B. Priestley to beef up his role), but he is never less than mesmerizing—as is his 18-year-old discovery and co-star, the wildly beautiful Maureen O’Hara. Jamaica Inn has been seen for years in substandard prints and home video releases. It has been restored to its original splendor by Cohen Media. A Cohen Media Group release.
The Man from Laramie
Anthony Mann, USA, 1955, 4K DCP, 104m
A tough, visually powerful, and emotionally intense Technicolor Western, and one of the first films in the genre to be shot in CinemaScope (on location in New Mexico). James Stewart is a stranger investigating the circumstances around the death of his brother, who runs afoul of a cattle baron (Donald Crisp), his miscreant son (Alex Nicol) and his foreman (Arthur Kennedy). This was Stewart’s final collaboration with Anthony Mann, who would later walk away from the production of Night Passage and bring the creative partnership that reinvigorated the Western genre in the ’50s to an unceremonious end. This was one of their best films together and, when Stewart decided to perform his own stunt and allowed himself to be dragged by a horse, one of their most potentially dangerous (“It wouldn’t have worked half as well if they’d used a double,” said Stewart. “I guess I made Mann a nervous wreck for a short while.”). The Man from Laramie is presented in a beautiful 4K restoration. A Sony Pictures release.
Moana with Sound
Robert Flaherty & Frances Hubbard Flaherty/Monica Flaherty, 1926/1980, USA, 2K DCP, 98m
Samoan dialogue and songs with English intertitles
In 1923, the great Robert Flaherty and his wife Frances went to Savai’i island in Polynesia to start making a film that, like Nanook of the North, would both record and meticulously reenact traditional rituals and ways of life of the Samoan people. They brought along their 3-year-old daughter Monica, who returned to Savai’I in 1975 with Ricky Leacock to create a soundtrack for her parents’ film, each individual sound carefully recorded and synchronized with the images. Moana with Sound was finished in 1980, but the picture elements were far inferior to the original. Preservationist and curator Bruce Posner and filmmaker Sami van Ingen, a great-grandson of the Flahertys, have gone back to Monica Flaherty’s recordings, newly remixed by the great Lee Dichter, and synced them to a beautiful new 2K element, created from the best surviving 35mm materials. The result is absolutely wondrous.
A Night of Storytelling / Oidhche Sheanchais
Robert Flaherty, Ireland, 1935, 35mm, 12m
This remarkable short, thought to be lost for decades until a nitrate print was found in the Houghton Library at Harvard, was filmed by Robert Flaherty when he was recording the post-synch sound for his classic Man of Aran. A Night of Storytelling, commissioned by the Irish Free State, features Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin, a renowned storyteller who died at sea not long after this film was completed. He sits before a fire, across from Colman “Tiger” King and Maggie and Michael Dirrane from Man of Aran, reciting an ancient tale in Gaelic. This beautiful film was restored and preserved by the Harvard Film Archive, in collaboration with Houghton Library, the Celtic department and Harvard’s Office of the Provost.
The Tales of Hoffmann
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, UK, 1951, DCP, 128m
Italian with English subtitles
In some ways an artistic “sequel” to The Red Shoes, The Tales of Hoffmann is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1951 version of French composer Jacques Offenbach’s 1881 opera, in turn based on three stories by the late 18th–early 19th century German author E.T.A. Hoffmann. Where the earlier film was a narrative that was set in motion by and moved to music and dance, The Tales of Hoffmann is a pure opera, a film composed entirely of music, dance, color, light, and rhythm. And pure fancy. Powell and Pressburger put together a spectacular team for this film—Sir Thomas Beecham conducted the Royal Philharmonic; Moira Shearer, Lumilla Tchérina, Robert Helpmann, and Léonide Massine (all from The Red Shoes) danced principal roles along with the choreographer Frederick Ashton; Robert Rounseville played Hoffmann and sang, Hein Heckroth was the production designer, and Christopher Challis the cinematographer. The restoration of this singularly thrilling film, years in the making, was closely supervised by Powell’s widow, Thelma Schoonmaker. A Rialto Pictures Release.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz: The Essential Iconoclast films and descriptions follow:
All About Eve
USA, 1950, DCP, 138m
What can you say about a film so legendary? Let’s start with this: All About Eve gets fresher with each passing year. Mankiewicz crafted three magnificent and archetypal characters with Bette Davis’s Margo Channing, Anne Baxter’s Eve Harrington, and George Sanders’s Addison DeWitt—that’s three more than many of his fellow creators managed in a decade. Darryl F. Zanuck had wanted Marlene Dietrich to play Margo, the aging star who is gradually edged out of the limelight by the wanton Eve under Addison’s jaded and watchful eye (the film was based on Mary Orr’s story “The Wisdom of Eve,” inspired by an episode in the life of Elisabeth Bergner). Mankiewicz refused and offered the role to Gertrude Lawrence; when her demands proved unreasonable, he signed Claudette Colbert, who slipped and wrenched her back, at which point Bette Davis was suddenly available—luckily for her, for Mankiewicz, and for us all.
