As mentioned previously in another post, I'm not of the opinion that a position in a list is what makes a film great. Still, since there's people influenced by "umpteen best films" lists, I've got to say that they have its use... For one, they may attract the interest of filmgoers towards "oldies" and, well, help overcome their reluctance to watch films in Black & White, for instance.
In the particular case of Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter", this may also give a measure of the growing reputation of the film which all but seemed doomed to oblivion when it was first released. I'm well aware that high-ranking places also usually draw the attention of Phillistines and Iconoplastas who'll raise hell just for hell-raising's sake (... or because the poor things have nothing better to do, tsk!)
"Ah! Je souris de me voir si haut dans cette liste..."
Anyway, here it goes: the British magazine The Spectator put "The Night of the Hunter" in the number one of their Best Films list. This was brought to my attention by a couple of fellow Laughtonians, who sent me this link by Roger Ebert commenting on the issue (and Ebert is a great appreciator of Laughton's only full opus behind the camera)... Not only this, for Time Out, the British entertainment weekly guide, also lists the film as the number one among first films of a director's career, which is considerable kudos to give, considering that they've listed as remarkable film debuts as "Citizen Kane", "Les Quatre Cents Coups" , "The Great McGinty", "Targets" or "L'Age d'Or" below Laughton's film.
I must say I get an extra kick of this recognition coming from the British press. Over the years, I've got the overall impression that Laughton, while certainly apreciated by the British public, wasn't as recognized by the British powers-that-be. But never mind... Charles may have not got titles nor royal honours, but sure he still gets lots of love... Worldwide!
On the light of this, it might be interesting to watch this little snippet from an American TV program (dated around february 1960):
"Guess who's playing Falstaff"
The host's final comment to Charles about the American public's affection is worth noting: Laughton certainly seems to feel at home, willing to charm and full of energy and projects: it's sad to realize he had barely a couple of years left to live (By the way: It's funny to listen to the blindfolded pannelists assume that any British-born actor has a title). It is intriguing to learn that there was a broadcast of the Stratford 1959 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (with Charles playing Bottom) which was shown in America but not in the United Kingdom (hum... Why?!)
Pierre's Fablet "Night of the Hunter Project" has finally seen the light in a handsome CD distributed by Harmonia Mundi. This is just so you know, for, as you can imagine, the recording is truly worth of a post of his own, which I hope to do as soon as circs allow.
Those of you fortunate Laughtonians living in the vicinity of Chicago, Illinois, will be glad to learn that there's is a Laughton season going on there until December 3rd: here at evanevanevan.com you can read a nifty essay on Charles' career, as well as details about the screenings.
In the film releases front, I'm happy to announce that "The Bribe" is finally going to be on DVD, in the Warner Bros "Archive Collection", which, as some of you may know, is no regular DVD release, but one that works on customer's orders (you order it, and they make a digital copy for you). The bad side is... it's a Zone 1-only release which cannot be purchased by anyone living outside that geographical zone... In short, some genius at the top of the company think that, outside the north of America, nobody is interested in film classics.
(Note: if any kind American Laughtonian is willing to make an order for me, please send a message to this blog so we can make an arrangement, ahem)
Steel and Glass
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