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

John Huston: A Retrospective

The Maltese Falcon
June 9, 2017 -
August 27, 2017
Jacqueline Bisset (7/21), Alan K. Rode (7/23).

In his memoir, John Huston belied any overarching themes tying together the 41 films he directed between The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Dead (1987). “What’s remarkable is how different the pictures are, one from another,” he wrote.  The important thing for Huston was only that “the story is worth telling.”  Huston’s filmography, indeed, leaps dizzyingly across genres and subjects.  In the mid-1960s alone, he tackled Freud, God and James Bond.  And as for stories, he was a faithful adaptor of works by literary icons (Herman Melville, Rudyard Kipling, James Joyce, Dashiell Hammett, Stephen Crane, Flannery O’Connor) and a direct collaborator with still more (James Agee, Truman Capote, Jean-Paul Sartre).  Such peripatetic interests are, no doubt, related to the wanderlust that marked Huston’s personal life.  Before landing at Warner Bros. as a screenwriter in 1936, he tried his hand at boxing, painting, reporting and acting—following his famous father, Walter.  He also, at various times, took up flung residence in Galway, Ireland and Las Caletas, Mexico.  Despite insisting on the discontinuity of his work, however, as soon as Huston parlayed back-to-back Oscar nominations for screenwriting into a shot at directing Falcon, he revealed a penchant for similarly searching types.  His films are rife with (almost exclusively male) eccentrics, romantics and neurotics driven on by some eternally retreating obsession.  The Maltese Falcon becomes the gold in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Ahab’s whale in Moby Dick (1956), Freud’s hypotheses in Freud (1962), Maj. Penderton’s masculinity in Reflections of a Golden Eye (1967), Tully’s faded glory in Fat City (1972).  For each, Huston pursued his own restless drive to push the medium towards ever-more expressive representations of outsider subjectivities.  In that, he succeeded more often than he succumbed to the idiosyncrasies he was trying to capture.  The Archive is pleased to present this extensive survey of Huston’s ever exploring, entertaining and fascinating career.

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Past Programs & Events