Alexander and Zoltan Korda
While the British cinema was producing crime movies with low budgets (non costosi), some English film directors chose (scelsero) to move to America, where the market required more spectacular and rich productions with elaborate costumes and settings (scene). One of the first British director, successful on the overseas cinemas was Alexander Korda (1893- 1956), who directed The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), starring Charles Laughton (Henry), Robert Donat, Elsa Lanchester, Merle Oberon and James Mason. The English director continued with other historical movies: Rembrand (1936) always starring Charles Laughton and The Thief of Bagdad (1940) with Douglas Fairbanks. Between 1934 and 1936 Paul Czinner (1890-1972), directed Catherine the Great and Harold French (1897-1997) The Scarlet Pimpernel starring Leslie Howard. Zoltan Corda (1895-1961), brother of Alexander’s and former (prima) cavalry officer in Hungary, made a number of military action/adventure films, many of which were filmed in Africa or India such as Bozzambo, or Sanders of the River (1935) in Africa and Elephant Boy (1937), inspired by R. Kipling’s The Jungle Books in Asia. His production also includes 1939’s The Four Feathers, starring Sir Ralph Richardson, his greatest cinematic success; Sahara (1943), starring Humphrey Bogart and A Woman’s Vengeance (1947) with Charles Boyer and Jessica Tandy.The Second World War is often presented as the “golden age” of British movies as the war itself provided topics for film makers. Many of the most famous films from the 1939-45 period mix action films on war topics with love stories and other features (caratteristiche) of conventional entertainment cinema. Even the government recognized the values (valore) of the cinema and did because it was a mean to sustain civilian (civili) spirits and a channel (canali) for propaganda.
David Lean (1908 – 1991) in a strict Quaker family (ironically, as a child he wasn’t allowed to go to the movies). During the 1920s he briefly considered the possibility of becoming an accountant like his father before finding a job in a cinema studio in 1927. He worked as tea boy, clapper boy, messenger, then newsreel cutter and finally feature film editor, notably for Anthony Asquith, Paul Czinner and Michael Powell.
By the end of the 1930s Lean’s reputation as an editor was very well established. In 1942 Noel Coward gave Lean the chance to co-direct with him the war film Eroi del mare (1942). Shortly after, with the encouragement of Coward, Lean, cinematographer Ronald Neame and producer ‘Anthony Havelock-Allan’ launched a production company called Cineguild. For that firm Lean first directed adaptations of three plays by Coward: the chronicle La famiglia Gibbon (1944), the humorous ghost story Spirito allegro (1945) and, most notably, the sentimental drama Breve incontro (1945). Originally a box-office failure in England, “Brief Encounter” was presented at the very first Cannes film festival (1946), where it won almost unanimous praises as well as a Grand Prize.
From Coward, Lean switched to Charles Dickens, directing two well-regarded adaptations: Grandi speranze (1946) and Le avventure di Oliver Twist (1948). The latter, starring Alec Guinness in his first major movie role, was criticized by some, however, for potential anti-Semitic inflections. The two last films made under the Cineguild banner were Sogno d’amanti (1949), a romance from a novel by H.G. Wells, and the true crime story L’amore segreto di Madeleine (1950). Neither had a significant impact on critics or audiences.
The Cineguild partnership came to an end after a dispute between Lean and Neame. Lean’s first post-Cineguild production was the aviation drama Ali del futuro (1952), a great box-office success in England and his most spectacular movie so far. He followed with two sophisticated comedies based on theatrical plays: Hobson il tiranno (1954) and the Anglo-American co-production Tempo d’estate (1955). Both were well received and “Hobson’s Choice” won the Golden Bear at the 1954 Berlin film festival.
Lean’s next movie was pivotal in his career, as it was the first of those grand scale-epic he would become renown for. Il ponte sul fiume Kwai (1957) was produced by Sam Spiegel from a novel by ‘Pierre Boulle’, adapted by blacklisted writers Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman. Shot in Ceylon under extremely difficult conditions, the film was an international success and triumphed at the Oscars, winning seven awards, most notably best film and director.
Lean and Spiegel followed with an even more ambitious film, Lawrence d’Arabia (1962), based on “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, the autobiography of T.E. Lawrence. Starring relative newcomer Peter O’Toole, this film was the first collaboration between Lean and writer Robert Bolt, cinematographer Freddie Young and composer Maurice Jarre. The shooting itself took place in Spain, Morocco and Jordan over a period of 20 months. Initial reviews were mixed and the film was trimmed down shortly after its world premiere and cut even more during a 1971 re-release. Like its predecessor, it won seven Oscars, once again including best film and director.
