The Journeyman Who Won an Oscar

If you had asked me when I was just growing up on the movies in the mid to late seventies who was going to be the big director of the decade, I might have answered Franklin J. Schaffner.  That wouldn’t have been a crazy answer either.  Sure, there was Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, William Friedkin and Hal Ashby.    Not to mention Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg,  John Boorman and Peter Bogdanovich.  Oh yeah, and let’s not forget  Bernardo Bertolucci,  John Cassavetes, Bob Fosse, Roman Polanski, Milos Forman… okay, okay, enough!  The point is, despite all those great talents, Franklin J. Schaffner was the first director I really got to know by name.

Let me rephrase that.  I knew of Welles and Hitchcock, Renoir and Kurosawa, Fellini and Powell and a host of other classic directors but, as a growing cinephile in the seventies, of the contemporary directors, Franklin J. Schaffner was the first one whose name I recognized because it just happened to be on three of my favorite movies when I was young:  Planet of the Apes (POTA), Patton and Papillon, the three P’s of my movie-loving childhood.

So you’d expect I might possibly answer, “Yeah, Schaffner, he’s the one.  He’ll be remembered.”  And then, of course, he fell off the edge of the world.   The culprit?  Some of the worst script selection in the history of Hollywood.

So when I was a kid, Planet of the Apes, henceforth referred to as POTA, was everywhere.  It was in the theatres (either the original or the first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes), on t-shirts, on lunch boxes and, by God, it was on my View-Master.  Later, more sequels came out, a tv show, a cartoon, comic books and, yes, more View-Master slides.  Hey, those were a big deal when I was a kid.  You don’t know the fun to be had holding a plastic viewer up to the light to look at static, motionless stills of a movie.  In 3-D!  Kind of.  But I digress.  The point is, it was everywhere and the first one, directed by Schaffner, was the best.  It was the flagship of the enterprise and Schaffner’s name stuck with me as a result.

Now, whether or not POTA‘s success had anything at all to do with Franklin Schaffner is a little difficult to assess because, honestly, Schaffner is a little difficult to assess.   Richard Pryor once joked of boxing champ George Foreman, “George has  a unique boxing style: None.”  The same could apply, for the most part, to Schaffner.  He was a journeyman director, meaning he did a lot of movies of all different types as well as a wide variety of television (with CBS where he was, by many accounts, an innovative director who built a solid reputation) .    A journeyman usually doesn’t do many flamboyant movements with the camera or play around with new editing techniques but rather, guides the movie through to it’s inevitable scripted outcome with professionalism and reliability.  There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the scripts are good.  If they’re not, you’ve got trouble.

Going back to when it all started for Schaffner, in television, he was blessed with great assignments at CBS, where he made his home.  He won Emmys for his direction on such prestige projects as Twelve Angry Men, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial and the regular series, The Defenders.   When he finally made the transition to film, in 1963, he was working with a script adapted from a William Inge play, A Loss of Roses, called The Stripper.  And the actors he got to work with for his first dip in the cinematic waters were no slouches either, Joanne Woodward and Claire Trevor among them.  The film, which I have never seen, received good notices and Schaffner’s film career was off to a prestigious start.

His next film, The Best Man, was scripted by Gore Vidal and is, quite frankly, one of the best movies about politics ever made and easily one of the best of the year, 1964.  That it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture is a shame and certainly Schaffner himself could have garnered his first nomination for Best Director with it but it was not to be.   Despite the film’s excellent reception, it did little to advance Schaffner’s career.

This was followed by two under-the-radar films (though they were intended to be big hits), The War Lord, with Charlton Heston, and The Double Man, with Yul Brynner.   Neither achieved the kind of success, either critically or at the box office, that gets a director noticed but The War Lord, as it turns out, proved invaluable to Schaffner’s career, nonetheless.   During the filming,  Schaffner and star Heston became friends and three years later that made all the difference.

In 1967, producer Arthur Jacobs was searching for a director for his production of Planet of the Apes, a project Charlton Heston was excited about, and rightly so.  The script had gone through several rewrites since Rod Serling’s original script, based more closely on the actual Pierre Boule novel, in which the ape society is more advanced than in the final film.  The budget was tight and Jacobs wanted a good director who could bring a lean, efficient energy to the set. He had a few in mind but Heston stepped in and said he wanted to work with Schaffner again.    Jacobs wanted Heston happy and agreed.   Franklin Schaffner got the job.

And that’s why you never burn bridges.

Schaffner even brought suggestions to the production, like revamping the ape society to be more primitive which would allow simple, adobe-style buildings instead of expensive sets and props.  Jacobs happily agreed and the production was off to a good start.  And that good start turned into a good shoot with Schaffner being the director Heston remembered: Strong without being dictatorial, intelligent without being condescending and willing to make small changes without going overboard into experimental chaos.  And Schaffner got Jerry Goldsmith on board, the composer he had worked with at CBS and on his first film, The Stripper.  Goldsmith’s music, with its Schoenberg cum Babbitt influences overflowing around the edges, was the perfect fit for the story of a society in which everything seems wrong, backwards and out of place.

The movie was a huge hit, both critically and commercially, and Schaffner now, finally, had his pick of movies.  He stayed with Twentieth Century Fox, the distributor of Planet of the Apes, for his next film, Patton.  It was to be the prestige movie of the year and Schaffner had been tapped to direct.    He would be working with George C. Scott and Karl Malden, two actors with decades of experience and reputations for excellence that far outshone most of their contemporaries.  Schaffner wasn’t intimidated and the actors and director got along well with Scott turning in one of the finest performances of the silver screen.    Both Schaffner and Scott would win Oscars for the film but neither was present to receive them.  Scott, by design (he refused to take part in any competition among actors and, thus, refused the Oscar) and Schaffner due to work (Malden accepted for him).    Giving the Oscar to Schaffner (his only win or nomination) signaled respect from the directing community for his years of exceptional work and steady, guiding hand behind the camera.

His next film however, Nicholas and Alexandra, did not prove as successful.   Oh, it wasn’t a flop by any means, receiving six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and winning two (for Art Direction and Costume Design), but it wasn’t the success most people expected after POTA and Patton had stormed the scene.

Two years later, he was back big with Papillon, starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, two of the most diametrically opposed actors appearing together in the history of film.  But Schaffner made it work.  In fact, Papillon became one of my favorite movies of the seventies, a movie I returned to time and time again.   It takes the story of an unimportant criminal and gives his life on Devil’s Island the kind of epic treatment war hero George Patton had received just three years earlier.  It has a steady pace, a sumptuous look and a better biographical feel than most biopics, whether accurate or not.  And Schaffner had Goldsmith again doing the music (he wasn’t on board for Nicholas and Alexandra).  From POTA through Papillon it seemed Schaffner could do no wrong.

