ArchiveNovember 2020

Oedipus Wrecked: Walsh’s White Heat


The controversy stirred up by Raoul Walsh’s classic gangster film, White Heat—starring James Cagney as the deranged killer Cody Jarrett, American cinema’s most notorious psychopathic and deranged urban outlaw—was exactly what the director loved: fiction that made waves. This was the reason he made movies: for Walsh, controversy was good drama, therefore, good storytelling. Yet when American...

The Saga of Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail


Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail, released by Fox Film Corporation in 1930, is the director’s most far-reaching epic adventure. As if the scope of the film wasn’t large enough—cutting across seven U.S. states during filming–Walsh’s personal challenge was no less epic. Less than two years earlier he’d lost his right eye in a jeep accident while on location shooting what would have been his and...

The Hidden Hazards of Black and White Movies


When I began researching my biography of the American film director George Stevens, my daughter, Lizzie, had just turned eight. She was a smart, intuitive kid for her age, and downright sophisticated by the time I put down the last pencil and collected the last job from my printer for the book. I liked to think that the wit and wisdom Stevens gave the females in his films — Katharine...

Reconstructing Evil


Orson Welles’ 1958 psychological and visual masterpiece Touch of Evil has been reshaped and reconstituted with no less frequency than an Alfred Hitchcock film in the hands of a feminist. The film – which brought us those great “screen lovers” Mexican-American cop Vargas (Chariton Heston) and swampy, I-am-your-worst-nightmare Quinlan (Welles) — was taken from Welles by Universal...

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