FSLC Presents Extensive Films of John Huston Retrospective
December 19-January 11; Anjelica Huston to Appear Closing Night
By: Ellis Nassour
Let There Be Light: The Films of John Huston, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s complete retrospective of the legendary and Oscar-winning director, will screen December 19 – January 11. Forty-six features and shorts will span five decades of Huston’s iconic works as director, screenwriter, and actor.
From subjects Sam Spade to an obvious infatuation with Annie Warbucks, Huston established himself as one of the 20th century’s most accomplished film artists of Hollywood’s Golden Age. He was Oscar- nominated 15 times [amazingly winning only once for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre]. He was tough, eloquent, and cynical; a master storyteller; a reluctant romantic; a stellar director of actors, and a brilliant actor himself.
Though he had his share of duds, critcs wrote that Huston had the ability "to find robust, flexible cinematic vocabularies for literary texts". His films were "consistently imbued with a wise, reflective, open-minded voice entirely his own."
Something that’s not often touted was the director’s genius when it came to casting. Humphrey Bogart and Huston were kindred spirits – both hard-living, hard-drinking. Their careers followed twin trajectories. Huston delivered the eulogy at the actor’s funeral – describing him in his famed dulcet tones as "a provocateur who kept Hollywood honest."
They made six films together: Across the Pacific, The African Queen [where he paired polar opposites – rag tale Bogart and prim Katharine Hepburn — for superb results], the very underrated black comedy Beat the Devil,[screenplay by Truman Capote; and a reunion with Peter Lorre], Key Largo [with Lauren Bacall], The Maltese Falcon, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [which co-starred his father].
Walter Huston and Anjelica Huston earned Oscars under John Huston as director, making for one of the medium’s most formidable and collaborative dynasties and becoming the only family to win Oscars in three successive generations.
The FSLC retrospective will give movie lovers the opportunity to discover, or rediscover some of his most popular films as well as rarely seen works – and to see them on the big screen. The majority of screenings take place in the Walter Reade Theatre unless otherwise noted.
Dennis Lim, director of Film Society programming, said: "John Huston was a titan of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but he long outlived it. His storied career spanned styles, and genres, and he was also the rare artist who grew more daring with age. This retrospective allows for a full appreciation of his prodigious gifts and ambitions. Many of the films are classics and popular favorites, others long overdue for rediscovery."
Film buffs will have the opportunity to discover or rediscover Huston in Film Society’s Film Comment magazine’s 88-page definitive Digital Anthology: John Huston.
The limited-edition book John Huston by Lillian Ross – seven of her essays from The New Yorker [from 1949 – 1984], which includes interviews, recollections of visits to Huston’s sets, a poignant appreciation of her father’s career by Anjelica Huston at the time of her directorial debut [Bastard Out of Carolina], and appreciations of his diverse career. Miss Ross is the author of Picture, the acclaimed report on the making of the film adaptation of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, which Newsweek called "the best book on Hollywood ever published."
In addition to those above, included in the retrospective are The Asphalt Jungle, The Bible: In the Beginning, Casino Royale, Chinatown [Jack Nicolson, Faye Dunaway], Heaven Knows Mr. Alison, In This Our Life [Bette Davis], The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, The Mackintosh Man [Paul Newman], The Misfits [Monroe and Gable’s last film], Moby Dick, Moulin Rouge, Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana, Wise Blood, and Under the Volcano.
As just the films mentioned show, Huston was worthy of being called "a renaissance man unbound to genre" and "cinema’s Ernest Hemingway … [he was] never afraid to tackle tough issues head on," and though he was by no means a "message man" like Stanley Kramer, a glance at his filmography reveals incisive treatments of racism, sexual identity, religion, alcoholism, psychoanalysis, and war. His films have been described and acclaimed for his continuously circling back "to questions of faith and doubt, concealment and revelation, failure and victory, empathy and the limits of consciousness."
The closing night feature, the black comedy Prizzi’s Honor, will be followed by a rare appearance by Oscar and Golden Globe-winning and multiple Emmy nominee actress/director/author Anjelica Huston, who’ll discuss her father’s work. Co-starring with Jack Nicholson, the film won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
Huston’s penultimate film-it premiered two weeks before his 79th birthday-has the irreverent spunk of a debut and the reflective, generous voice of a swan song. Huston plays Mae Rose Jack Nicholson gives one of his finest performances as a beloved, longtime hit man employed by a New York mob family.
The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York
Times, HBO, Stella Artois, the Kobal Collection, Variety, Trump International Hotel and Tower, National Endowment for the Arts, and N.Y.State Council on the Arts.
The Film Comment digital anthology can be accessed for $2.99 at www.filmlinc.com/HustonAnthology for $2.99. John Huston by Lillian Ross [Film Desk, $12] is available at FSLC, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Amazon.
For a biography of John Huston and a complete list of’s features and shorts, synopsizes, showtimes, and discount packages, visit www.filmlinc.com and follow @filmlinc on Twitter. Screenings are at FSLC’s Walter Reade and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
Let There Be Light: The Films of John Huston tickets are as low as $5 with purchase of a 5+ Film Discount package. Single tickets are $10, $7 for students, seniors (62+), and FSLC members. Purchase online or at the FSLC box offices.