Tag Archives: Sam Fuller

Jeff Chandler Centennial

15 Dec

Jeff Chandler would have turned 100 today, December 15, 2018. He died an untimely death in 1961 at the age of 42 after a back operation left him with blood poisoning, right after coming home from finishing his last film, a WWII movie shot in the Philippines called MERRILL’S MARAUDERS, which would be released a year after he died. Directed by Samuel Fuller and based on a true story, it was one of Chandler’s best films.

As a leading man under contract to Universal Pictures, Chandler occupied a unique position in the 1950s, the decade in which he did most of his major work. Tall, athletic, rugged and boasting sharp, protruding features—square jaw, dimpled chin, thick curling lips, long straight nose, high cheekbones, piercing eyes, dark, bushy eyebrows, and prematurely graying hair—Chandler found himself playing unsmiling officers, tribal chiefs and authority figures of various sorts in a wide range of genres, notably westerns, historical adventures, war movies, swashbucklers, and romantic melodramas. As an actor, he had a limited range, one he voluntarily adhered to, but did wonders within that range. As far as I can tell, he played a genuine villain only once—in the 1959 western, THE JAYHAWKERS, in which the hero was played by Fess Parker, TV’s Davy Crockett.

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History on Film: Lincoln vs. Django

16 Jan

DJANGO UNCHAINED and LINCOLN complement each other in many ways. Both deal with historical events from time periods that are very close to each other—DJANGO is set in 1858, LINCOLN in 1865. Both deal with the subject of slavery. Several of the important characters in DJANGO are slaves and the film shows what life was like for them on the ground. LINCOLN talks about slavery but never shows us a single slave. DJANGO offers a fanciful approach to history, with entirely fictional characters and events; LINCOLN recounts events that actually happened and uses actual historical figures as its main characters. DJANGO is like the eccentric substitute social studies teacher who comes in and throws out the textbook to offer students a revisionist history and wild stories about what “really” happened, while LINCOLN is the Establishment Historian who comes in with impeccable credentials and lays out a detailed view of the subject based on rigorous study of original documents and the actual written words of the participants. In terms of precedents of historical filmmaking, I would argue that Steven Spielberg, director of LINCOLN, follows in the tradition of someone like Darryl Zanuck, who made carefully wrought historical dramas a centerpiece of the 20th Century Fox film lineup for nearly 40 years (YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, WILSON, THE LONGEST DAY, PATTON), while Quentin Tarantino, director of DJANGO, adopts the more freewheeling approach to history taken in the past by Sam Fuller (I SHOT JESSE JAMES, RUN OF THE ARROW) and Larry Cohen (THE PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER), in addition to Sergio Leone and the other Italian filmmakers who offered a highly stylized view of western (and western movie) history in their films. Tarantino highly exaggerates to make his points, while Spielberg sticks to the historical record and dots all the i’s, crosses all the t’s and gets all the facial hair and suitcoats right. (As opposed to Django’s green vaquero-style “Little Joe” jacket, taken from “Bonanza.”)

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SIDE BY SIDE: filmmakers weigh in on the digital revolution

9 Sep

On Sept. 5, I went to see the new documentary, SIDE BY SIDE, about digital filmmaking, at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan. Directed by a post-production supervisor named Christopher Kenneally, it offered actor Keanu Reeves functioning as the on-camera interlocutor for a series of interviews with directors, cinematographers, editors and other film industry personnel, some of whom talked about their preferences for film or digital formats in making movies, while others simply waxed rhapsodic about the new digital tools available to them.

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Barry Sullivan Centennial

29 Aug

Today (August 29, 2012) would have been Barry Sullivan’s 100th birthday. Sullivan (1912-1994) acted on the big screen regularly from 1936 to 1978, with one final screen appearance in a Canadian feature in 1987, and on television from 1955 to 1980. I knew him primarily as an actor in westerns, even though a look at his filmography indicates that he played far more contemporary roles than he did western roles. I first knew him from “The Tall Man,” one of many TV western series I saw as a kid. In it, he played Pat Garrett to Clu Gulager’s Billy the Kid, although I have no memories of any particular episodes. Most of the films I saw him in on TV over the years were westerns, including THE OUTRIDERS, THE MAVERICK QUEEN, DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE, SEVEN WAYS FROM SUNDOWN, STAGE TO THUNDER ROCK, and TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE. Plus he played guest star roles on other TV westerns, including “Bonanza,” “The Virginian” (pictured here), “High Chaparral,” and the pilot film for “Kung Fu.”

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Sam Fuller Centennial

12 Aug

Sam Fuller would have turned 100 today, August 12, 2012. In a movie career that lasted 60 years, he had 30 directorial credits (per IMDB) and 51 screenplay/story credits. Fuller interrupted his Hollywood career to serve as an infantryman in World War II and fought in North Africa, Sicily, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, before liberating a death camp in Czechoslovakia. An ex-reporter, he chose the army because he wanted to go where the story was. He certainly found it. I wrote about Fuller’s WWII film THE BIG RED ONE (1980) here on February 20, 2012.

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Sam Fuller’s THE BIG RED ONE: Screenplay to movie to novel to autobiography

20 Feb

Late last year I read The Big Red One, a novel by filmmaker Sam Fuller, based on his World War II experiences. It was published in 1980, the same year as the film he made with that title, and was based, I believe, on the film’s screenplay on which Fuller had been laboring for decades. I then read the portions of Fuller’s autobiography that dealt with the war. Titled A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking (2002), it was like reading a streamlined version of the novel. Everything he recounted in the autobiography was in the novel. I’d seen the movie, THE BIG RED ONE, when it came out in 1980 in the studio-mandated 113-minute version that was much shorter than Fuller’s intended cut, but at this point I’d never seen the reconstructed version of 162 min. that came out in 2004, seven years after Fuller’s death, even though I had the DVD.

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