A botch job by Sam Goldwyn, who exercised his power as producer by changing directors—from Howard Hawks to William Wyler—halfway through the shooting. Some sources hold that Wyler shot only the last ten minutes, working from Hawks’s script; others claim that Wyler reshot much of Hawks’s work. But the first part of the film, the best, is unmistakably Hawks, as Edward Arnold and Walter Brennan (in an early part, his first Academy Award performance) fight for the hand of Frances Farmer, against the background of the north-woods logging country. The Edna Ferber story (like her Giant) then shifts generations, and the action loses much of its scale. Farmer remains a wonder, in one of her few fully realized parts as an early and lusty version of the Hawksian woman (1936).
Fritz Lang‘s 1956 film was one of his personal favorites, a taste shared by few critics at the time, who never forgave him for leaving Germany and Die Nibelungen. A contest is announced at a New York newspaper: the reporter who catches the notorious “Lipstick Killer” will become the paper’s new editor. The story is a cynical twist on Lang’s famous M: the sex killer becomes the most sympathetic character in the film, as Lang reserves his venom for the desperately competitive reporters, including Dana Andrews, Thomas Mitchell, Ida Lupino, and George Sanders. 100 min.
Many of the writers who worked on Have Gun — Will Travel went on to gain fame elsewhere. …Harry Julian Fink is one of the writers who created Dirty Harry (the opening title and theme scene of the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force would feature the same Paladin-like sequence of a handgun slowly cocked, and then finally pointed toward the camera, with a line of dialogue).
The program’s opening theme song was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann
A major film (1956) by Allan Dwan, who, after Raoul Walsh, was the most expressively kinetic director in American film. The plot is a complicated affair borrowed from the James M. Cain novel Love’s Lovely Counterfeit: a high-ranking mobster is assigned to get some dirt on a reform candidate for mayor but ends up falling in love with the politician’s secretary—which touches off a series of power plays for control of both the city and the syndicate. It’s also that rare item, the color noir, photographed by the great John Alton. With John Payne (who became a first-rate noir performer after shucking his drippy musical-comedy image at Fox), Arlene Dahl, Rhonda Fleming, and lots of other 50s icons.
We may still be waiting for the Great American Novel, but John Ford gave us the Great American Film in 1956. The Searchers gathers the deepest concerns of American literature, distilling 200 years of tradition in a way available only to popular art, and with a beauty available only to a supreme visual poet like Ford. Through the central image of the frontier, the meeting point of wilderness and civilization, Ford explores the divisions of our national character, with its search for order and its need for violence, its spirit of community and its quest for independence. 119 min.