And then…

After three years off from directing, Schaffner came back with the big budget adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s posthumously released novel, Islands in the Stream.   The novel didn’t exactly receive the greatest notices in Hemingway’s canon but the movie Islands in the Stream received even fewer.    Variety wrote, “One can admire and follow the film without ever really getting enthusiastic about it.”  Vincent Canby of The New York Times went further:

They haven’t tightened a sprawling novel to fit the screen, they’ve let it sprawl in other directions, with very little grace and no feeling. “Islands in the Stream” is a movie in which a climactic death scene has less emotional impact than an earlier encounter between father and son while tinkering with an outboard motor.

Most other reviews echoed the same sentiment.  The movie looks gorgeous, just like Schaffner’s other films but never gets going.  It has a dull, formless quality to it and Canby is right, the viewer is never emotionally engaged.  Despite recounting a story filled with loss, from the end of a relationship once rich in love to parents accepting the death of their children, the film is oddly blank-faced about all of it.

Things got worse.  Schaffner’s next film, The Boys from Brazil, suffers the same fate.  It just lays there.  Keep in mind, this is a film about Nazi Doctor Joseph Mengele and a group of exiled Nazis in 1978, conspiring to clone Hitler and place the clones in environments just like the real Hitler had growing up (except for, you know, the whole post World War I Germany inflation crisis which was kind of, sort of  important to the whole thing) in the hopes that, somehow, history would repeat itself, a new Third Reich would rise (or would it be a brand new Fourth Reich?) and this time the Nazis would win and rule the world.  I mean, if you can’t have fun with a plot as stupid as that, as earth-shatteringly ridiculous, then what are doing in the director’s chair?  Unfortunately, what Schaffner was doing was directing it with an entirely straight face when what the movie needed was a wink and nudge, the kind Schaffner exploited throughout POTA with unabashed glee.   Instead, the movie has the plodding pace of a very solemn movie on experimental genetics instead of the frenzied, fun-filled pace of a movie with the dumbest plot of the decade (hat tip to Ira Levin, uh, I guess).

For whatever reason, following The Boys from Brazil, Schaffner made nothing but films that completely worked against his reliable, efficient, professional style.  Variety took note of this with the absolutely awful Sphinx (1981), writing, “”Franklin J. Schaffner’s steady and sober style is helpless in the face of the mounting implausibilities.”

This was followed by Yes, Giorgio (you don’t want to know), Lionheart (ditto) and Welcome, Home (meh).   Shortly after, Schaffner succumbed to lung cancer and died at the age of 69.  A career that had started so well had ended with a resounding whimper.  But that ending has no effect on the beginning of the career and that beginning is still one of the better ones you’re likely to find.  Franklin Schaffner has to his credit The Best Man, Planet of the Apes, Patton, Nicholas and Alexandra and Papillon.  If that’s not the best list of credits in the world, it’s a far sight better than most other directors ever get.    And some of his movies, particularly the three P’s, POTA, Patton and Papillon, remain favorites of mine to this day.   And if his triumph of the late sixties and early seventies quickly gave way to the downward slide of the late seventies on, no matter.  Schaffner was more than familiar with a phrase spoken by a certain general, quoting the warnings given to Roman conquerors of centuries before,  and delivered by George C. Scott as the final words of Patton:  “All glory is fleeting.”

95 Responses The Journeyman Who Won an Oscar
Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2011 9:34 am

It’s funny, Patton has become sort of retroactively considered a Coppola movie, and I’ve heard Planet of the Apes referred to as a sort of secret Twilight Zone episode a few times- so poor Schaffner is getting even some of his triumphs taken away from him.

As much as I prefer super auteurist directors, there’s something to be said for the ones who can take a neat script and turn it into a movie that feels very much like that neat script- the fact that the writers get remembered as much or more than Schaffner does says a lot about his sort of directorial modesty. It’s interesting, though, I think someone like Clint Eastwood makes movies that depend as much on script quality as Shaffner’s did, but he’s thought of as much more a personality-driven director. I wonder if that’s the actor-director thing in operation.

Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2011 9:34 am

It’s funny, Patton has become sort of retroactively considered a Coppola movie, and I’ve heard Planet of the Apes referred to as a sort of secret Twilight Zone episode a few times- so poor Schaffner is getting even some of his triumphs taken away from him.

As much as I prefer super auteurist directors, there’s something to be said for the ones who can take a neat script and turn it into a movie that feels very much like that neat script- the fact that the writers get remembered as much or more than Schaffner does says a lot about his sort of directorial modesty. It’s interesting, though, I think someone like Clint Eastwood makes movies that depend as much on script quality as Shaffner’s did, but he’s thought of as much more a personality-driven director. I wonder if that’s the actor-director thing in operation.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 9:59 am

Tom, I think the Eastwood comparison is a good one. The two have very similar sensibilities as directors but Eastwood had decades as a concrete, definable screen personality before becoming known to the public as a director. In fact, it probably wasn’t until twenty years into his directing career, with Unforgiven, that the general movie-going public even recognized him as a director. Had Eastwood never had the acting persona, I think he would be a lot more anonymous behind the camera, like Schaffner.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 9:59 am

Tom, I think the Eastwood comparison is a good one. The two have very similar sensibilities as directors but Eastwood had decades as a concrete, definable screen personality before becoming known to the public as a director. In fact, it probably wasn’t until twenty years into his directing career, with Unforgiven, that the general movie-going public even recognized him as a director. Had Eastwood never had the acting persona, I think he would be a lot more anonymous behind the camera, like Schaffner.

Posted By David : December 7, 2011 10:09 am

Thanks for the profile of Schaffner’s career.
He’s not quite overlooked, but certainly under-appreciated.
While his career certainly did falter and fade, I wonder if he was as much a ‘victim’ of the times as being responsible for poor project selection.
From the late seventies Spielberg, Lucas and co had arrived, and with them a change in audience attitude and expectation. Those latter day choices of Schaffner’s often feel at odds with where mass audience cinema went (apart from their own intrinsic faults).
But hey, POTA, Papillon, Patton? Thank God they exist.

Posted By David : December 7, 2011 10:09 am

Thanks for the profile of Schaffner’s career.
He’s not quite overlooked, but certainly under-appreciated.
While his career certainly did falter and fade, I wonder if he was as much a ‘victim’ of the times as being responsible for poor project selection.
From the late seventies Spielberg, Lucas and co had arrived, and with them a change in audience attitude and expectation. Those latter day choices of Schaffner’s often feel at odds with where mass audience cinema went (apart from their own intrinsic faults).
But hey, POTA, Papillon, Patton? Thank God they exist.

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : December 7, 2011 10:48 am

The Stripper isn’t quite the film intended, with the released film re-edited and the title changed from the original. I think I saw it on the Fox Movie Channel. Schaffner also lucked out on The Best Man, as original choice, Frank Capra, managed to talk himself out of the job with increasingly nutty script suggestions. I never saw any Schaffner films after Boys in Brazil, which I liked by the way, but I recall that when Welcome Home was released, a Denver film critic had also wondered what had happened to the guy who made Patton.

