|Beat the Devil: The Films of JOHN HUSTON
Part I - THE MALTESE FALCON to MOBY DICK
Part I THE MALTESE FALCON to MOBY DICK
"Many Irishmen divide their lives into periods when they had
certain horses. When a man lives out seven or eight horses, hes led a long
life." John Huston.
One of the most colorful, durable and brilliantly gifted figures in
Hollywood history, the son of actor Walter Huston, director, actor and screenwriter John
Huston (1906 1987) began his career at age 3 on the vaudeville circuit. Frail
and sickly as a child, Huston overcame his disabilities to become an amateur boxing
champion in his teens (he carried a broken nose all his life as a result, and once battled
Errol Flynn to a standstill in a legendary brawl at David O. Selznicks house). After
a brief stint as an actor in New York in the 1920s, Huston turned his talents to
writing; his work in the 1930s and 40s on such films as JEZEBEL, HIGH SIERRA
and SERGEANT YORK established him as one of the most sought-after screenwriters in the
After making his directorial debut with THE MALTESE FALCON in 1941,
Huston followed with an astonishing run of popular and critical hits, many starring
Humphrey Bogart, including ACROSS THE PACIFIC, THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (which won
Academy Awards for Best Picture, Direction, and Best Supporting Actor for Hustons
father, Walter), KEY LARGO and THE AFRICAN QUEEN. He served with distinction in the Army
during WWII, where he directed the classic documentary SAN PIETRO. Huston was an outspoken
critic of the Communist witchhunts of the late 40s and early 50s, forming the
Committee for the First Amendment to protect the free-speech rights of filmmakers targeted
by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Married and divorced numerous times, Huston
was legendary for his appetites for drink, gambling and women. He lived for many years in
magnificent splendor at his Irish country home, St. Clerans, where he became (to his great
pride) Master of the local fox hunt and kept his collection of modern and pre-Columbian
art. He counted among his friends such figures as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck,
Humphrey Bogart, Carson McCullers, Pauline and Philippe de Rothschild, Orson Welles and
many others. He was also a life-long animal lover, and his homes were invariably filled
with a menagerie of dogs, cats, chimpanzees, snakes, ocelots, macaws and more.
Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Huston remained
one of the most acclaimed and bankable directors in Hollywood, with such films as THE
MISFITS, NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, FAT CITY, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING and WISE BLOOD to his
credit. Huston also established himself as an actor with his craggy features and
instantly-recognizable voice in such films as MYRA BRECKINRIDGE, WINTER KILLS and (most
famously) CHINATOWN. Late in his career as a director, Huston experienced a tremendous
renaissance with his final three films: UNDER THE VOLCANO, PRIZZIS HONOR and THE
DEAD. John Huston passed away in 1987 at the age of 81.
[Part II of the Cinematheques major John
Huston Retrospective will screen in early 2004.]
Friday, November 21 7:30 PM
THE MALTESE FALCON, 1941, Warner
Bros., 101 min. Dir. John Huston. Based on Dashiell Hammetts novel, this
classic mystery gives life to Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and a masterfully drawn
group of characters involved in a dangerous and double-crossing hunt for a bejeweled
golden falcon statue. The first-rate cast includes Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter
Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Hustons father, Walter.
ACROSS THE PACIFIC, 1942,
Warner Bros., 97 min. Dir. John Huston. Sensing a good thing, Warner Bros. re-teamed
director John Huston and the main cast from MALTESE FALCON for this war-time thriller. Humphrey
Bogart stars as a disgraced officer on a freighter to Yokohama, who takes time out to
romance enigmatic Alberta (Mary Astor) while matching wits with Dr. Lorenz (Sydney
Greenstreet), a subversive in league with Japanese spies bent on blowing up the Panama
Canal. Huston went into the military before the film wrapped, and Vincent Sherman was
called in to complete the last few days of shooting. Discussion
between films with Danny Huston, son of director John Huston.
Saturday, November 22 8:00 PM
SAN PIETRO, 1945, US Army Pictorial
Services, 32 min. Hustons classic wartime documentary focused on the fierce battle
between American and German forces over the tiny Italian town of San Pietro in December,
1943. "We moved up through the area of attacks and counter-attacks
remember remarking to someone that we had seen more dead that day than living."
John Huston. Note that we will be screening Hustons personal print of SAN
PIETRO, on generous loan from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Film
THE AFRICAN QUEEN, 1951,
Paramount, 105 min. Dir. John Huston. Gin-soaked captain Humphrey Bogart decides
to take pity on skinny, psalm-singin-g spinster Katharine Hepburn after her brother
is killed in a German attack during WWI and instead, winds up falling in love, and
ferrying her downriver to launch a suicidal assault on a German warship! Brilliantly
adapted from the C.S. Forester novel by Huston and James Agee (with uncredited help from
Peter Viertel, whose novel White Hunter, Black Heart was inspired by his time in
Africa during filming), and photographed by legendary British d.p. Jack Cardiff. Discussion following with actor Theodore Bikel.
