Contributions to Moving Image Source, the online journal of the Museum of the Moving Image:
The Machine War: World War I in Howard Hawks’s The Dawn Patrol and The Road to Glory October 7, 2013
Howard Hawks enlisted in the Air Corps with five of his friends in 1917. By the time he started shooting The Dawn Patrol in 1930, they had all died in the cockpit, either in WWI or from accidents afterward. Hawks never saw wartime action himself, having served as a stateside flying instructor, but he thrived on the stories that returned from the trenches, including those recounted by Irvin S. Cobb, who told scenarist John Monk Saunders about a death-defying group of British flyboys.
William Witney, B-Movie Action King May 10, 2013
Film director William Witney changed the way movie punches were thrown. It has become a cliché to say that fight scenes are like dances, but for Witney this was just common sense. He saw Busby Berkeley working on a stage spectacle, and adapted that regimented method to action sequences, essentially inventing the job of stunt choreographer. Witney honed this approach over a forty-year career directing an astonishing variety of low-budget action movies, from 1930s adventure serials to 1970s Blaxploitation comedies.
Island Time January 7, 2012
“We are going to film everything we can.” So says director Gonçalo Tocha as he arrives at the tiny Portuguese island of Corvo, the westernmost point of Europe. The village, population 440, sits between a volcanic crater and the Atlantic Ocean, pinned between an ancient past and the distant present of the mainland, which reaches them only through a thrice-weekly plane landing.
Battle Lines: The epic intimacy of John Woo’s Red Cliff, November 23, 2009
John Woo’s new film, Red Cliff, marks a shift in the director’s choreography of bodies. It is a move toward intimate epics, a telescoping style where individual gestures spur intricate army formations and where every flanking maneuver or tea break has world-historical consequences.
A Guy Thing: Macho loneliness and masculine insecurity in Eastbound and Down, July 29, 2009
Ben Best, Jody Hill, and Danny McBride are building an anxiety-inducing career on the thin line between humor and humiliation. They push their studies of masculine insecurity to discomfiting levels of desperation, plumbing the depths of macho loneliness.
Divine Tragicomedies: The two movies that started Leo McCarey’s amazing ’30s run, September 4, 2008
Midway through the 1930s Leo McCarey, the maestro behind the early shorts of Laurel and Hardy, started making feature-length masterpieces. From 1935 to 1939 he directed Ruggles of Red Gap, Make Way for Tomorrow, The Awful Truth, and Love Affair. It’s an astonishing run, but the first two features have long been unavailable on home video, their reputation surviving through the tantalizing words of critics and McCarey fans like Robin Wood and Dave Kehr.