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : December 7, 2011 10:48 am

The Stripper isn’t quite the film intended, with the released film re-edited and the title changed from the original. I think I saw it on the Fox Movie Channel. Schaffner also lucked out on The Best Man, as original choice, Frank Capra, managed to talk himself out of the job with increasingly nutty script suggestions. I never saw any Schaffner films after Boys in Brazil, which I liked by the way, but I recall that when Welcome Home was released, a Denver film critic had also wondered what had happened to the guy who made Patton.

Posted By Jim Vecchio : December 7, 2011 11:05 am

At least someone is giving PLANET OF THE APES (the original!) and PAPILLON the praise they deserve. I’ll take the first PLANET above the remake and RISE OF, which oddly seem not to fit too closely into any of the other movies. I have not seen PAPILLON in years but I still remember a scene in which Dustin Hoffman describes his dwelling witht he phrase, “There are no ghosts here.”

Posted By Jim Vecchio : December 7, 2011 11:05 am

At least someone is giving PLANET OF THE APES (the original!) and PAPILLON the praise they deserve. I’ll take the first PLANET above the remake and RISE OF, which oddly seem not to fit too closely into any of the other movies. I have not seen PAPILLON in years but I still remember a scene in which Dustin Hoffman describes his dwelling witht he phrase, “There are no ghosts here.”

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 11:51 am

David – Good point. Something like Sphinx and Lionheart feel like brazenly transparent attempts to tap into the big-budget, action-adventure, fantasy coffers, and fail miserably. The others, as you point out, are completely at odds with the market although I can’t imagine a market where Yes, Giorgio wouldn’t be.

In the end, if any of those scripts had been better written it could have made a difference. But, sadly, they were all quite bad.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 11:51 am

David – Good point. Something like Sphinx and Lionheart feel like brazenly transparent attempts to tap into the big-budget, action-adventure, fantasy coffers, and fail miserably. The others, as you point out, are completely at odds with the market although I can’t imagine a market where Yes, Giorgio wouldn’t be.

In the end, if any of those scripts had been better written it could have made a difference. But, sadly, they were all quite bad.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 11:57 am

Peter, from the article right here on TCM, by fellow Morlock Jeff Stafford:

“It had been three years since Capra’s last film, A Pocketful of Miracles, and the famous director had some unique ideas for this production which did not sit well with Gore Vidal, author of the original play. For one thing Capra wanted to add a climatic scene where Henry Fonda’s character, who is losing the vote at the Democratic convention, makes an appearance on the delegate floor dressed as Abraham Lincoln and makes an inspiring speech.”

Oh. My. God.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 11:57 am

Peter, from the article right here on TCM, by fellow Morlock Jeff Stafford:

“It had been three years since Capra’s last film, A Pocketful of Miracles, and the famous director had some unique ideas for this production which did not sit well with Gore Vidal, author of the original play. For one thing Capra wanted to add a climatic scene where Henry Fonda’s character, who is losing the vote at the Democratic convention, makes an appearance on the delegate floor dressed as Abraham Lincoln and makes an inspiring speech.”

Oh. My. God.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 12:00 pm

Jim – I absolutely love POTA. You could say I’m… ape for it.

And Papillon. What an interesting and surprising movie. I never really suspected that a Devil’s Island prison movie would end up being about two men growing old together, like a more formal, historical version of the Midnight Cowboy bromance but it did. By the end, there’s a real connection, and sadness, between those two.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 12:00 pm

Jim – I absolutely love POTA. You could say I’m… ape for it.

And Papillon. What an interesting and surprising movie. I never really suspected that a Devil’s Island prison movie would end up being about two men growing old together, like a more formal, historical version of the Midnight Cowboy bromance but it did. By the end, there’s a real connection, and sadness, between those two.

Posted By swac : December 7, 2011 12:15 pm

As soon as you mention Schaffer, I’m reminded of his brother-in-apes J. Lee Thompson, who had some strong early efforts (Tiger Bay, The Guns of Navarone, Cape Fear) before his career petered out with no less than 9 (!) Charles Bronson films of dubious distinction.

Of course Thompson directed the final two POTA entries, Conquest of and Battle for, with the latter visibly hampered by a low budget and poor script, but still watchable for its cast, which is also the case with his late ’60s western Mackenna’s Gold, which always seemed to be playing on TV at one time or another while I was growing up (and one channel in particular had it on all the time, was it AMC or TNT?). Again, a director only as good as his scripts with some real howlers (The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, The Greek Tycoon) among them.

Still, I’d be curious to see his late-’70s WWII adventure film The Passage, with Anthony Quinn, James Mason, Malcolm McDowell and Christopher Lee.

Posted By swac : December 7, 2011 12:15 pm

As soon as you mention Schaffer, I’m reminded of his brother-in-apes J. Lee Thompson, who had some strong early efforts (Tiger Bay, The Guns of Navarone, Cape Fear) before his career petered out with no less than 9 (!) Charles Bronson films of dubious distinction.

Of course Thompson directed the final two POTA entries, Conquest of and Battle for, with the latter visibly hampered by a low budget and poor script, but still watchable for its cast, which is also the case with his late ’60s western Mackenna’s Gold, which always seemed to be playing on TV at one time or another while I was growing up (and one channel in particular had it on all the time, was it AMC or TNT?). Again, a director only as good as his scripts with some real howlers (The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, The Greek Tycoon) among them.

Still, I’d be curious to see his late-’70s WWII adventure film The Passage, with Anthony Quinn, James Mason, Malcolm McDowell and Christopher Lee.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 12:28 pm

And interestingly, Thompson was the first choice to direct the original POTA (and Blake Edwards the second choice) before Heston stepped in. Given their similar styles and sensibilites, one wonders if a complete flip-flop of the two wouldn’t have occurred as a result, with Thompson winning the Oscar for Patton and Schaffner spending most of his career working with Charles Bronson.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 12:28 pm

And interestingly, Thompson was the first choice to direct the original POTA (and Blake Edwards the second choice) before Heston stepped in. Given their similar styles and sensibilites, one wonders if a complete flip-flop of the two wouldn’t have occurred as a result, with Thompson winning the Oscar for Patton and Schaffner spending most of his career working with Charles Bronson.

Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2011 1:36 pm

Swac, I will burn in Hell before I will let any implication that a Death Wish sequel is a ‘film of dubious distinction’. Whatever was going on in those things, they were pretty goddamn distinct, and I salute them and their makers for it.

Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2011 1:36 pm

Swac, I will burn in Hell before I will let any implication that a Death Wish sequel is a ‘film of dubious distinction’. Whatever was going on in those things, they were pretty goddamn distinct, and I salute them and their makers for it.