The Barefoot Contessa
USA, 1954, 35mm, 128m
Mankiewicz’s pitiless take on the dissolute, dispiriting world of international filmmaking, a veritable film à clef, was his first fully independent production. In one sense, with its multiple points of view and epigrammatic dialogue, it looks back to A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve; on another, perhaps deeper level, the film’s aura of profound and limitless disenchantment looks ahead to La Dolce Vita and Contempt. Ava Gardner is Maria Vargas, the Spanish dancer lured into the not-so-magical world of movies (Mankiewicz based the character on Margarita Cansino, aka Rita Hayworth); Humphrey Bogart, in his last great role, is the director who bears witness to the tragic progression of Maria’s life; Edmond O’Brien is the sweating, motor-mouthed publicist Oscar Muldoon—three of Mankiewicz’s most memorable characters. The Barefoot Contessa has another powerful element that makes it unique in the director’s body of work: the great Jack Cardiff’s glowing Technicolor cinematography.
UK/USA/Switzerland, 1963, DCP, 192m
When Fox executives tried to lure Mankiewicz to rescue the deeply troubled Cleopatra, he drove a hard bargain: he got what he asked for, figured he would spend six months on the film and be done with it. After a solid two years of delays, catastrophic weather, the real-time melodrama of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s very public love affair, the transplanting of the entire production from London to Rome, a constant plague of studio executives who blamed their own miscalculations on their director, a star who was on the brink of death, days of arduous shooting followed by nights of painful rewriting (all on three hours of chemically induced sleep a night), the humiliations of being fired and rehired and seeing his film cut to ribbons, Mankiewicz was a wreck, and it would be years before he made another movie. The miracle is that Cleopatra, in its restored version, is a literate, beautifully made epic.
USA, 1943, 35mm, 103m
This period piece, set in 1844 New England and redolent of Nathaniel Hawthorne (but based on a 1943 novel serialized in Ladies’ Home Journal), was originally assigned to Ernst Lubitsch. When Lubitsch became too ill to direct, he stepped down to produce what would be Mankiewicz’s directorial debut (Mankiewicz found Lubitsch so intrusive that, his love and respect for him aside, he had him barred from the set, which resulted in Lubitsch removing his name from the production). Vincent Price (in a role originally slated for Gregory Peck) is the aristocratic Nicholas Van Ryn, who lures his cousin Miranda (Gene Tierney) to his estate, Dragonwyck, where her infatuation with him is gradually tempered by the disturbing events that unfold. The film, predictable on a dramatic level but visually beautiful in the best Fox manner, was shot by one of the great cameramen, Arthur C. Miller, who would work with Mankiewicz again on A Letter to Three Wives.
UK/USA, 1948, 78m
Rex Harrison initiated this adaptation of John Galsworthy’s 1926 play, which had been previously filmed in 1930 with Gerald du Maurier. Mankiewicz’s version (the last of his “apprentice” pictures), written by Philip Dunne, was the first American production shot on British soil after the war. According to Mankiewicz, the harsh conditions in the recovering country were nothing compared to the behavior of the English crew, collectively primed to strike over the slightest infringement of union rules. Harrison is Matt Denant, a former RAF pilot who goes for a walk in Hyde Park one night and intervenes on behalf of a young woman accused of soliciting by a plainclothes cop. The cop falls and dies during the ensuing fracas; Denant, subsequently arrested and convicted of manslaughter, escapes into the foggy Devonshire moors. This was the second of four films that Mankiewicz and Harrison made together—a tempestuous but fruitful creative partnership.
