UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program present

"That Signature Style: The Films of Mitchell Leisen"

Kitty (1945)
November 16, 2012 -
December 16, 2012
In-person: 
David Chierichetti, author of Mitchell Leisen: Hollywood Director (11/16, 11/30). Chierchetti will be signing copies of his book beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Filmmaker Mark Rappaport described Chierichetti's oral history with Leisen and his key collaborators as "an essential read, as well as the only book about [Leisen]." 

Read Kenneth Turan's Los Angeles Times review of the series here

In his notes for a 2008 retrospective at the Cinematheque Francaise, Mark Rappaport points out that Mitchell Leisen was one of a select few Hollywood directors afforded the privilege of having his own “signature” appear on his title credit. At the time, it was a mark of Leisen’s power and prestige at Paramount, the studio where he started in the silent era as a set and costume designer for Cecil B. DeMille, and where he spent most of his career, directing a string of box office hits across a range of genres, including screwball comedies (Midnight), period pieces (Kitty) and even film noir (No Man of Her Own (1950)). Now it’s evidence of Leisen’s long fall from favor. Overlooked or merely politely acknowledged by many critics, Leisen is often labeled a superficial stylist who benefitted from strong scripts by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, Preston Sturges and Claude Binyon. It’s a bum rap. Leisen was a consummate filmmaker whose technical mastery freed him to focus on performance, building fluid compositions around story and character. His films exude a grace and humanity missing in the work of some of his more acerbic collaborators, Wilder and Sturges. Such empathy was essential for Leisen's explorations of identity in times of cultural change--especially for women. The Archive is pleased to present this survey as a chance to re-discover Leisen's signature style.