Posted By JeffH : December 7, 2011 1:37 pm

PATTON was the first film I saw with “colorful” speech, and when you are 13 that is your main interest, but after a few minutes of that I settled in for one incredible war story/bio that just swept me up. Scott (and to a lesser degree, Malden) is the whole show, but unless you had a craftsman like Schaffner in control-and from what I have read it was a logistical nightmare at times-you probably would have ended up with another BLUE MAX, which while interesting to watch (and with a lovely Goldsmith score, as well) hasn’t got the zip PATTON does or a director with talent.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL-again, incredible Goldsmith music (love that opening waltz) and while Peck succumbs to scenery inhalation and Olivier’s German accent is too precious for words, I think James Mason’s small role anchors the film and gives it some weight which it so desperately needs. Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination (Peck as Mengale is stunt casting, let’s face it), I find it a fascinating and perverse addition to the canon of post WWII Nazis movies.

Posted By JeffH : December 7, 2011 1:37 pm

PATTON was the first film I saw with “colorful” speech, and when you are 13 that is your main interest, but after a few minutes of that I settled in for one incredible war story/bio that just swept me up. Scott (and to a lesser degree, Malden) is the whole show, but unless you had a craftsman like Schaffner in control-and from what I have read it was a logistical nightmare at times-you probably would have ended up with another BLUE MAX, which while interesting to watch (and with a lovely Goldsmith score, as well) hasn’t got the zip PATTON does or a director with talent.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL-again, incredible Goldsmith music (love that opening waltz) and while Peck succumbs to scenery inhalation and Olivier’s German accent is too precious for words, I think James Mason’s small role anchors the film and gives it some weight which it so desperately needs. Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination (Peck as Mengale is stunt casting, let’s face it), I find it a fascinating and perverse addition to the canon of post WWII Nazis movies.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 1:48 pm

But Tom, Thompson only director one of them, 4, and several of the other Bronson/Thompson movies definitely wavered in quality.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 1:48 pm

But Tom, Thompson only director one of them, 4, and several of the other Bronson/Thompson movies definitely wavered in quality.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 1:51 pm

Jeff, I think Patton certainly succeeds on Scott’s performance but I think you’re right that a steady-handed craftsman like Schaffner kept it from becoming a lumbering biopic. I think Scott, Coppola and Schaffner deserve equal credit for really making that movie work as well as it does.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 1:51 pm

Jeff, I think Patton certainly succeeds on Scott’s performance but I think you’re right that a steady-handed craftsman like Schaffner kept it from becoming a lumbering biopic. I think Scott, Coppola and Schaffner deserve equal credit for really making that movie work as well as it does.

Posted By JeffH : December 7, 2011 3:14 pm

Let us not forget Edmund North, who “collaborated” on the script with Coppola, even though they never met.

Posted By JeffH : December 7, 2011 3:14 pm

Let us not forget Edmund North, who “collaborated” on the script with Coppola, even though they never met.

Posted By swac : December 7, 2011 3:17 pm

Tom, I’ll grant you that the Michael Winner-directed Death Wish films (I, II and III) have their charms, but by the time Thompson joined in (on Death Wish 4: The Crackdown) they had ditched any sense of credulity as well as roman numerals.

Posted By swac : December 7, 2011 3:17 pm

Tom, I’ll grant you that the Michael Winner-directed Death Wish films (I, II and III) have their charms, but by the time Thompson joined in (on Death Wish 4: The Crackdown) they had ditched any sense of credulity as well as roman numerals.

Posted By Emgee : December 7, 2011 4:42 pm

Slightly off topic, but i love the Capra anecdote. Now there was a man who had his finger on the pulse of the times! Unfortunately for him it was still the 1930′s……..
Great director, but a total egomaniac, who “forgot” to credit his scriptwriters in his selfcongratulating autobiography.
After he decided to ditch them his career nosedived.

Posted By Emgee : December 7, 2011 4:42 pm

Slightly off topic, but i love the Capra anecdote. Now there was a man who had his finger on the pulse of the times! Unfortunately for him it was still the 1930′s……..
Great director, but a total egomaniac, who “forgot” to credit his scriptwriters in his selfcongratulating autobiography.
After he decided to ditch them his career nosedived.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 5:16 pm

That Capra story is jaw-dropping. I mean, how could he even think such claptrap would succeed? The candidate shows up dressed as Lincoln?! And rouses the delegates with a speech… dressed as Lincoln?! The mind boggles.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 5:16 pm

That Capra story is jaw-dropping. I mean, how could he even think such claptrap would succeed? The candidate shows up dressed as Lincoln?! And rouses the delegates with a speech… dressed as Lincoln?! The mind boggles.

Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2011 5:37 pm

Ah, I was actually confusing Death Wishes 3 and 4- 4 is pretty horrible horrible, but 3 is almost a breakthrough, a Triumph of the Will of action movies. It strips away any pretense that you’re watching anything but a meat grinder for all those scary city people you apparently eye with suspicion, and just sets up an hour and a half of inchoate rage and an elderly Jewish man murdering people. It’s like that fake movie within the movie in Inglourious Basterds.

As far as Thompson goes, I have mixed feelings about Cape Fear, but Ice Cold in Alex is a pretty great movie.

Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2011 5:37 pm

Ah, I was actually confusing Death Wishes 3 and 4- 4 is pretty horrible horrible, but 3 is almost a breakthrough, a Triumph of the Will of action movies. It strips away any pretense that you’re watching anything but a meat grinder for all those scary city people you apparently eye with suspicion, and just sets up an hour and a half of inchoate rage and an elderly Jewish man murdering people. It’s like that fake movie within the movie in Inglourious Basterds.

As far as Thompson goes, I have mixed feelings about Cape Fear, but Ice Cold in Alex is a pretty great movie.

Posted By Kingrat : December 7, 2011 6:15 pm

Great article, Greg, and we’re all pretty much on the same page here. I’d suggest that most directors have a peak period of 10-15 years, where their talents match what’s going on in the picture business, where they haven’t lost their enthusiasm or sold out or become megalomaniacs even by Hollywood director standards. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s what makes them even more remarkable. The comparisons with J. Lee Thompson and Clint Eastwood make perfect sense.

Other interesting cases: Jean Negulesco’s films from THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944) to, say, THREE CAME HOME (1950) show a very ambitious and talented director. The later color and wide-screen films show efficiency, sometimes a bit more, but not the major talent he was in the 40s. Edward Dmytryk made some outstanding noirs (CROSSFIRE; MURDER, MY SWEET) and romances (TENDER COMRADE, TILL THE END OF TIME) in the 40s, but although there are later delights like THE LEFT HAND OF GOD and the retro noir MIRAGE (1965), he seems to devolve into the efficient director of THE CAINE MUTINY and RAINTREE COUNTY and then to the helmsman of horrors like WHERE LOVE HAS GONE.

I’ve seen YES, GIORGIO. OMG. And I’ve read that they originally wanted Pavarotti to do a nude scene.