The same team of Lean, Bolt, Young and Jarre next worked on an adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel “Dr. Zhivago” for producer Carlo Ponti. Il dottor Zivago (1965) was shot in Spain and Finland, standing in for revolutionary Russia and, despite divided critics, was hugely successful, as was Jarre’s musical score. The film won five Oscars out of ten nominations, but the statuettes for film and director went to Tutti insieme appassionatamente (1965).
Lean’s next movie, the sentimental drama La figlia di Ryan (1970), did not reach the same heights. The original screenplay by Robert Bolt was produced by old associate Anthony Havelock-Allan, and Lean once again secured the collaboration of Freddie Young and Maurice Jarre. The shooting in Ireland lasted about a year, much longer than expected. The film won two Oscars; but, for the most part, critical reaction was tepid, sometimes downright derisive, and the general public didn’t really respond to the movie.
This relative lack of success seems to have inhibited Lean’s creativity for a while. But towards the end of the seventies, he started to work again with Robert Bolt on an ambitious two-part movie about the Bounty mutiny. The project fell apart and was eventually recuperated by Dino De Laurentiis. Lean was then approached by producers John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin to adapt E.M. Forster’s novel “A Passage to India”, a book Lean had been interested in for more than 20 years. For the first time in his career; Lean wrote the adaptation alone, basing himself partly on Santha Rama Rau’s stage version of the book. Lean also acted as his own editor. Passaggio in India (1984) opened to mostly favorable reviews and performed quite well at the box-office. It was a strong Oscar contender, scoring 11 nominations. It settled for two wins, losing the trophy battle to Milos Forman’s Amadeus (1984).
Lean spent the last few years of his life preparing an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s meditative adventure novel “Nostromo”. He also participated briefly in Richard Harris’ restoration of “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1988. In 1990 Lean received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement award. He died of cancer in April 1991, shortly before the shooting of “Nostromo” was about to begin.
Lean was known on sets for his extreme perfectionism and autocratic behavior, an attitude that sometimes alienated his cast or crew. Though his cinematic approach, classic and refined, clearly belongs to a bygone era, his films have aged rather well and his influence can still be found in movies like Il paziente inglese (1996) and Titanic (1997). In 1999 the British Film Institute compiled a list of the 100 favorite British films of the 20th century. Five by David Lean appeared in the top 30, three of them in the top five.
The American film director John Ford (1894 – 1973) was born on February 1, 1894, in Maine. He felt a strong attraction for his Irish roots which he explored but reached popularity for his poetic visions of the American West, depicting its harsh (duri) heroes and pioneering families. Ford left Maine for Hollywood in 1913, and worked there as a stagehand (macchinista teatrale) and prop man (tecnico). In 1817 Ford directed the western film The Tornado, the first of a long series of silent films (film muti), many of which were Westerns. In 1934 he shot Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, his close friend (amico intimo). This film helped make Wayne became a star and the two continued to work together over the years. In 1935 he received the Academy Award (Oscar) for the Irish film The Informer. These successes were followed by the adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel, Grapes of Wrath (Furore – 1940), which brought Ford his second Academy Award. The film starred (interpretato) Henry Fonda, another Ford’s friend with whom he had already made other films like Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) and Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). With How Green Was My Valley (1941) Ford won the third Academy Award for Best Director. In late 1940s Ford shot his most popular films: Fort Apache (1948) with Wayne and Fonda; She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950). A successful film which was not a western, but a romantic drama was The Quiet Man (1952) in which Wayne is an American boxer (pugile) with a bad reputation who moves to Ireland where he falls in love with a local woman. During the later years , Ford continued to create great Westerns and worked with Jimmy Stewart on several films, including the classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). His last film was instead about a group of female missionaries working in China in the 1930s, 7 Women (1966) starring Anne Bancroft. Ford died on August 31, 1973, in Palm Desert, California.
