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Posts Tagged ‘Red River’

“My recipe for making movies has always been to give an audience two or three really top-notch scenes in every film and to try not to annoy them the rest of the time. If you can do that you will have made an entertaining picture.”
Producer/director Howard Hawks (Red River, Sergeant York, His Girl Friday)
Talk at Chicago Film Festival
via The Movie Makers: Artists in an Industry by Gene D. Phillips

Here are two memorable scenes with Howard Hawks connections. The first is from the film The Big Sky (1952) which Hawks directed, and the second film is Scarface (1983) directed by Brian DePalma from a script by Oliver Stone.  After seeing the original Scarface (1932) which Hawks directed, Al Pacino set theings in motion to star in a modern retelling of the story.

Scott W. Smith

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Now on the day that John Wayne died
I found myself on the Continental Divide
Tell me where do I go from here?
Think I’ll ride into Leadville and have a few beers
Think of “Red River” or “Liberty Valance”
Can’t believe the old man’s gone
Incommunicado (written by Jimmy Buffett, Deborah McColl, M.L. Benoit)

Until I started this Peter Bogdanovich thread last week I knew him as a producer/director/writer/actor/film historian/book author, but I didn’t know he was a blogger. He started Blogdanovich in 2010 and it’s hosted through Indiewire. Here’s a sample from his post Red River & My Darling Clementine.

“It’s still impressive as hell when you realize Red River was Hawks’ first Western (out of only five), that it was the beautiful and breathtakingly fine actor Montgomery Clift’s first picture (though released second), and that it was the movie which made John Wayne a superstar, the single most defining role of his career.  As Tom Dunson, playing a character nearly twenty years his senior, Wayne went from an attractive and reliable, though mild, young leading man to the tough, no-nonsense, usually unyielding, gruffly laconic loner he was to play most memorably for the rest of his career.

John Ford, who had rescued Wayne from B-picture oblivion with the director’s first sound Western, Stagecoach(1939), and then used him on three or four pictures in the ‘40s, was amazed:  ‘I didn’t know the big son-of-a-bitch could act,’ he said, and promptly cast Wayne in an even older role for She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.  In fact, Hawks told me, Wayne was always so identified with Ford, and Ford with Westerns, that people often thought Ford had directed Red River and would compliment Ford himself on the picture; and Ford, Hawks continued, always said, ‘Thank you very much.’  Yet when I asked Hawks if he’d been thinking of Ford while making the picture, he replied:  ‘It’s hard not to think of Jack Ford when you’re making a Western.  Hard not to think of him when you’re making any picture.’”
Peter Bogdanovich

That gives you a glimpse why Orson Welles once told Bogdanovich when asked who his favorite directors were, “I prefer the old masters; by which I mean: John Ford, John Ford and John Ford.”

If you’re not up on film history, have never seen an Ernst Lubitsch movie, don’t see what the big deal is about John Wayne, or if you—to use Bogdanovich’s words— think film history began with Raging Bull, check out Blogdanovich:

The Birth of a NationCity Lights, The Art of Buster KeatonO Rare Ernst Lubitsch,The Grapes of Wrath, The Philadelphia Story,  The 400 Blows will give you a good start.

P.S. What’s great about all of this is it continues what started on this blog in January after I saw Hugo & The Artist. Here at Screenwriting from Iowa, 2012 has turned into the year of film history appreciation. And if film history doesn’t excite you, I understand, I dropped the first film history class I ever took at the University of Miami. It’s people like Bogdanovich who can connect the dots for you.

Related posts:
Writing “The Jazz Singer”
The Founder of Hollywood

The Father of Film (Part 1)
You Tube Film School (Early Film History)
Mr. Silent Films
For the Love of Movies
Stagecoach” Revisted

Scott W. Smith

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“You do things sometimes as a writer subconsciously, things you’re not even aware of. I’m always comfortable doing things instinctively because I see it as tapping into this vein of archetype that works for a broader audience base.”
James Cameron
Writer/director of Titanic and Avatar

“I think it’s fine for young (filmmakers) to out and out rip off people who come before them because you always make it your own.”
Francis Ford Coppola
World News interview


Yesterday we looked at several films that share some of the same DNA. I mentioned several words and phrases used to explain why some movies resemble other movies. Blake Snyder in Save the Cat added one more phrase—”Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret.”

“Look at Point Break starring Patrick Swazye, then look at Fast and Furious. Yes, it’s the same movie almost beat for beat. But one is about surfing, the other is about hot cars. Is that stealing? Is that cheating? Now look at The Matrix and compare and contrast it with the Disney/Pixar hit Monsters, Inc. Yup. Same movie. And there’s a million more examples. Who Saved Roger Rabbit? is Chinatown…In some instances, the stealing is conscious. In other, it’s just coincidence.”
Blake Synder
Save the Cat

So let’s have some screenwriters weigh in on the topic.

