I bought this book because Anthony Mann has directed some of my favorite films – THE TALL TARGET, , THE NAKED SPUR, WINCHESTER 73, BEND OF THE RIVER, THE GLENN MILLER STORY. And being a Noir fan, I liked his 40s ‘B’s like RAILROADED, T-MEN,RAW DEAL, DESPERATE.
But I guess I’m not the ‘serious filmgoer’ referred to in Warren French’s foreword. I got lost when he quotes Basinger on BORDER INCIDENT, “…..moved figures and camera within that frame to redefine meaning until the possibilities of these redefinitions had been exhaustively explored.”
Maybe I should have stopped right there and realised this book is written more for film students and academics and ‘serious filmgoers’, The book is not a biography, we learn little of Mann the man (so to speak).
It was first written in 1979 and updated in 2007.The author admits many of her readers saw it as an auteur study , though that was not necessarily her intention. Of auterism she says, “It brought awareness that films were more than their dialogue”.
Isn’t that stating the obvious.
The ‘auteur’ theory, coined by French critics, maintains that the director is all – a film is his personal vision.
Personally I prefer an analogy I read – the writer is the architect, the director and crew are the foreman and construction workers. Frivolous of course but without a script, there is no film.
Anthony Mann had some of the best writers and the author acknowledges them – Borden Chase, Philip Yordan, Dudley Nichols and Reginald Rose. But I was reminded that this book is an academic study when she says that these writers provided scripts that ” suited his desire for purity and clarity”. Oh my.
Of Mann’s westerns with James Stewart, Basinger says they “secured the actor’s future as a legendary star.”
Wasn’t Stewart already an Oscar-winning legend, with 15 years experience before his films with Mann.
On The Glenn Miller Story……”it is not a typical Mann film but it would be impossible to define it as directed by anyone else.”
This film had a solid script, cast and music. Any decent director could have made it a success.
Not discussed in the book and surely of importance in assessing Mann’s methods:
The creative input of producers, editors, cinematographers (though John Alton is given credit) , production designers – and actors.
How involved was he in scripts.
How he interacted with his actors – did he rehearse much? Was he a one-take or ten-take director?
What made him want to film 7 films in a row with the same actor (Stewart).
How important was music in his films.
How often did he have final edit on his films?
Questions that are possibly not all answerable, but surely worthy of discussion.
Jeanine Basinger rates Anthony Mann as one of the greatest ever Hollywood directors. Is he up there with Hitchcock, Hawks, Lang, Capra,Wyler, Curtiz, Stevens, Cukor, Wellman, Lubitsch?
I don’t think so.
The book’s cover photo is from THUNDER BAY, with James Stewart and Joanne Dru.
Amazingly, on You Tube is a 17 minute interview Anthony Mann did for the BBC in 1967 when he was filming Dandy in Aspic ( which,sadly, he didn’t finish,dying from a heart attack in April 1967). The interview was part of a series, The Movies, and this segment was called, ‘Action speaks louder than words.’
He spoke enthusiastically:
“David Selznick gave me my first glimpse of the picture business – he allowed me to make tests for him – Gone With The Wind, Tom Sawyer. Gradually I became deeply interested in film.”
“I have been influenced by three or four directors – Murnau – he was the man who could tell a story without any dialogue – he worked more in silent films anyway – and could create an emotion by their use of long shot to gradual closer, closer shot.”
Other books on Anthony Mann.
I can’t find any reviews of this one.
Jmaes Stewart, Millard Mitchell, Ralph Meeker. THE NAKED SPUR