Tag Archives: Whit Bissell

Hud (1963, Martin Ritt)

Every once in a while in Hud, it seems like Paul Newman's eponymous lead character might do something selfless. Not redemptive or nice, but selfless. It's not the point of the film and not one of its promises–it's just visible how significant it would be for Brandon De Wilde, playing Newman's orphaned nephew.

Hud fires on all cylinders. Director Ritt and cinematographer James Wong Howe compose a breathtakingly gorgeous film. It's hard to imagine the skies as having color; in Howe's black and white photography they are an infinite gray. It's a very small cast–Newman, De Wilde, Melvyn Douglas as the patriarch, Patricia Neal as the housekeeper who both Newman and De Wilde desire–and the black nights keep the cast claustrophobically close. Newman and Douglas's dysfunctional relationship can't be escaped, with De Wilde growing up in it and Neal the outside observer.

The screenplay, from Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr., gives Douglas these wonderful monologues, full of sincerity and wisdom, while it gives Newman monologues of selfishness and cynicism. They're dueling ideologies and it becomes clearer and clearer as the film progresses they're in direct reaction to one another. It's a brilliant script.

As for the cast, the last cylinder–except perhaps the sound design and Elmer Bernstein's score–all of actors are phenomenal. The film has a relatively short present action but De Wilde goes through a visible transition as things move along, whereas Newman and Douglas more reveal themselves as the film progresses.

Hud is a singular motion picture.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Ritt; screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr., based on the novel by Larry McMurtry; director of photography, James Wong Howe; edited by Frank Bracht; music by Elmer Bernstein; produced by Ravetch and Ritt; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Paul Newman (Hud Bannon), Melvyn Douglas (Homer Bannon), Patricia Neal (Alma Brown), Whit Bissell (Mr. Burris) and Brandon De Wilde (Lonnie Bannon).


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The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947, George S. Kaufman)

The Senator Was Indiscreet is a fun enough little film. It’s little for a few reasons; sadly, the primary one is the budget. Enough of the film takes place in William Powell’s hotel room, one would think it’s a play adaptation.

The story is more ambitious than the finished film can realize. Powell’s a dimwit senator who lucks into being a Presidential contender (thanks to Peter Lind Hayes’s overzealous publicity man). Things go well for Powell, until his diary goes missing, leading to a panic.

Powell’s hilarious; he’s very much against type as the titular senator, who bumbles into things occasionally but also seems aware of his corruption. Indiscreet excels at being universal–it’s not about either party, it’s just about American politics in general. It’s sort of timeless, actually.

Second billed Ella Raines plays the one reporter Powell can’t dupe (and Hayes’s girlfriend) and, except for having almost nothing to do until the last third, is quite good. Ray Collins is great as the party man who has to deal with Powell. Hayes’s performance is more appealing than good.

Arleen Whelan has the other primary supporting role and she brings nothing to it. It might just be because the film’s too constrained to give her character proper treatment.

Director Kaufman tries hard with the reduced budget, but he can only do so much. The production values sometimes injure his inventiveness but he does a fine job keeping the picture moving.

Indiscreet‘s a good time…. with a great final joke.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by George S. Kaufman; screenplay by Charles MacArthur, based on a story by Edwin Lanham; director of photography, William C. Mellor; edited by Sherman A. Rose; music by Daniele Amfitheatrof; produced by Nunnally Johnson; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring William Powell (Senator Melvin G. Ashton), Peter Lind Hayes (Lew Gibson), Ella Raines (Poppy McNaughton), Ray Collins (Houlihan), Arleen Whelan (Valerie Shepherd), Allen Jenkins (Farrell), Charles D. Brown (Dinty), Whit Bissell (Oakes) and Hans Conried (The Bolshevik).


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Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954, Jack Arnold)

Almost all of Creature from the Black Lagoon is a compelling mix of science fiction, workplace drama and horror. The Creature makes a great “villain” because there’s nothing human about him (except maybe his fixation on leading lady Julie Adams) so it’s possible to both fear him and to understand leading man Richard Carlson’s scientific point of view.

The only place it falls apart is the finish, where the screenwriters and director Arnold feel the need for some excitement; they tack on a totally unnecessary action sequence.