Sunday, November 23 5:00 PM
KEY LARGO, 1948, Warner Bros., 101
min. Dir. John Huston. Humphrey Bogart is Frank McCloud, a down on his luck veteran
visiting the father (Lionel Barrymore) and sister (Lauren Bacall) of his
dead WWII buddy at their Florida Keys hotel just as a hurricane is about to hit. To make
matters worse, on-the-run mobster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) has decided to
lay low there with his moll (Claire Trevor) and henchmen (among them, evil Thomas
Gomez) while waiting to abscond to Cuba. One of Hustons finest films, based on
Maxwell Andersons stage play.
WE WERE STRANGERS, 1949,
Columbia, 106 min. One of Hustons most rarely-screened films, WE WERE STRANGERS is a
tense, atmospheric thriller starring the great John Garfield as an American
expatriate in 1930s Cuba who hooks up with the lovely Jennifer Jones in a
daring plan to tunnel under a local cemetery and assassinate the corrupt head of the
government. Discussion following KEY LARGO with actors Harry
Lewis and Marc Lawrence.
Friday, November 28 7:30 PM
THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, 1950, Warner
Bros., 112 min. With Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, Jean Hagen. The
kingpin of caper films, featuring one of the best ensemble casts ever. Director John
Huston's neo-realist take on the ambitions of small-time hoods brought a new level of
empathy and authenticity to crime - that "left-handed form of human endeavor."
Famous as the film that introduced Marilyn Monroe, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE deserves renewed
recognition as a crucial work of noir Americana.
THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE,
1951, Warner Bros., 69 min. Until the last decade, this was regarded as one of director
John Hustons lower profile pictures, but with each passing year its stature and
merits continue to grow. A profoundly moving rendition of Stephen Cranes classic
novel of the Civil War with Audie Murphy exceptional as Henry Fleming, the young
soldier wracked by self-doubt, and the offbeat Bill Mauldin (the most famous political/war
cartoonist of the era) equally good as his friend. With Royal Dano, Arthur Hunnicutt. Discussion following ASPHALT JUNGLE with actor Marc Lawrence and before
RED BADGE with actor Robert Easton.
Saturday, November 29 5:00 PM
THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA
MADRE, 1948, Warner Bros., 126 min. Based on the novel by famous recluse B.
Traven, TREASURE stars Humphrey Bogart in one of his greatest roles as flea-bitten
adventurer Fred C. Dobbs, who hooks up with fellow packrats Tim Holt and Walter Huston
to search for gold in the mountains of Mexico. The film that launched a thousand
imitations with the classic refrain "we dont need no badges."
Winner of Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director (John Huston) and Supporting Actor
Saturday, November 29 7:45 PM
BEAT THE DEVIL, 1953, Columbia,
100 min. Dir. John Huston. Criminally underrated satire in which Humphrey
Bogart, Peter Lorre and Huston reunite to spoof their beloved MALTESE FALCON and the
movies it inspired. Also on board are Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollabrigida and the
very Sidney Greenstreet-ish Robert Morley. None other than Truman Capote wrote the
deliriously wicked script.
MOULIN ROUGE, 1952, MGM/UA, 119
min. Dir. John Huston. John Hustons heartbreakingly romantic portrait of the
infamous Parisian dance hall stars Jose Ferrer as its most famous patron, painter
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Co-starring Zsa Zsa Gabor as the Can Can dancer who breaks
Toulouse-Lautrecs heart. Academy Award winner for Best Art Direction and Costumes.
Sunday, November 30 4:00 PM
Screenwriter Ray Bradbury In Person!
MOBY DICK, 1956, MGM/UA, 116 min. Gregory
Peck stars as Ahab in Hustons heroic attempt to translate Herman Melvilles
masterpiece to the screen (aided by a powerful adaptation by screenwriter Ray Bradbury.)
Admittedly uneven, the film manages to capture the epic sweep and near-Biblical tone of
the novel, and features an astonishing cameo by Orson Welles as Father Mapple. "MOBY
DICK was the most difficult picture I ever made. I lost so many battles during it that I
even began to suspect that my assistant director was plotting against me. Then I realized
it was only God." John Huston. Discussion
following with screenwriter Ray Bradbury (schedule permitting).
Please be aware of the Hollywood Christmas
Parade street closure on Nov. 30. Hollywood Boulevard will be closed, access theatre from
the south and walk up Las Palmas.