John Marcellus Huston
John Marcellus Huston (1906 –1987) the titan, rebel, the renaissance man of Hollywood, was an American film director who also wrote the screenplays (sceneggiature) for his movies. As he had studied and worked as an art painter in Paris, he directed his films with the ideas of an artist exploring the visual aspects. He used to sketch (disegnare, schizzare) the scenes on paper and outlined (delineare) his characters during the making of the film. Huston was often inspired by classics of literature and adapted novels like or The Maltese Falcon (1941) by D. Hammett The Red Badge of Courage (1951) by Stephen Crane, Moby Dick (1956) by H. Melville, and The Man Who Would Be King by R. Kipling (1975). Most of the themes he dealt with (trattò) – religion, meaning, truth, freedom, psychology, colonialism and war – were seen from two different and opposite points of view of people who fight for the same goal (meta) and are condemned not to reach what they are struggling for. Other Huston’s masterpieces are The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), The Misfits (1961). Huston received 15 Oscar nominations, and won twice.
Joseph Losey (1909- 1984) belonged to (apparteneva a) an important American family and was educated at Harvard, beginning as a student of medicine and ending in drama. He got fame as a stage director in New York political theatre, with the like Sinclair Lewis’s Jayhawker , then he spent some months in the USSR to study the Russian stage (1936). Back to America, he arrived in Hollywood just after the Second World War. His first film was a political allegory The Boy with Green Hair (1947). The same year he staged in Broadway (portò sul palcoscenico di Broadway) the first English language version of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo starring Charles Laughton – Losey had met the German author and probably studied with him. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC – a committee created to investigate private citizens or organizations suspected of having Communist ties –legami ) started being interested in Losey because in the 1930s and 40s he had extensive contacts with people on the political left. Losey collaborated with composer (compositore) Hanns Eisler on a “political cabaret” from 1937 to 1939 and in 1946, he joined (si unì) the Communist Party as he felt “useless in Hollywood” – he explained. It became difficult for him to work in America because of the Communist witch- hunt (caccia alle streghe)and, after a period in Rome, he decided to leave America and settle (stabilirsi) in England (1953). His first British films were a noir crime thriller The Sleeping Tiger (1954) and The Intimate Stranger (1956) shot under pseudonym because the actors feared being blacklisted (temevano di essere messi nella lista nera )by Hollywood. In 1960 Losey started his collaboration – and then a close friendship – with playwright Harold Pinter. He directed three films based on Pinter’s screenplays: The Servant (1963, winner of three Academy Awards), Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1971), each of them examines the politics of sexuality, gender, and class in 1960s and 1970s Britain. In 1975, Losey realized a film adaptation of Brecht’s Galileo released as Life of Galileo starring Topo; in Monsieur Klein (1976; starring Alain Delon) he examined the period when Jews in and around Paris were arrested for deportation and in 1979 Losey filmed Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, in Villa La Rotonda and the Veneto region of Italy. Losey also worked with Pinter on The Proust Screenplay (1972), an adaptation of A la recherche du temps perdu (alla ricerca del tempo perduto) by Marcel Proust but he died before the project’s financing (finanziamento)could be assembled.
Martin Scorzese (1942)’s grandparents were Sicilian. They migrated to the U.S.A. and settled in New York City’s Little Italy. He attended cinemas more than sports fields because of his asthma, and showed a great passion for painting and comic strip drawing (disegnare vignette). Martin hoped to become either a painter or a movie actor, but because of his religious feelings he decided to become a Catholic priest – priests were respected also crime bosses in his neighbourhood. At 14, he began studying at theological college, but, in the 1950s he was seduced by rock and roll and was expelled from the seminary. So, Scorsese returned to his first love, movies. He graduated in 1964 with some movies that caught the eye (colpirono) of director Roger Corman, who took Scorsese under his wing together with Francis Ford Coppola. Scorsese began to collaborate with Harvey Keitel, then a theatre actor. Scorsese’s legend started in 1973 with Mean Streets, an autobiographical tale of a group of young Italian-Americans living and dying in NYC; the actors were Harvey Keitel in the leading role and Robert De Niro as the unstable Johnny Boy. The following year, Scorsese made Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More, a portrayal of a woman’s struggle with domesticity. In 1976 Scorzese shot Taxi Driver with De Niro in the role of a disturbed Vietnam veteran and taxi driver, and Jodie Foster as teenage prostitute in need of redemption. Scorzese won the first Oscar as best director in 1980 for Raging Bull, based on the autobiography of boxer Jake La Motta, again starring De Niro . Other five nomination got The Color of