USA, 1952, 35mm, 108m
Originally intended for Henry Hathaway, Mankiewicz’s last movie on his contract with Twentieth Century Fox (before his return with Cleopatra) was this brilliant adaptation of Operation Cicero by L.C. Moyzisch, a German attaché in Ankara during WWII. Moyzisch was the personal “handler” of a spy named Elyesa Bazna, code name Cicero, who worked as a valet to the British Ambassador and supplied a wealth of information to the German high command. Mankiewicz and screenwriter Michael Wilson added several layers of interest to the espionage story with the addition of a fictional character, Danielle Darrieux’s Countess Staviski. The scenes between James Mason as Diello, the Bazna figure, and Darrieux as the object of his devotion are among the most scintillating in Mankiewicz’s entire body of work, sparking with sexual and class tensions. “In its literate, satirical way,” wrote Manny Farber, who ranked 5 Fingers as one of the best films of 1952, “this spy melodrama was the most unusual thriller since Hitchcock’s first low budget films.”
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
USA, 1947, DCP, 104m
This delicately funny, poignant, and haunting film, adapted by Philip Dunne from the Josephine Leslie novel (written under the pseudonym R.A. Dick), seems to have grown in resonance over the years. Mankiewicz’s love affair with Gene Tierney had ended by the time shooting started, but you would never know it from the way he and DP Charles Lang photograph her. Rex Harrison, whom Mankiewicz referred to as his “Stradavarius,” gave the first of four performances for the director as the ghost of a sea captain who appears before Tierney’s young widow Lucy Muir and dictates his “memoirs” to her; and George Sanders is the children’s author who temporarily steals Mrs. Muir’s heart. Fox’s period pieces were always a cut above everyone else’s, and their vision of a seaside village in Edwardian England is one of their supreme achievements. And the score is by Bernard Herrmann at his very best. In short, a convergence of remarkable talents that resulted in a truly great film.
Guys and Dolls
USA, 1955, DCP, 150m
This lavish Goldwyn production (Mankiewicz’s first film in CinemaScope and his sole musical), based on one of the greatest works of American musical theater, is true to the spirit of the Loesser/Burrows/Swerling original, curious casting decisions and the loss of key songs (like “My Time of Day” and the lovely “More I Cannot Wish You”) aside. While most of the world thought that Frank Sinatra would make a perfect Sky Masterson, the role was bestowed upon the non-singing Marlon Brando, and Sinatra was cast as Nathan Detroit. Vivian Blaine, Stubby Kaye, and choreographer Michael Kidd were retained from the original production and, in a burst of inspiration, Goldwyn cast Jean Simmons in the role of Sarah Brown (Goldwyn supposedly paid Simmons the following compliment: “I’m so glad I couldn’t get Grace Kelly”). Mankiewicz had to negotiate his way through the ongoing war between his male stars, the problem of adapting Damon Runyon’s dialogue to the screen, and the “dollar-bill proportions” of the Scope screen, but he made a charming movie.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Barefoot Contessa.
The Honey Pot
USA, 1967, 35mm, 126m
Following the years it took for Mankiewicz to recover from the ordeal that was Cleopatra, he met with Rex Harrison to discuss his comeback project—a screen version of Thomas Sterling’s 1955 novel, The Evil of the Day, and its stage adaptation, Mr. Fox of Venice, both modern variations on Ben Jonson’s Volpone—and reluctantly agreed to let the actor see the epic-length first draft. In Mankiewicz’s original conception, the action was to be interrupted at regular intervals with memos from a Hays Office–type censor; to his great disappointment, he was forced to excise this satirical element by UA chairman Arthur Krim. Harrison did go on to star as Fox, the Volpone figure who engineers an elaborate practical joke by inviting three women (Susan Hayward, Edie Adams, and Capucine) to visit him on his supposed deathbed, in this elaborate black comedy that has aged beautifully over the years. But it’s a young Maggie Smith, as Hayward’s nurse, who steals the show—her scenes with Harrison are the best in the film.
