I bought myself a much needed portable DVD player during the Christmas season, and believe me, it’s been getting a lot of use. Most recently, I’ve caught up on some of the film noir classics of Otto Preminger, one of the mavericks of the Hollywood studio system. I think that sometimes Preminger gets more attention for how badly he treated actors than for his cinematic achievements and his boldness in challenging censors and breaking the Breen Code. Laura, of course, is a masterpiece of the film noir with it’s elegance, glistening lighting thanks, in part to the great set design and art direction, and the moody music, which has become a standard.
I’ve continued with my Preminger kick watching such diverse movies as Carmen Jones, The Man with the Golden Arm, Fallen Angel, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Advise and Consent, The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell, Whirlpool and The Cardinal. A couple of these–Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Cardinal–I think are masterpieces in their respective genres (film noir and religious films), but even the weakest of these films (Court Martial) shows Preminger as a very competent film director. I think sometimes tends to be forgotten because of his infamy as a destroyer of actors’ egos and mental states. Thomas Tryon, star of The Cardinal, practically had a nervous breakdown and left acting in part from Preminger’s sledgehammer approaches (he later had success as a novelist, penning the horror classic The Other, which was made into a good horror film)