Money, starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. The Last Temptation of Christ was finished n 1988, accused of blasphemy. In 1990 he released the largely popular Italian-American gangster film GoodFellas with De Niro and Ray Liotta; in 1991 Cape Fear was the most commercially successful film and launched the career of Juliette Lewis. In 1991 Scorzese shot The Age of Innocence, based on Edith Wharton’s novel about high society in 19th century New York. Other hits were Casino (1995) with Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci; Gangs of New York (2000) about Irish immigrants to New York in the 19th century, which started a series of collaborations with actor Leonardo DiCaprio who triumphed again with The Aviator, (2004) about Howard Hughes biopic;L The Departed, an Irish-American crime story set in South Boston; Shutter Island a detective sent to investigate in a mental asylum and Hugo, based on the children’s historical book The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2011)
Roberto Rossellini was born on the 8 May 1906, in Rome, Italy . He was immersed in the cinema from the very beginning: his father opened Italy’s first cinema and he grew up watching movies in his father’s movie-house. After an apprenticeship as an assistant to Italian filmmakers, he his first film, a documentary, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, in 1937. Close friend of Benito Mussolini’s second son, the critic and film producer Vittorio Mussolini, Rossellini’s art developed in fascist Italy’s cinema. When the Duce was deposed, Rossellini produced his first classic film, the anti-fascist Roma, città aperta (1945) (Rome, Open City) in 1945, which won the Grand Prize at Cannes and got two nominations for the script written by Sergio Amidei and Federico Fellini. The success was followed by Paisà (1946) (Paisan) nominated for a screen-writing Oscar in 1950 and Germania anno zero (1948) (Germany in the Year Zero). Rosselini used to say: “I do not want to make beautiful films, I want to make useful films. […]I try to capture reality, nothing else.” : for this reason he often used non-professional actors, and shaped (adattò) his scripts to their life-stories. His way of making films was called neo-realism, a current he brought on (portò Avanti) together with Vittorio De Sica and Luchino Visconti, and the way of film making changed forever. They influenced France’s nouvelle vague movement in the 1950s and ’60s, and even though (anche se) Hollywood was an example of “well-made” film, they were the Italian directors who once again put Italy at the forefront (avanguardia) of international cinema after the Second World War. American director Elia Kazan – who shot On the Waterfront (1954) – and more recently Martin Scorsese – Taxi Driver (1976) – admitted they have followed Rossellini’s example. Rossellini was also called in India to help revitalize (per rivitalizzare) that country’s film industry and continued to make films until nearly his death ( June 3, 1977). His last film Il Messia (1975) (The Messiah), a story of The Passion of Christ, was released in 1975.
Roman Polanski is a Polish (Polacco) film director, producer, writer and actor. He was born in Paris in 1933, but the family went back to Poland just two years before the beginning of the war and were all sent to the Krakow ghetto. Captured by the Germans his father was sent to Mauthausen-Gusen in Austria, and survived the war, his mother was sent to Auschwitz and died. When he was only seven, Roman saw the capture of his parents, escaped the ghetto, survived the war pretending (facendo finta di )to be Catholic . He suffered ill treatments (maltrattamenti), he lived his life as a tramp (vagabondo), always hidden and eating whatever (qualunque coaa)he could steal or find. At 12 years old, some Nazi soldiers who forced him to hold targets (tenere bersagli) ) while they shot at them (mentre loro sparavano). At the end of the war he met his father and could attend (frequentare) a technical school, but soon he revealed his attitude and started as an actor and appeared in Andrzej Wajda’s Generazione (1955) before studying at the Lodz Film School. His early short films – Two men and a Wardrobe (1958), Le gros et le maigre (1961) and Mammals (1962) – reveled his black humor and interest in bizarre human relationships. His real debut , Il coltello nell’acqua (Nóż w wodzie, 1962), was also the first Polish movie not committed (non connesso) with the war and get an Oscar nomination for best foreign film (miglior film straniero). Then Polanski left for France and started his collaboration with scriptwriter, Gérard Brach, with whom he made Repulsion (1965), Cul-de-sac (1966) and The Fearless. These successes were followed by Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, Madam, but Your Teeth Are in My Neck (also as Dance of the Vampires, ) and the psychological thriller Rosemary’s Baby (both 1968), shot in Hollywood,: But after the cruel murder (massacre) of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate, by the infamous Manson gang in 1969, he went back to Europe. Back to Hollywood, in 1974, he made Macbeth (1971), Chinatown (1974). Again misfortune stoke Polanski in America: he was accused of the rape (stupro) of a 13-year old girl and was forced to leave the States again. Other successful films were Tess (1979), awarded several Oscars , Pirates (1986), the Pianist (2002), Oliver Twist (2005), Carnage (2011).