“I wrote the screenplay (for The Magnificent Seven), Johnny Struges, the director, asked me to make a screenplay out of Kuroisawa’s (Seven Samari), setting it in the West.”
Walter Brown Newman

“(The movie Red River) was Mutiny on the Bounty. I had always thought what a great Western.”
Red River screenwriter Borden Chase as told to William Bowers

Okay, but do screenwriters have to be at retirement age to admit to taking from other films? Well, writer/director James Cameron prefers to use the words “reference point” when talking about films that he watched before he made Avatar.  Here’s an Q&A interview that he did with the Los Angeles Times that addresses if Avatar is Dances with Wolves in space.

Geoff Boucher: There’s also maybe some heritage linking (“Avatar”) to “Dances with Wolves,” considering your story here of a battered military man who finds something pure in an endangered tribal culture.

James Cameron: Yes, exactly, it is very much like that. You see the same theme in “At Play in the Fields of the Lord” and also “The Emerald Forest,” which maybe thematically isn’t that connected but it did have that clash of civilizations or of cultures. That was another reference point for me. There was some beautiful stuff in that film. I just gathered all this stuff in and then you look at it through the lens of science fiction and it comes out looking very different but is still recognizable in a universal story way. It’s almost comfortable for the audience – “I know what kind of tale this is.”

Dances with Wolves was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and Avatar was nominated for 9. Combined they both they won ten Oscars. And while only Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Screenplay based on Material from Another Medium (Michael Blake), Avatar became the all-time box office champ making $2.7 billion worldwide.

As a sidenote Avatar’s production designer saw shades of The Wizard of Oz in the script. (The Wizard of Oz just happens to be one of Cameron’s favorite films.)

Scott W. Smith

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When The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien premieres tonight it marks the end of one era and the beginning of another one.

The show will no longer be taped at the NBC studios in Burbank, but across the way at Universal Studios. Though The Tonight Show began in New York in 1954, since 1972 the show had come from Burbank, California. Hosted by Johnny Carson from 1962 to 1992 I grew up listening to his references to “Beautiful downtown Burbank.” 

It was meant as a put down because Burbank was a rather bland area (some would say that bland would describe the entire San Fernando Valley). But Carson’s jab helped put Burbank on the map for millions of viewers and it is still a catch phrase today. 

These days Downtown Burbank is actually a nice area with a good mix of restaurants and a couple hundred shops. But when I moved there in 1982 it was a different story. Though Burbank is home to Disney Studios and The Burbank Studios (as well as NBC) back then there wasn’t even a single movie theater in the city. Just one drive-in theater near my Riverside Drive apartment. Today the drive-in theater is gone but there are over 30 movie screens in Burbank.

Once the theaters were built I remember going one night and standing in line for popcorn and there was an older gentleman in front of me who looked familiar. I asked him if he was Richard Farnsworth and he said he was. In those days I would have only known him as the actor in The Grey Fox (1982) and The Natural (1984). Little did I know that he was a full-fledged Hollywood legend having been a stunt man first and received his first film credit way back  in 1937.

It wasn’t until the Internet and IMDB that I learned he was in Gone with the Wind, A Day at the Races, Red River, The Ten Commandments, and The Wild One. Which meant he was connected in film history to Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, the Marx Brothers, John Wayne, Marlon Brando and Cecil B. DeMille. He turned to acting after 30 years as a stuntman and received two Oscar nominations as Best Actor. 

His last film was The Straight Story (1999) which was directed by David Lynch and for which Farnsworth’s nomination made him the oldest actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. The Straight Story was filmed right here in Iowa. You knew there had to be an Iowa angle, right?

And just for the record Johnny Carson was born Corning, Iowa and lived in southwest Iowa until he was 8 when his family moved to Nebraska.

Like many young people who moved to L.A. in the eighties I dreamed of getting on The Tonight Show and meeting Johnny Carson. Back in the day, that was seen as the pinacle of success. That never happened and I never even went to a single taping all the time I lived out there. But while going to film school I did work as a driver for a video equipment rental company and one day made a delivery to NBC.

I made a comment to the security guard about The Tonight Show and he asked if I wanted to see the set. Of course I did. So while not making it on the show, I did make it to the set. Almost famous.

And like a lot of things in life The Tonight Show set  seemed a lot smaller in real life. But thanks to Carson and Jay Leno for all the memories and humor they kept flowing from Burbank the last 37 years.

And best wishes to Conan in his new venture.

 

Scott W. Smith

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