Our video blog series Gus & Travis Talk Film is back with a special edition about a film we are making starring Tom Sizemore, Pam Grier, Dina Meyer, Peter Bogdanovich, Michael Richards and Joe Don Baker titled Durant’s Never Closes.
Peter Bogdanovich’s tribute the contested greatest American filmmaker, John Ford, is itself one the best films ever made about filmmaking. Watching it again, I found some of these quotations about the “man who made Westerns” to be worth repeat.
Martin Scorsese: John Ford is the essence of classical American cinema and any serious person working in film today is effected by him, whether they know it or not.
Clint Eastwood: He was not influenced by a politically correct generation that we live in today. He could go flat out. And I think that was an imprint of Ford’s, where Ford was afraid of nothing.
Harry Carey Jr.: He kept saying, you’re going to hate me when the movie’s over, but you’re going to give a good performance. Well, I hated him after the first day.
Walter Hill: He always said I had a thousand fights with the Studio and I lost them all. But then there’s Grapes of Wrath and My Darling Clementine. I’d like to lose some fights like that.
Maureen O’Hara: He was an instinctive con-man. It was impossible to know when to believe him and when to disbelieve him.
Just about anyone who pays attention to movies and their makers know who he is. Generally speaking he is viewed as a quite good director, an okay actor and a wonderful raconteur. But the area I value him most is in his role as an anthropologist of old Hollywood (a period ranging approximately from the 1920s through the 50s) because for anyone who is interested in the creative state of its “Golden era” his two books on the subject are invaluable. The first is Who the Devil Made It (Conversations with legendary directors – 1997), the other is Who the Hell’s in it (Conversations with Hollywood’s legendary actors – 2004). Both books have great introductions that give us carefully detailed accounts of what the various individuals were like and how Bogdanovich got to know them.
Bogdanovich in his 20s going into his 30s worked as a stage and film critic, a journalist, a stage director and an aspiring filmmaker. But he was also a fan and aficionado of the films coming out of the Studio System from the silents right up to the mid to late fifties. And when he finally got to Hollywood first as a reporter and later as a wunderkind director it seems that he made it his business to meet and befriend nearly everyone who had been around and working during those creatively halcyon times. Luckily for us he recorded many of his conversations with them and through these conversations we get to know George Cukor, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet up close and personal. And it’s the same with actors and personalities like Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, Jerry Lewis, Anthony Perkins, Marilyn Monroe and others. Through their conversations and his reminisces we get a full and lively portrait of a time gone by when Hollywood wasn’t just a place where movies were made but dreams were manufactured. Dreams that have shaped and influenced our lives in ways we couldn’t even begin to itemize or collate.
His other book that bears recommending is This Is Orson Welles (1992). It is to my mind the best and most intimate portrait of cinema’s great enfant terrible that I have come across in print. He was a long time friend of Welles and the book was a collaboration between them. The intent was for Welles to record his perspective on the various aspects of his life and career that he felt had been misrepresented in too many other places. For a variety of reasons the book was never completed and the tapes were put aside for more than a decade. Then in 1987, two years after Welles’ death Bogdanovich and Oja Kodar (Welles’ companion) enlisted the aid of Jonathan Rosenbaum to edit the tapes and put then in publishable form. The result is this wonderful book that brings us as close to Welles as we will probably ever get.
There is a rumor that another close friend of Orson Welles, filmmaker Henry Jaglom has several hours of taped conversations with the great man. If this is true hopefully he will one day share this treasure he possesses and publish them. But till then we have Bogdanovich’s book to read, savor and re-read over and over again.
Peter Bogdanovich has been praised and pilloried in the pages of the popular press for a variety of reasons. But I don’t believe he has ever been properly appreciated and thanked for wonderful service he has done for the millions of fans and scholars of old Hollywood and the wonderful films, memories and dreams it has produced. Hungrily we look forward for more books from him. But for what he has given us thus far mere words on paper can’t communicate how grateful we are. THANK YOU PETER. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS.
The term “authentic American primitives” was coined by French New Wave filmmakers in admiration for their Hollywood heroes. Here we revive it and will occasionally write about American directors who paved a tradition in a country’s pictures. These films are not perfect in the typically sophisticated way of looking at art and literature. They are sophisticated in their own manner, by their own rules. When I think of the American tradition established by these directors, some of these words come to mind: crude, unfinished, cheap, robust, and like the French said, not only authentic but primitive.
Joseph H. Lewis
Nickname: Wagon Wheel Joe
“I carried a box filled with different wagon wheels. Whenever I’d come to a scene which was just disgraceful in dialogue and all, I’d place a wagon wheel in one portion of the frame, and make an artistic shot out of it, so by the time the scene was over you only saw the artistic value and couldn’t analyze what the scene was about.”
Terror in a Texas Town
The camera picks up at the waist of a man in black clothes with two black guns. We follow him into the street where he and the whaler stand off. He asks the whaler if he’s close enough to throw the harpoon. The whaler says nothing. The gunfighter tells him to come closer.
The titles come up: TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN
After previews of the film he directed, My Name is Julia Ross, on being called into the top producer’s office:
He said, “Please, sit down, sit down.” He had a huge office, and I can’t tell you why, but I sat on the floor. So he came around from his desk–his associate producer was with him–and they sat on the floor with me and crossed their legs as I did. He said, “Tell me, Joe. What kind of technique do you have? I’m bamboozled by your technique… You have celluloid running through your veins, not blood. Every foot of film has your name on it, every frame your signature… How do you approach a film? Tell me about it.” I said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
-From Peter Bogdanovich’s book, “Who The Devil Made It”