Tuesday, April 08, 2008


A note missing from last week: filmdom lost two luminaries within days of one another, possibly overshadowed by front page news of Charlton Heston's death on Saturday. One of the iffiest, edgiest film noir actors, Richard Widmark, died on Monday, March 24th, leaving another gaping hole in the surviving legacy of crime cinema's fatal Hays Code-era moralizing. Mr. Widmark was never my favorite--sometimes overstressing the turpitude of his characters to the point of distracting tics--but his nervy contributions to film noir certainly laid the foundation by which the genre has enjoyed devoted attention for five decades.* A sweet appreciation appears here, courtesy the New York Times. A week after Mr. Widmark died, similar news came about director Jules Dassin, an American who relocated after being blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. Because many people assume Mr. Dassin is French, they miss-pronounce his name. This speaks to the reach of the man's work as well as the transparency of his manipulation of the limelight. Uncertain how far into cinematic culture Mr. Dassin's influence has reached? Rififi, made in France, 1955, arguably created heist pictures as we know them today. It can also be argued that Mr. Dassin invented the police procedural making the Naked City in 1948. Both films unravel their gripping plots--a bank heist and murder mystery--as the blasé application of carefully measured routine taken by workaday professionals. It's hard to imagine modern television programming, from Hill Street Blues to CSI, without Mr. Dassin's groundwork. Lately, the man had been tirelessly spearheading the initiative to repatriate the Elgin Marbles to Greece, his adopted home. I saw him on a television special about the ancient artifacts in January. Jules Dassin is on my top-five favorite filmmakers list. A nice remembrance here from the Criterion Collection website. [Cavin]

Then, a 1 sided conversation ensued...

To which Blogger Mr. Cavin added:

* Mr. Widmark and Mr. Dassin can be seen working together in the noir tour-de-force Night and the City, which is, by any means, recommended.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008 10:34:00 PM  

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