Posted By Kingrat : December 7, 2011 6:15 pm

Great article, Greg, and we’re all pretty much on the same page here. I’d suggest that most directors have a peak period of 10-15 years, where their talents match what’s going on in the picture business, where they haven’t lost their enthusiasm or sold out or become megalomaniacs even by Hollywood director standards. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s what makes them even more remarkable. The comparisons with J. Lee Thompson and Clint Eastwood make perfect sense.

Other interesting cases: Jean Negulesco’s films from THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944) to, say, THREE CAME HOME (1950) show a very ambitious and talented director. The later color and wide-screen films show efficiency, sometimes a bit more, but not the major talent he was in the 40s. Edward Dmytryk made some outstanding noirs (CROSSFIRE; MURDER, MY SWEET) and romances (TENDER COMRADE, TILL THE END OF TIME) in the 40s, but although there are later delights like THE LEFT HAND OF GOD and the retro noir MIRAGE (1965), he seems to devolve into the efficient director of THE CAINE MUTINY and RAINTREE COUNTY and then to the helmsman of horrors like WHERE LOVE HAS GONE.

I’ve seen YES, GIORGIO. OMG. And I’ve read that they originally wanted Pavarotti to do a nude scene.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 9:12 pm

As far as Thompson goes, I have mixed feelings about Cape Fear, but Ice Cold in Alex is a pretty great movie.

Speaking of lesser known J. Lee Thompson, I wrote up An Alligator Named Daisy for TCM a couple of months ago. It’s nothing special, to be sure, but does show the lighter side of Thompson.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 9:12 pm

As far as Thompson goes, I have mixed feelings about Cape Fear, but Ice Cold in Alex is a pretty great movie.

Speaking of lesser known J. Lee Thompson, I wrote up An Alligator Named Daisy for TCM a couple of months ago. It’s nothing special, to be sure, but does show the lighter side of Thompson.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 9:20 pm

Edward Dmytryk made some outstanding noirs (CROSSFIRE; MURDER, MY SWEET) and romances (TENDER COMRADE, TILL THE END OF TIME) in the 40s, but although there are later delights like THE LEFT HAND OF GOD and the retro noir MIRAGE (1965), he seems to devolve into the efficient director of THE CAINE MUTINY and RAINTREE COUNTY and then to the helmsman of horrors like WHERE LOVE HAS GONE.

Ah, Dmytryk. Shortest blacklistee of the Hollywood Ten (for those unfamiliar, after going to jail he changed his mind and not only named names but accused others at the studio of pressuring him to put communist propaganda in his films). His last film, The Human Factor, was a movie I very much enjoyed some thirty years ago but now don’t really remember anything at all about it. I might give it a second look soon.

Oh, and a Pavarotti nude scene? Nooooooooo!!!!!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2011 9:20 pm

Edward Dmytryk made some outstanding noirs (CROSSFIRE; MURDER, MY SWEET) and romances (TENDER COMRADE, TILL THE END OF TIME) in the 40s, but although there are later delights like THE LEFT HAND OF GOD and the retro noir MIRAGE (1965), he seems to devolve into the efficient director of THE CAINE MUTINY and RAINTREE COUNTY and then to the helmsman of horrors like WHERE LOVE HAS GONE.

Ah, Dmytryk. Shortest blacklistee of the Hollywood Ten (for those unfamiliar, after going to jail he changed his mind and not only named names but accused others at the studio of pressuring him to put communist propaganda in his films). His last film, The Human Factor, was a movie I very much enjoyed some thirty years ago but now don’t really remember anything at all about it. I might give it a second look soon.

Oh, and a Pavarotti nude scene? Nooooooooo!!!!!

Posted By tdraicer : December 7, 2011 10:58 pm

>I never saw any Schaffner films after Boys in Brazil, which I liked by the way,

As did I. But then I liked the novel. And btw the film brought Olivier his last Oscar nomination.

I also think The War Lord is a very good film which captures the mindset of the early Middle Ages better than just about any other movie set in that period.

Posted By tdraicer : December 7, 2011 10:58 pm

>I never saw any Schaffner films after Boys in Brazil, which I liked by the way,

As did I. But then I liked the novel. And btw the film brought Olivier his last Oscar nomination.

I also think The War Lord is a very good film which captures the mindset of the early Middle Ages better than just about any other movie set in that period.

Posted By Al Lowe : December 8, 2011 1:24 am

“A director has to eat.”

That’s what Fritz Lang replied when asked why he made a turkey called AMERICAN GUERILLA IN THE PHILIPPINES. Maybe that is why Schaffner made some of the choices he did.

By the way, at one point William Wyler was set to direct PATTON. Wyler got George C. Scott fired from a past project of his and did not relish trying to work with again, so quit PATTON.

Posted By Al Lowe : December 8, 2011 1:24 am

“A director has to eat.”

That’s what Fritz Lang replied when asked why he made a turkey called AMERICAN GUERILLA IN THE PHILIPPINES. Maybe that is why Schaffner made some of the choices he did.

By the way, at one point William Wyler was set to direct PATTON. Wyler got George C. Scott fired from a past project of his and did not relish trying to work with again, so quit PATTON.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 8, 2011 8:41 am

You know, tdraicer, after reading up on The War Lord, I really want to see it now. It’s available on Netflix Instant so sometime in the next week when I have time I’m going to give it a look.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 8, 2011 8:41 am

You know, tdraicer, after reading up on The War Lord, I really want to see it now. It’s available on Netflix Instant so sometime in the next week when I have time I’m going to give it a look.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 8, 2011 8:46 am

Al, I suspect you’re right that Schaffner did what he had to do. In fact, even if his choices didn’t pan out exactly as he wanted them to, they all make perfect sense: Islands in the Stream was a sensation when it was posthumously published and people couldn’t wait for the film version. The Boys from Brazil was a huge bestseller and even Yes, Giorgio makes sense from the perspective that it would be the first movie of a great and world-famous opera singer, probably the first commercially popular one since Mario Lanza. They didn’t pan out for him as he’d hoped but as choices, they’re not crazy. In the end, poor writing did them in.

Oh, and I was unfamiliar with the William Wyler story. Very interesting.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 8, 2011 8:46 am

Al, I suspect you’re right that Schaffner did what he had to do. In fact, even if his choices didn’t pan out exactly as he wanted them to, they all make perfect sense: Islands in the Stream was a sensation when it was posthumously published and people couldn’t wait for the film version. The Boys from Brazil was a huge bestseller and even Yes, Giorgio makes sense from the perspective that it would be the first movie of a great and world-famous opera singer, probably the first commercially popular one since Mario Lanza. They didn’t pan out for him as he’d hoped but as choices, they’re not crazy. In the end, poor writing did them in.

Oh, and I was unfamiliar with the William Wyler story. Very interesting.

Posted By suzidoll : December 8, 2011 4:00 pm

I am a Schaffner fan myself, largely because of PATTON and POTA. But, I remember seeing THE STRIPPER as a teenager and being disturbed and intrigued by it. It left such an impression on me that I always remembered Schaffner’s name after that.