House of Strangers
USA, 1949, 35mm, 101m
Writer Philip Yordan was assigned to develop a story from a single element in Jerome Weidman’s 1941 novel, I’ll Never Go There Any More. His producer, Sol Siegel, was dissatisfied and the assignment was turned over to Mankiewicz. The result, which he wrote (though Yordan received the credit) and directed, was this modern variant on the story of Joseph and his brothers. Edward G. Robinson is the domineering patriarch of the Monetti family, who has built a banking empire based on dubious business practices (the character was partly inspired by Amadeo Giannini, who founded Bank of America). When he is brought up on criminal charges, three of his four sons (played by Luther Adler, Paul Valentine, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) refuse to come to their father’s aid, and take control of his business. Only Max (Richard Conte), the favored son, sides with his father, and his brothers wage war on him. House of Strangers is often referred to as a film noir, but it is really a tough and elaborate drama of revenge and regeneration.
USA, 1953, 35mm, 120m
Mankiewicz’s first post-Fox film was this stark yet dynamic version of Shakespeare’s tragedy. He and producer John Houseman decided to mix American actors like Louis Calhern (as Caesar) and Edmond O’Brien (as Casca—Spencer Tracy assured the actor that he did the best work in the film), with English actors like James Mason (Brutus), Deborah Kerr (Portia), and, in his American-movie debut, John Gielgud as Cassius. Their most controversial notion originated with Houseman: Marlon Brando as Marc Antony, which was greeted with dismay by the American press. According to Mankiewicz, when Brando played him a tape he’d made of Antony’s speech to the senate, he told the actor that he sounded “exactly like June Allyson,” but Brando’s devotion and coaching from both Mankiewicz and Gielgud resulted in a performance that had the press and the public eating their words. According to Brando’s biographer Stefan Kanfer, the actor drew his emotional subtext from an immediate source: his anger over Elia Kazan’s friendly HUAC testimony.
The Late George Apley
USA, 1947, 35mm, 97m
John P. Marquand, the author of the source material for Mankiewicz’s third film, was born into the fading world of the New England elite (he was related to the transcendentalist Margaret Fuller and the theorist and architect Buckminster Fuller). His Mr. Moto detective novels made him famous before he switched literary gears with a series of sharp satires of the world he came from. The Late George Apley, the fictional biography of a Beacon Hill blue blood who tries and fails in small ways to revolt against the ironclad social restrictions of his little aristocratic universe, was one of his most popular and highly regarded novels, so accurately detailed that more than one Bostonian imagined Apley to be an actual person. Philip Dunne’s screenplay walks a fine line between the novel and the popular theatrical adaptation Marquand co-authored with George S. Kaufman. This is one of Mankiewicz’s most sheerly enjoyable movies, and Ronald Colman gives a delightful performance as George.
A Letter to Three Wives
USA, 1949, DCP, 103m
Mankiewicz considered this adaptation of John Klempner’s 1946 novel to be his first film as a full-fledged creator. “I read it and knew I had looked upon the Promised Land,” he said of Vera Caspary’s treatment, in which five wives had been cut down to four (Fox chief Darryl Zanuck brought it down to three by excising a wife that was to have been played by Anne Baxter). The final result is a bittersweet yet sparkling masterpiece, an intricately structured comic melodrama with a satirical eye on suburban striving. Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern, and Linda Darnell play the three wives who receive a letter from their mutual enemy Addie Ross (an unseen Celeste Holm) informing them that she will run away with one of their husbands. Constructed as a series of consecutive flashbacks from the POVs of each woman, the film quietly builds as it goes before soaring into the stratosphere with supermarket mogul Paul Douglas’s courtship of hard-nosed Darnell.
