WEIRDLAND: R.I.P. Arthur Penn and Tony Curtis

Thursday, September 30, 2010

R.I.P. Arthur Penn and Tony Curtis

Arthur Penn On Directing BONNIE AND CLYDE
Director Arthur Penn talks about Warren Beatty's encouragement to have him direct BONNIE AND CLYDE as well as the experience of making the film and its social impact.

"Penn's masterpiece, Bonnie and Clyde. The 1967 film charted the freewheeling exploits of two real-life Depression-era bank robbers, Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Beatty), with a frankness that was shocking for the era. Not only were the anti-heroes gleefully unrepentant, but they were often overtly sexual (see: gun-stroking scene above). However, it was the film's explicit violence, rendered in a flurry of quick cuts and stylized slo-mo Penn had pilfered from French New Wave films, that had the most lasting impact.
Bonnie and Clyde's infamous final scene - all gunfire, spastic flailing bodies and cool nihilism - outraged audiences, but also ushered in a new era of permissiveness in American film, where sex (The Graduate), drugs (Easy Rider) and violence (The Wild Bunch) were no longer off limits. Without Penn's initial throwing down of the gauntlet, the golden era of gritty, naturalistic movies that followed in the 1970s might never have happened, and his lasting influence cannot be overstated". Source:

Sweet Smell Of Success (1957) trailer starring Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster

Sweet Smell of Success (1957) scene
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick

"Considered by many to be the very first film noir, John Huston’s directorial debut would go down in history as one of the great detective movies. The film is based on Dashiell Hammett’s book (also called The Maltese Falcon) and star Humphrey Bogart in one of his best roles as private eye Sam Spade. The story starts with the murder of Spade’s partner Miles Archer. Although he never really liked him, Spade is honor bound by his personal code of ethics to track down his killers. Along the way he will get involved with the sultry Miss Wanderly and a group of criminals who seek a gold-encrusted falcon sculpture known as the Maltese Falcon.

Final 5 minutes of Maltese Falcon.
Humphrey Bogart (Sam Spade) kissing Mary Astor (Brigid O'Shaughnessy) in "The Maltese Falcon" (1941)

As Spade gets closer and closer to discovering the identity of his partner’s killer, he gets more and more involved with the search for the priceless statue. Is the death of his partner linked with the statue? Why are so many people so desperate to find it? And how is the mysterious Miss Wanderly involved? Complete with evocative cinematography and camera angles that recall Citizen Kane (released the same year), The Maltese Falcon is both a technical and thematic milestone for film noir- the characters and filming techniques continue to be emulated today".

"In the city of New York, your reputation is everything. If you are not careful, it could easily be destroyed overnight. Or it could be protected, for the right price. Such is the world of Sweet Smell of Success, the gritty, grimy noir from famous screenwriter Ernest Lehman (he also wrote the screenplays for Sound of Music and North by Northwest). Director Alexander Mackendrick, who had made his name doing comedies for England’s Ealing Studios, transforms New York City into a dystopia soaked with jazz, smoke, and criminals. We follow Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), a press agent without the burdens of morality. He is hired by J.J. Hunsecker, New York’s premier newspaper columnist, to stop his sister from marrying Steve Dallas, a fresh, young jazz guitarist. So, Sidney plants some reefer on him and spreads rumors that he is a Communist.

But that isn’t the end for Sidney - he is summoned to Hunsecker’s penthouse only to find the sister attempting suicide. Hunsecker walks in on Sidney saving her and accuses him of rape. From there, fates are decided and lives are destroyed as the truth comes out. In this powerful film, nobody is innocent. Featuring one of the most unequivocally quotable and memorable screenplays ever written, you will be quoting its lines and remembering its characters for the rest of your life". Source:

Tony Curtis, his wife Janet Leigh with Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at a charity party in Hollywood
Tony Curtis with his daughter actress Jamie Lee Curtis
The actress brings her dad to a screening of Streets of Fire, 1984. Father and daughter had an uneasy relationship and were estranged for many years -- Curtis blamed his ex-wife for it. "She had heard that I was arrogant, uninterested, a rake, a womanizer, a drunk and a dope-taker," he told People magazine in 1980. Jamie Lee said she had come to terms with their relationship. "I understand him better now," she said at the time, "perhaps not as a father but as a man."

Jake Gyllenhaal with Jamie Lee Curtis, who is Gyllenhaal's godmother, in New York on September 27, 2006

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