The workplace drama elements are Carlson, Adams and Richard Denning (as their boss). Denning’s performance of a money hungry scientist who slowly loses it is outstanding. He sort of outdoes everyone else in the picture, except maybe Nestor Paiva. Paiva’s the captain of the ship taking these bickering ichthyologists on their exploration. The script constantly unveils something new (and unlikely) about his character, but Paiva essays it all beautifully.

As a director, Arnold embraces the exploration wonderment, juxtaposing it against the horror aspects in the picture. When the wonderment declines and the more thriller tone comes up, he does well with it too.

The film has outstanding photography from William E. Snyder and excellent music from its (uncredited) composers. The underwater photography gives it spectacle value, but Arnold and his crew make the land sections almost as good. The sets are great and the Creature’s makeup is fantastic.

Creature, thanks to Arnold, the cast and its smart script, is a rather fine film.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Jack Arnold; screenplay by Harry Essex and Arthur A. Ross, based on a story by Maurice Zimm; director of photography, William E. Snyder; edited by Ted J. Kent; music by Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter and Herman Stein; produced by William Alland; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Richard Carlson (David Reed), Julie Adams (Kay Lawrence), Richard Denning (Mark Williams), Antonio Moreno (Carl Maia), Whit Bissell (Edwin Thompson) and Nestor Paiva (Lucas).


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THIS POST IS PART OF THE UNIVERSAL BACKLOT BLOGATHON HOSTED BY KRISTEN OF JOURNEYS IN CLASSIC FILM


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The Killer That Stalked New York (1950, Earl McEvoy)

The premise behind The Killer That Stalked New York (shouldn’t it be Who?) is almost beyond goofy. The movie mixes one part film noir and one part medical thriller and… I mean, I don’t even know what to say about the story. It’s such a ludicrous idea (the fate of the city, under threat from a smallpox outbreak, hinges on a wronged woman on the run), it really does work to some degree. Some of it might have to do with Evelyn Keyes turning in a rather good performance as the hunted woman, but a lot of it also has to do with that wacky story.

While the movie has to take itself seriously (otherwise, it’d be a farce), it goes a little far, utilizing a voiceover narration (from someone who is not a character in the film), who hurries things along, particularly at the beginning. There’s also the problem of not defining the risks. The mayor orders the entire city vaccinated after five cases, damn the expense, but it’s never explained why they’re so worried if all the cases shown are directly related to Keyes. I know I’m asking quite a bit from a seventy-five minute Columbia B-movie, but some of it’s so obvious, someone must have noticed on set.

There are two main characters, one for each story (until Keyes disappears so she can provide some shock value later on). Keyes, like I said, is good as the carrier. The role’s terribly written, but she conveys a lot of emotion. William Bishop plays the doctor in charge; he’s after Keyes. Bishop’s real bad. Of the larger parts, Charles Korvin is best as the sleazy husband. Lots of good small performances–Art Smith, Whit Bissell, Jim Backus–offset the lousy smaller performances.

The movie shot on location in New York City and it’s great looking. McEvoy doesn’t get trapped in a noir mindset and a lot of his composition is, nicely, defined by the locations. The rest of it feels a lot like Meet John Doe Frank Capra, only with less light.

Killer is barely a diversion. Some good stuff about it, but the story’s not compelling and the major perk of watching it (besides the locations) is to catch the silly oversights.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Earl McEvoy; screenplay by Harry Essex, based on an article by Milton Lehman; director of photography, Joseph F. Biroc; edited by Jerome Thoms; music by Hans J. Salter; produced by Robert Cohn; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Evelyn Keyes (Sheila Bennet), Charles Korvin (Matt Krane), William Bishop (Dr. Ben Wood), Dorothy Malone (Alice Lorie), Lola Albright (Francie Bennet), Barry Kelley (Treasury Agent Johnson), Carl Benton Reid (Health Commissioner Ellis), Ludwig Donath (Dr. Cooper), Art Smith (Anthony Moss), Whit Bissell (Sid Bennet), Roy Roberts (Mayor of New York), Connie Gilchrist (Belle – the Landlady), Dan Riss (Skrip), Harry Shannon (Police Officer Houlihan) and Jim Backus (Willie Dennis).


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