Born in New York (1928), because of his poor results at school, Stanley Kubrick was introduced by his father to chess (scacchi). Kubrick soon became a skilled player (abile giocatore). His father also introduced little Stanley to the cinema giving him a camera for his thirteenth birthday: Kubrick became an avid photographer, and at the age of seventeen was offered a job as an apprentice photographer. In the next few years, he became a voracious movie-goer (frequentatore di cinema). In 1950 he took all his savings (risparmi) and made a documentary Day of the Fight (1951), soon followed by Flying Father (1951), The Seafarers (1953), and Fear and Desire (1953) shot in California. The success came with Killer’s kiss (1955) and The Killing (1956) which brought him (lo portarono) to the attention of Hollywood, and in Path of Glory (Sentieri di Gloria, 1957)starring Kirk Douglas who called him as producer of Spartacus (1960). Soon Kubrick grew disenchanted with Hollywood and moved permanently to England where he directed Lolita (1962), Dr Strangelove (Il Dott. Stranamore, 1964) two films quire risky for their topics. But they both were very successful and allowed Kubrick the financial and artistic freedom to work on any project he desired. He made 2001: A Space Odissey (1968), followed this with A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975). Meanwhile his insistent demands of dedication and perfection of cast had become legendary. Shining (1980), the first horror movie by Kubrick was criticized by the writer Stephen King who didn’t like Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel. Full Metal Jacket (1987) continued Kubrick’s tradition of solid critical acclaim, and profit at the box office. While producing the work AI: Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the 1990s Kubrick announced his next project as Eyes Wide Shut (1999), starring the then-married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Unfortunately during the production of A.I. – Intelligenza artificiale Kubrick tragically suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep on March 7th, 1999 and Spielberg completed the last Kubrick project.
Terence Fisher (1904 – 1980; London) was one of the most remarkable horror film directors after the 1950s. Brought up by his grandma in a small English village, he left school to join (arruolarsi) the English Navy. Soon Fisher understood life on ships was not what he really desired and changed several works. He started working in the cinema industry first as editor, then, at 43, as a film director. His debut was with Portrait from Life (1948) starring actress Mai Zetterling, and So Long at the Fair (1950), starring Dirk Bogard and Jean Simmons. But Fisher got real fame when he started shooting (girare) horror movies for the Hammer, a production company which in 1951 established in London: he became one of the most prominent horror film directors of the second half of the 20th century. He was the first to bring gothic horror alive in full colour, using sexual tones and explicit horror scenes. He was the first to show Frankenstein as the monster made of parts of corpses (cadaveri), refused by his creator and by the society because of his horrid appearance, who stumbles (barcolla) and kills on the big screen. And this monster has a name and a face- a mask- at the cinema, Christopher Lee, while the scientist with a mad look (sguardo pazzo) is perfectly embodied by Peter Cushing. The big success of The curse of Frankenstein (1957) led to a series with the same protagonists and starring the same actors – Cushing and Lee: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958); Frankenstein Created Woman (1967); Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1973).Fisher was however attracted by other classical “monster” of English Gothic literature. He went on to film a number of adaptations of classic horror subjects, including Dracula (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) from Conan Doyle’s fancy, and The Mummy (1959). As to Dracula in particular the long dog-teeth are one of Fisher’s invention to characterize Bram stoker’s creature and once more Christopher Lee is the pale immortal protagonist chased by and inexhaustible Peter Cushing – Van Helsin. Fisher’s long series of particular creature include zombies and werewolves, Doctor Jekyll and the Phantom of the Opera and among his masterpieces are still to be remembered Kill Me Tomorrow (1957), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Stranglers of Bombay (1960), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960), The Horror of It All (1963), The Gorgon (1964), The Earth Dies Screaming (1965), Island of Terror (1966), Night of the Big Heat (1967 or Island of the Burning Damned) and The Devil Rides Out (1968). Given (per via di) their commercial subject matter Fisher’s films were largely dismissed (misconosciuti) by critics during his career; only recently Fisher has become recognised as an auteur (autore) in his own right (degno di nota). His films are like fairy-tales pervaded by a religious feeling: there is usually a hero who defeats(sconfigge) the powers of darkness, in contrast to other characters, who are either blindly (ciecamente) superstitious or bound (legati) by a cold, godless (senza Dio) rationalism.