BTW: Al Lowe is a terrific source for behind-the-scenes info on Hollywood movies.

Posted By suzidoll : December 8, 2011 4:00 pm

I am a Schaffner fan myself, largely because of PATTON and POTA. But, I remember seeing THE STRIPPER as a teenager and being disturbed and intrigued by it. It left such an impression on me that I always remembered Schaffner’s name after that.

BTW: Al Lowe is a terrific source for behind-the-scenes info on Hollywood movies.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 8, 2011 11:35 pm

I love Patton and POTA. I also soft spots for Papillon (McQueen. Duh.)and The Boys from Brazil. There are certain parts of TBFB that are quite funny; some intentionally. Steve Guttenberg blinking after he has been killed is not one of the intentionally funny parts. With all of this being said, I must give mad props to The Best Man. I love that movie. Despite me being a staunch Conservative. Despite the fact that it was written by Gore Frickin’ Vidal. It’s a great political “thriller”. It’s not really a thriller, per se, but it is thrilling. I love the behind the door political hand wringing and hand greasing of the damn thing. It is so well-written and well-acted. Henry Fonda plays a liberal, intellectual, moral relativist (but decent) candidate for President and he is sensational, as he was in the somewhat similar (but no less great) Advise and Consent, and he is fantastic. Everyone involved is tops in it.

And man, when you listed “Lionheart” I thought you were talking about that pile of excrement starring the Belgian pile of excrement, Jean-Claude Van Damme. I was feeling really awful for poor Franklin Schaffner.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 8, 2011 11:35 pm

I love Patton and POTA. I also soft spots for Papillon (McQueen. Duh.)and The Boys from Brazil. There are certain parts of TBFB that are quite funny; some intentionally. Steve Guttenberg blinking after he has been killed is not one of the intentionally funny parts. With all of this being said, I must give mad props to The Best Man. I love that movie. Despite me being a staunch Conservative. Despite the fact that it was written by Gore Frickin’ Vidal. It’s a great political “thriller”. It’s not really a thriller, per se, but it is thrilling. I love the behind the door political hand wringing and hand greasing of the damn thing. It is so well-written and well-acted. Henry Fonda plays a liberal, intellectual, moral relativist (but decent) candidate for President and he is sensational, as he was in the somewhat similar (but no less great) Advise and Consent, and he is fantastic. Everyone involved is tops in it.

And man, when you listed “Lionheart” I thought you were talking about that pile of excrement starring the Belgian pile of excrement, Jean-Claude Van Damme. I was feeling really awful for poor Franklin Schaffner.

Posted By JeffH : December 9, 2011 5:47 am

LIONHEART is a film that, as you watch it, you find yourself feeling sorry for everyone involved both in front of and behind the camera. Shame too, the story of Richard the Lionhearted could be a dynamite film if someone made it today, providing the script is up to the subject.

One great thing about the film-Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which he often said was his favorite and is much too good for the film.

Posted By JeffH : December 9, 2011 5:47 am

LIONHEART is a film that, as you watch it, you find yourself feeling sorry for everyone involved both in front of and behind the camera. Shame too, the story of Richard the Lionhearted could be a dynamite film if someone made it today, providing the script is up to the subject.

One great thing about the film-Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which he often said was his favorite and is much too good for the film.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 9:24 am

Suzi, not only have I not seen The Stripper, I can’t see The Stripper! It’s not available anywhere! There’s a VHS from 1986 for sale on Amazon but, no thanks. I want to see it on a good transfer. You’re so lucky you got to see it on the big screen.

And Al, from what little I’ve seen, seems to know his movie history pretty damn well. Always good to know someone who can fill in details not covered in all the usual places.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 9:24 am

Suzi, not only have I not seen The Stripper, I can’t see The Stripper! It’s not available anywhere! There’s a VHS from 1986 for sale on Amazon but, no thanks. I want to see it on a good transfer. You’re so lucky you got to see it on the big screen.

And Al, from what little I’ve seen, seems to know his movie history pretty damn well. Always good to know someone who can fill in details not covered in all the usual places.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 9:27 am

Duke, it’s hard (impossible?) not to like or, at the very least, deeply admire The Best Man. It really is a stunner of a movie and I have long been shocked at its lack of nominations at Oscar time (as I allude to in the post). Lee Tracy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor but, damn, there could have (and should have) been a lot more. I mean, not only is Vidal’s screenplay not nominated, the winner that year is Father Goose. I mean, it’s entertaining and Cary Grant and Leslie Caron are great and my youngest daughter loves it but come on! Best Screenplay?! Please.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 9:27 am

Duke, it’s hard (impossible?) not to like or, at the very least, deeply admire The Best Man. It really is a stunner of a movie and I have long been shocked at its lack of nominations at Oscar time (as I allude to in the post). Lee Tracy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor but, damn, there could have (and should have) been a lot more. I mean, not only is Vidal’s screenplay not nominated, the winner that year is Father Goose. I mean, it’s entertaining and Cary Grant and Leslie Caron are great and my youngest daughter loves it but come on! Best Screenplay?! Please.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 9:36 am

Shame too, the story of Richard the Lionhearted could be a dynamite film if someone made it today, providing the script is up to the subject.

The script remained the constant problem of Schaffner’s post Papillon career. As for Jerry Goldsmith, he is, along with John Barry, one of my two favorite film composers. I have several of his scores already, including Patton, but now I’m going to see if Lionheart is available.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 9:36 am

Shame too, the story of Richard the Lionhearted could be a dynamite film if someone made it today, providing the script is up to the subject.

The script remained the constant problem of Schaffner’s post Papillon career. As for Jerry Goldsmith, he is, along with John Barry, one of my two favorite film composers. I have several of his scores already, including Patton, but now I’m going to see if Lionheart is available.

Posted By Al Lowe : December 9, 2011 11:19 am

Thanks a lot for the compliments, guys. Sometimes I have bad days and the kind words are appreciated.

Let me flesh out the Wyler story a little bit. It comes from a biography of Wyler by Alex Madsen. The title simply is “William Wyler.”

Wyler fired Scott from his film HOW TO STEAL A MILLION when he didn’t show up a couple of times. (It doesn’t say this but my guess is that Scott was drinking.) It had no affect on Scott’s career.

Madsen keeps referring to the upcoming PATTON project for which Wyler had been engaged. Finally, Wyler realized that at his age the movie would be too much for him.

Also, Scott had not been contracted yet but was obviously the best choice. Madsen asks: How could the two men possibly work together again?

Posted By Al Lowe : December 9, 2011 11:19 am

Thanks a lot for the compliments, guys. Sometimes I have bad days and the kind words are appreciated.

Let me flesh out the Wyler story a little bit. It comes from a biography of Wyler by Alex Madsen. The title simply is “William Wyler.”

Wyler fired Scott from his film HOW TO STEAL A MILLION when he didn’t show up a couple of times. (It doesn’t say this but my guess is that Scott was drinking.) It had no affect on Scott’s career.