No Way Out
USA, 1950, 35mm, 106m
“[Sidney] Poitier’s entrance into motion pictures is a direct result of my seeing Pinky and exploding with rage and having a big fight with Darryl Zanuck about it,” said Mankiewicz about the origins of this corruscating film, the story of an African-American intern obliged to treat a vicious and violently racist criminal (brilliantly played by Richard Widmark) in a New York hospital. Mankiewicz tested about 18 actors before he found the young, electrically intense Poitier, whose work here catapulted him to stardom. No Way Out did indeed have a greater frankness than Pinky, Gentleman’s Agreement, or any of the other liberal films of the era that took on the subject of racism. “I wanted to shock moviegoers out of their seats,” said Mankiewicz. As a result, No Way Out was banned in Chicago (because of the fear that it might provoke “unrest and civil disorder”) and went unseen below the Mason-Dixon line.
People Will Talk
USA, 1951, 35mm, 110m
This 1951 adaptation of German playwright and filmmaker Curt Goetz’s Dr. Praetorious was one of Mankiewicz’s personal favorites among his films. The director himself, who did pre-med at Columbia, was always a “medical buff” according to his biographer Kenneth L. Geist, and this story of an unconventional physician (Cary Grant) who takes a personal approach to each of his patients was one of the director’s most autobiographical films. It is also one of his strangest: there’s something deeply mysterious and almost unsettling about the doctor’s Zen-like approach to life and work, particularly as embodied by Grant; and the character of Praetorious’s silent assistant Shunderson, played by the great Scottish actor Finlay Currie, gives the movie the aura of a fable. With Jeanne Crain as the woman Praetorious saves and marries, Sidney Blackmer as her father, and Hume Cronyn as the malevolent antagonist Dr. Elwell.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Somewhere in the Night.
The Quiet American
USA, 1958, 35mm, 120m
Mankiewicz’s version of Graham Greene’s 1955 novel set in French Indochina drew the ire of the novelist, who objected to the modification of his young American character Alden Pyle from an undercover CIA agent to an economist working for an NGO. But Mankiewicz’s shift in emphasis from the political toward a spiritual battle between Pyle and Fowler, the wizened British reporter, actually strengthens his source material on a dramatic level. Laurence Olivier was slated to play Fowler but dropped out when Audie Murphy was cast as Pyle—making the way for Michael Redgrave, who gives one of the finest performances in Mankiewicz’s entire body of work. The Quiet American, largely shot on location in Saigon, clicked with neither critics nor the public in 1958, but it has only become more impressive with the passing years. One devoted and eloquent fan, despite his reservations, ranked it the best film of 1958. His name was Jean-Luc Godard.
USA/UK, 1972, 138m
Mankiewicz’s swan song, this adaptation of Anthony Shaffer’s phenomenally successful stage play is a delightful, epic pas de deux between two great actors whose wildly varying temperaments and approaches to their craft are mirrored and echoed by the class distinctions embodied by their characters. Laurence Olivier is famed mystery author Andrew Wyke, who invites London hairdresser Milo Tindle, played by Michael Caine, to his country estate for the weekend. After Andrew reveals that he knows of Milo’s affair with his wife, an elaborate game of cat and mouse begins: the fun of the material lies in our continually shifting sense of which is which, modulated to perfection by Mankiewicz. Olivier was in the midst of great personal turmoil during the shoot—he was in the process of being fired from the artistic directorship of the National Theatre, which he had co-founded—but you would never know it from his spellbinding performance. As for Mankiewicz, it was a great way to go out.
Somewhere in the Night
USA, 1946, 35mm, 110m
“The further this unremembering gentleman pursues his mysterious past and confronts various odd and brutal characters, the more he—and you—become confused,” wrote the inimitable Bosley Crowther of Somewhere in the Night’s protagonist in his New York Times review. “Apparently he and his associates fit the pieces together in the end, but this writer is still completely baffled.” Crowther wasn’t alone—Mankiewicz’s second film, with the brooding John Hodiak as an amnesiac vet who prowls through L.A. in search of a man named Larry Cravat (and his own identity), might be the most crazily plotted of all films noirs. But nearly 70 years later, it is an atmospheric triumph, a series of evocatively rendered encounters with many richly drawn characters, including Fritz Kortner’s menacing Mr. Anzelmo. “I certainly wouldn’t have gone looking for it,” Mankiewicz later said of Somewhere in the Night, “and it wouldn’t have come looking for me.” Nonetheless, it’s one of the best of his early works.
