I have only seen the films of one director in ‘Q’, and only a couple of those. If you can think of any more, please add them in the comments. So for today, I am using two letters in this one post.
Richard Quine was an American actor, producer, and film director who came to an untimely end when he shot himself, in 1989. I knew his name from just some of the films he directed, and you may well have heard of the famous titles too. The enjoyable romantic comedy ‘Bell, Book, And Candle’ (1958), starring James Stewart, and Kim Novak, and ‘The World of Suzie Wong’ (1960), an interracial romance, with William Holden. He also worked with Jack Lemmon, in the 1965 comedy ‘How To Murder Your Wife’.
By contrast, there are many to choose from in ‘R’, but I will limit my selection to three, leaving everyone a lot of scope to add their own favourites.
American director Nicholas Ray began his career in 1949, with the classic film noir, ‘They Live By Night’, one of the first films to feature the ‘young couple on the run’ theme that has been copied so many times since. The following year, he continued in the noir genre, directing Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in ‘In A Lonely Place’. In 1954, he made the western ‘Johnny Guitar’, with a powerful lead role for Joan Crawford in a film that is now regarded to be one of the ‘Great American Films’. Later on, Ray turned his hand to epics, with ‘King of Kings’ in 1961, followed by ’55 Days At Peking’ (1963). Still think you don’t know him, or his work? His most famous film has to be the teen drama, ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ (1955), with James Dean starring in one of his few yet memorable roles.
Danish film-maker Nicolas Winding Refn has a name that might well be unfamiliar to all but dedicated film fans. The young director came to the attention of the cinema world with his three films known as ‘The Pusher Trilogy’; ‘Pusher’ (1996), ‘Pusher 2’ (2004), and ‘Pusher 3’ (2005). These dark dramas looked at the lives of characters in the seedy criminal underworld of Copenhagen. Not only did they make Refn stand out from the crowd, they also launched the career of international star Mads Mikkelsen, and were later remade in English. Despite the low budget, the trilogy was highly acclaimed, and the Danish setting helped to cement interest in has come to be known as ‘Scandi-Noir’. Refn went on to direct Tom Hardy in the brutal true-life prison drama ‘Bronson’ (2008), before making the visually-arresting historical film ‘Valhalla Rising’ (2009), again starring Mads Mikkelsen. His most popular film to date is the well-received American crime thriller ‘Drive’ (2011), with Ryan Gosling in the lead role. Refn is only 47, so we can expect a lot more to come.
My top choice for ‘R’ is the British director, Sir Carol Reed. Despite the name, he was a man, and was knighted for his outstanding career as a film-maker, as well as winning many awards, including an Oscar for the musical ‘Oliver’ (1968). But that is far from being his best known film, and not his usual style at all. In 1947, he directed James Mason in the stunning drama ‘Odd Man Out’, set in the troubled times in Northern Ireland, after WW2. Before that, he had made some of the most famous and enduring British films, including ‘The Stars Look Down’ (1940), ‘Night Train To Munich’ (1940), and the stirring war film ‘The Way Ahead’ (1944), starring David Niven. In the touching drama, ‘The Fallen Idol’, he directed Ralph Richardson, in one of that actor’s finest performances.
The list goes on, with the warm-hearted London working class fable ‘A Kid For Two Farthings’ (1955), ‘Our Man In Havana’ (1959), starring Alec Guinness, and ‘The Agony And The Ecstasy’ (1965), which saw Charlton Heston cast as the artist Michelangelo.
But none of those are his most famous film, oh no. For anyone of a certain age, you will already undoubtedly have seen that, even if you are unaware who directed it. Voted The Greatest British Film Of All Time by The British Film Institute, winner of the Oscar for best cinematography, the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, and the BAFTA for Best British Film, the wonderful ‘The Third Man’ (1949) was Reed’s finest hour. Starring Joseph Cotten and Trevor Howard, with a small but unforgettable role for Orson Welles, and a memorable musical score by Anton Karas, this dark drama is rightly considered to be one of the best films ever made.