American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre Presents...
Making Movie History for 80 Years!

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Series compiled by:   Dennis Bartok. Additional notes by Chris D.
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The Film Programs of the American Cinematheque are presented at the magnificently renovated, historic 1922 Grauman's Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. Located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard.
Photo Credit: Randall Michelson. Detail of Egyptian Theatre Ceiling.

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<<< November 21 - 30, 2003 >>>

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, he’s 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. Selznick’s house). After a brief stint as an actor in New York in the 1920’s, Huston turned his talents to writing; his work in the 1930’s and 40’s on such films as JEZEBEL, HIGH SIERRA and SERGEANT YORK established him as one of the most sought-after screenwriters in the industry.

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 Huston’s 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 40’s and early 50’s, 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 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, 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, PRIZZI’S HONOR and THE DEAD. John Huston passed away in 1987 at the age of 81.

[Part II of the Cinematheque’s major John Huston Retrospective will screen in early 2004.]

 

Friday, November 21 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

THE MALTESE FALCON, 1941, Warner Bros., 101 min. Dir. John Huston. Based on Dashiell Hammett’s 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 Huston’s 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

Double Feature:

SAN PIETRO, 1945, US Army Pictorial Services, 32 min. Huston’s 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 … I remember remarking to someone that we had seen more dead that day than living." – John Huston. Note that we will be screening Huston’s personal print of SAN PIETRO, on generous loan from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Film Archive.

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

Double Feature:

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 Huston’s finest films, based on Maxwell Anderson’s stage play.

WE WERE STRANGERS, 1949, Columbia, 106 min. One of Huston’s most rarely-screened films, WE WERE STRANGERS is a tense, atmospheric thriller starring the great John Garfield as an American expatriate in 1930’s 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

Double Feature:

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 Huston’s lower profile pictures, but with each passing year its stature and merits continue to grow. A profoundly moving rendition of Stephen Crane’s 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 don’t need no badges." Winner of Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director (John Huston) and Supporting Actor (Walter Huston).

 

Saturday, November 29 – 7:45 PM

Double Feature:

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 Huston’s 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-Lautrec’s 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 Huston’s heroic attempt to translate Herman Melville’s 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.