Suddenly, Last Summer
USA, 1959, DCP, 114m
Mankiewicz was known for making dialogue-centric films, but this adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s play might be his most hyper-verbal. Elizabeth Taylor is Catherine, the traumatized niece of deranged Southern matriarch Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), who is desperate to eradicate the memory of her son’s horrifying death the summer before; Montgomery Clift is the brain surgeon called in to lobotomize Catherine, the one who remembers. The atmosphere is extreme Southern Gothic and the tone is deeply unhinged: the wildly conflicting emotional energies of Clift, Hepburn, Taylor, Williams, and Mankiewicz collide and sometimes explode, making for an extremely unorthodox and uniquely unsettling movie experience. Clift had difficulty keeping himself together throughout the shoot, Hepburn publicly spat in her director’s face, and Williams claimed to hate it. On the other hand, thanks to the lurid subject matter and an advertising campaign featuring Taylor in a bathing suit, Suddenly, Last Summer was one of Mankiewicz’s biggest hits.
There Was a Crooked Man…
USA, 1970, 35mm, 126m
By the late ’60s, many directors who had started working during the heyday of the studio system lost their bearings. The two major exceptions were John Huston and Mankiewicz, both of whom adapted to the seismic shifts in tone and style with great ease. Mankiewicz’s penultimate film, his only Western, was based on a screenplay by the two hottest writers of the moment, David Newman and Robert Benton, and their three irreverent sensibilities were well synchronized. Kirk Douglas is Paris Pitman, an outlaw in 1870s Arizona who has stolen and hidden away $500,000. Henry Fonda is the upright lawman who finds him and locks him away in the penitentiary, where he later becomes the warden. This often violent “Dickensian” (Mankiewicz’s term) comedy of mores and manners is peopled with a rich array of secondary characters played by Martin Gabel, Lee Grant, Warren Oates, Burgess Meredith, Arthur O’Connell, Gene Evans, and, as an elderly, squabbling couple, Hume Cronyn and John Randolph.
52nd NYFF Shorts films and descriptions follow:
In August / En Août
Jenna Hasse, Switzerland, 2014, 9m
As a family crumbles, a little girl goes on what may be her final joyride with her father.
Young Lions of Gypsy / A Ciambra
Jonas Carpignano, France/Italy, 2014, 16m
A Romani boy learns his street smarts from his older brother.
Sergei Rostropovich, Germany, 2014, 12m
Verging on Alzheimer’s, an aging actress (played by Hanna Schygulla) finds that the power of memory is stronger than ever.
Tal Zagreba, Israel, 2014, 5m
A mime inadvertently sets off a bizarre chain reaction…
A Paradise / Un Paraíso
Jayisha Patel, Cuba, 2013, 14m
Tragedy haunts a family—the circumstances of which run deep throughout their isolated Cuban village.
Jordan Schiele, China/Singapore/USA, 2014, 15m
A woman has bigger plans for the construction worker whose turtle she agrees to buy.
The Girl and the Dogs
Selma Vilhunen & Guillaume Mainguet, Denmark/Finland/France, 2014, 15m
Three teenage girls make an unexpected detour on the way to a party.
Tommy Davis' Hepburn.
Chlorine / Cloro
Marcelo Grabowsky, Brazil, 2014, 18m
Paradise is about to be lost for a filthy-rich family of questionable behavior.
The Return / Le Retour
Yohann Kouam, France, 2013, 20m
When the older brother he idolizes comes back home, Willy realizes that he doesn’t know him as well as he thought.
Tommy Davis, USA, 2014, 6m
A toddler is used as a distraction for an assassination attempt.
Federico Adorno, Paraguay, 2014, 14m
Peasants kicked off their farms return to bury the dead.
The Kármán Line
Oscar Sharp, UK, 2014, 24m
Due to an unusual condition, a suburban wife finds herself growing apart from her family.
Andrew Rodgers, USA, 2014, 6m
For some, a U.S. ban cannot abate the need for Kinder eggs.