Madsen keeps referring to the upcoming PATTON project for which Wyler had been engaged. Finally, Wyler realized that at his age the movie would be too much for him.

Also, Scott had not been contracted yet but was obviously the best choice. Madsen asks: How could the two men possibly work together again?

Posted By swac : December 9, 2011 11:19 am

I found The Stripper on a torrent site (ripped from the aforementioned VHS). Not ideal quality, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. It was a 20th Century Fox title, maybe a decent copy will surface via Twilight Time.

Posted By swac : December 9, 2011 11:19 am

I found The Stripper on a torrent site (ripped from the aforementioned VHS). Not ideal quality, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. It was a 20th Century Fox title, maybe a decent copy will surface via Twilight Time.

Posted By JeffH : December 9, 2011 3:30 pm

Greg-good luck finding LIONHEART. Believe it or not, it actually came out as two separate CDs from Varese when the film was supposed to come out-I think they delayed it a year or two (only saw it on VHS).

Posted By JeffH : December 9, 2011 3:30 pm

Greg-good luck finding LIONHEART. Believe it or not, it actually came out as two separate CDs from Varese when the film was supposed to come out-I think they delayed it a year or two (only saw it on VHS).

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 4:21 pm

Al, I read up on the story a bit myself since finding out about it from you and it seems Wyler overreacted maybe just a bit. It was Scott’s first day of the shoot and he was five hours late, then left before Wyler returned from another setup two hours later. I mean, I’m on Wyler’s side in that he was the professional one and the one inconvenienced but I think it’s fair to give a guy another shot before firing him.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 4:21 pm

Al, I read up on the story a bit myself since finding out about it from you and it seems Wyler overreacted maybe just a bit. It was Scott’s first day of the shoot and he was five hours late, then left before Wyler returned from another setup two hours later. I mean, I’m on Wyler’s side in that he was the professional one and the one inconvenienced but I think it’s fair to give a guy another shot before firing him.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 4:23 pm

swac, I haven’t ever really pulled a movie from a torrent site (I’ve seen clips from bootlegs but never downloaded one) and the quality is always very poor. Even if it isn’t, given how many movies I haven’t yet seen that are available in gorgeous transfers, I’ve got enough to keep myself occupied until The Stripper gets a proper release.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 4:23 pm

swac, I haven’t ever really pulled a movie from a torrent site (I’ve seen clips from bootlegs but never downloaded one) and the quality is always very poor. Even if it isn’t, given how many movies I haven’t yet seen that are available in gorgeous transfers, I’ve got enough to keep myself occupied until The Stripper gets a proper release.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 4:27 pm

Jeff, the cd is available but at a very high price. I did buy the theme, though, conducted by Goldsmith, for 99 cents on Amazon just now, so that’s something.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2011 4:27 pm

Jeff, the cd is available but at a very high price. I did buy the theme, though, conducted by Goldsmith, for 99 cents on Amazon just now, so that’s something.

Posted By Al Lowe : December 9, 2011 8:14 pm

Well, first of all the story is unfair to Scott. He doesn’t give his side in Madsen’s book and it may have been available since Scott sometimes did respond to interviewers. This is mainly Wyler’s version of events. It is not an autobiography but it might as well be one.

Madsen did tell the story, related by Wyler, differently from how you did it. Frankly, I don’t know who is right.

According to Madsen (or Wyler) Scott missed much of the first shooting day in Paris. A staffer made a phone call to Scott and was told he couldn’t be distrubed and was sick. A doctor was sent by the film company to Scott’s apartment and later allegedly told Wyler he was thrown out of the bedroom. Wyler started shooting and Scott arrived five hours late at 5 p.m. Wyler told Scott to wait for him and resumed shooting. He finished at 7:30 p.m. and looked for Scott who had left. He then decided to fire him.
Audrey Hepburn and Richard and Darryl Zanuck tried to intervene but were unsuccessful. Eli Wallach was Scott’s replacement. “Wyler pointed out that neither part nor actor were important enough to warrant the hassles that might occur once Scott was established in the film…’I think he was a bit surprised,’ Wyler said years later…Schaffner lost 14 pounds during the eight months in Spain (filming PATTON). Both he and (producer) McCarthy had a rough time with their violently individual leading man.”

Posted By Al Lowe : December 9, 2011 8:14 pm

Well, first of all the story is unfair to Scott. He doesn’t give his side in Madsen’s book and it may have been available since Scott sometimes did respond to interviewers. This is mainly Wyler’s version of events. It is not an autobiography but it might as well be one.

Madsen did tell the story, related by Wyler, differently from how you did it. Frankly, I don’t know who is right.

According to Madsen (or Wyler) Scott missed much of the first shooting day in Paris. A staffer made a phone call to Scott and was told he couldn’t be distrubed and was sick. A doctor was sent by the film company to Scott’s apartment and later allegedly told Wyler he was thrown out of the bedroom. Wyler started shooting and Scott arrived five hours late at 5 p.m. Wyler told Scott to wait for him and resumed shooting. He finished at 7:30 p.m. and looked for Scott who had left. He then decided to fire him.
Audrey Hepburn and Richard and Darryl Zanuck tried to intervene but were unsuccessful. Eli Wallach was Scott’s replacement. “Wyler pointed out that neither part nor actor were important enough to warrant the hassles that might occur once Scott was established in the film…’I think he was a bit surprised,’ Wyler said years later…Schaffner lost 14 pounds during the eight months in Spain (filming PATTON). Both he and (producer) McCarthy had a rough time with their violently individual leading man.”

Posted By dukeroberts : December 10, 2011 1:46 am

Father Goose won best screenplay? Wow. That is slightly shocking. It just seems like such a lightweight movie. Entertaining yes, but not Oscar type stuff as far as screenplays go. I also prefer Houseboat. Me loves me some Sophia.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 10, 2011 1:46 am

Father Goose won best screenplay? Wow. That is slightly shocking. It just seems like such a lightweight movie. Entertaining yes, but not Oscar type stuff as far as screenplays go. I also prefer Houseboat. Me loves me some Sophia.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 10, 2011 2:32 am

Al – That’s a much more fleshed out account than I found online and now, yes, I’d have to say I completely side with Wyler. I mean, it does make sense in that kind of a situation to say, “It’s the first day, let’s nip this thing in the bud.” Especially, as Wyler said, if the part wasn’t big enough for the hassle anyway.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 10, 2011 2:32 am

Al – That’s a much more fleshed out account than I found online and now, yes, I’d have to say I completely side with Wyler. I mean, it does make sense in that kind of a situation to say, “It’s the first day, let’s nip this thing in the bud.” Especially, as Wyler said, if the part wasn’t big enough for the hassle anyway.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 10, 2011 2:35 am

Duke – Yeah, it is kind of shocking, isn’t it? I mean, Father Goose? And The Best Man wasn’t even nominated?!?!! Huh?

Me loves me some Sophia.

You and everyone else on the planet earth (as well as, of course, poor Cary, who hoped his romance with her might lead to marriage but alas, she went for Carlo instead).

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 10, 2011 2:35 am

Duke – Yeah, it is kind of shocking, isn’t it? I mean, Father Goose? And The Best Man wasn’t even nominated?!?!! Huh?

Me loves me some Sophia.

You and everyone else on the planet earth (as well as, of course, poor Cary, who hoped his romance with her might lead to marriage but alas, she went for Carlo instead).

Posted By bill r. : December 12, 2011 7:11 pm

Because I’m always missing the points of these sorts of things, and because this is too late in the comments for anyone to care, I would like to stand up for Ira Levin. It’s true, I haven’t read THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, but at his best he had a real gift for taking an absurd premise and constructing a fine novel out of it. See the novel THE STEPFORD WIVES as Exhibit A.

Also, hi, Greg.

Posted By bill r. : December 12, 2011 7:11 pm

Because I’m always missing the points of these sorts of things, and because this is too late in the comments for anyone to care, I would like to stand up for Ira Levin. It’s true, I haven’t read THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, but at his best he had a real gift for taking an absurd premise and constructing a fine novel out of it. See the novel THE STEPFORD WIVES as Exhibit A.

Also, hi, Greg.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2011 2:40 pm

Not trying to be snarky (really, I’m not!) but that is kind of missing the point. Is The Planet of the Apes not an absolutely absurd premise? Of course it is. But I clearly not only love it but think it is a fine film as well. The point isn’t to deride Boys from Brazil for being absurd but to deride Schaffner not having any damn fun with the premise and making the movie come alive. I’ve never read the book but I trust you that Levin did a good job because you know your books pretty damn well. My point is that Schaffner didn’t do a fine job, at least not with the script delivered. My hat tip to Levin is because the basic plot was provided, via novel, but nothing seemed to have been added. Kind of like what Ebert said about The Road. They followed the book to the letter but still came up kind of empty because the point of the book isn’t the plot but how McCarthy writes the plot. I suspect the same is true of Levin. It’s how he wrote Boys from Brazil that made all the difference.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2011 2:40 pm

Not trying to be snarky (really, I’m not!) but that is kind of missing the point. Is The Planet of the Apes not an absolutely absurd premise? Of course it is. But I clearly not only love it but think it is a fine film as well. The point isn’t to deride Boys from Brazil for being absurd but to deride Schaffner not having any damn fun with the premise and making the movie come alive. I’ve never read the book but I trust you that Levin did a good job because you know your books pretty damn well. My point is that Schaffner didn’t do a fine job, at least not with the script delivered. My hat tip to Levin is because the basic plot was provided, via novel, but nothing seemed to have been added. Kind of like what Ebert said about The Road. They followed the book to the letter but still came up kind of empty because the point of the book isn’t the plot but how McCarthy writes the plot. I suspect the same is true of Levin. It’s how he wrote Boys from Brazil that made all the difference.

Posted By bill : December 13, 2011 4:15 pm

Fair enough, although my one viewing of BOYS FROM BRAZIL didn’t leave me with quite the same impression. But that was years ago, so what do I know? I would just say that, in my view, winking and nudging isn’t necessary to make an absurd premise work. Which also isn’t a great point to make in this case, because Levin was pretty wry about his stuff. Also, I think Ebert’s wrong about THE ROAD, which I think is hugely underrated.

Anyway, forget I said anything.

Posted By bill : December 13, 2011 4:15 pm

Fair enough, although my one viewing of BOYS FROM BRAZIL didn’t leave me with quite the same impression. But that was years ago, so what do I know? I would just say that, in my view, winking and nudging isn’t necessary to make an absurd premise work. Which also isn’t a great point to make in this case, because Levin was pretty wry about his stuff. Also, I think Ebert’s wrong about THE ROAD, which I think is hugely underrated.

Anyway, forget I said anything.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2011 5:38 pm

I would just say that, in my view, winking and nudging isn’t necessary to make an absurd premise work.

I agree and maybe that’s not the way to go here. I don’t know the answer, I just know that I found the movie staid and sluggish though, given the likes it has received in this thread, that could just be me looking at it all wrong. Maybe I’m expecting something that shouldn’t be there.

Also, I would agree with Ebert on The Road one but you already know that because I brought it up in Cinema Styles piece last month. I though it was all well done but lifeless with only the basics of the plot as its tool. But, again, very well done, nonetheless. It’s visual depiction of a post-apocalyptic world was about as depressing and soul-sucking as I’ve ever seen, and that’s high praise indeed. Usually, even the best sci-fi films manage to make a post-apocalyptic world, from Omega Man to Quiet Earth to The Stand, look kind of cool, in that “we got the whole place to ourselves” kind of a way. But The Road? Hell no, I don’t ever want to go there. Ever.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2011 5:38 pm

I would just say that, in my view, winking and nudging isn’t necessary to make an absurd premise work.

I agree and maybe that’s not the way to go here. I don’t know the answer, I just know that I found the movie staid and sluggish though, given the likes it has received in this thread, that could just be me looking at it all wrong. Maybe I’m expecting something that shouldn’t be there.

Also, I would agree with Ebert on The Road one but you already know that because I brought it up in Cinema Styles piece last month. I though it was all well done but lifeless with only the basics of the plot as its tool. But, again, very well done, nonetheless. It’s visual depiction of a post-apocalyptic world was about as depressing and soul-sucking as I’ve ever seen, and that’s high praise indeed. Usually, even the best sci-fi films manage to make a post-apocalyptic world, from Omega Man to Quiet Earth to The Stand, look kind of cool, in that “we got the whole place to ourselves” kind of a way. But The Road? Hell no, I don’t ever want to go there. Ever.

Posted By jbryant : December 18, 2011 7:08 am

I’m coming to this late, so I don’t know if this will be seen, but… FATHER GOOSE won the Oscar for Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. If THE BEST MAN had managed to score a writing nomination, it would’ve been for Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, since Vidal adapted it from his play. Edward Anhalt’s script for BECKET won in that category.

This doesn’t mean FATHER GOOSE was a deserving winner, but at least it wasn’t a factor in the Academy’s snubbing of THE BEST MAN script.

Posted By jbryant : December 18, 2011 7:08 am

I’m coming to this late, so I don’t know if this will be seen, but… FATHER GOOSE won the Oscar for Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. If THE BEST MAN had managed to score a writing nomination, it would’ve been for Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, since Vidal adapted it from his play. Edward Anhalt’s script for BECKET won in that category.

This doesn’t mean FATHER GOOSE was a deserving winner, but at least it wasn’t a factor in the Academy’s snubbing of THE BEST MAN script.

Posted By Classic Television Thursday #001 – Studio One: Twelve Angry Men (1954) « Durnmoose Movie Musings : August 21, 2014 9:47 am

[…] The Journeyman Who Won an Oscar (moviemorlocks.com) […]

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