All posts by billwhite1951

About billwhite1951

Bill White was a film reviewer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer from 1999-2009. Since then he has written a novel, The Goners, and a memoir, Cinema Penitentiary. He is currently working on a new novel, The Mayor is a Gringo. Born in Seattle, WA, he spent the years 1981-1997 in Boston, MA, where he worked as a disk jockey and a theater director, He also has an obscure place in the history of Northwest Rock Music.

Joan Crawford Holds the Center of “The Best of Everything”





“The Best of Everything” and “Imitation of Life” were made in 1959 and cost $2 million apiece.  Although the former was a product of Fox and the latter Universal, they might be mistaken as coming from the same studio.  A casual viewer might even mistake them as the work of the same director.  but a closer look reveals some of the differences between an assembly line soap opera and a masterpiece.

To be sure, plenty of those purporting to admire the work of Douglas Sirk simply enjoy the type of movies with which he is associated, and aren’t concerned with his qualities as a director per se.  Such an audience will consume “The Best of Everything” in the same meal as “Imitation of Life” without experiencing indigestion.

Jean Negulesco was a capable studio director who made several decent pictures.  “The Best of Everything” is one of them.  Most anybody who enjoys a good soap opera of this period is bound to enjoy it.  It is something like a “Valley of the Dolls” for the paperback book industry.  There is even a memorable line in it in which the publisher claims that he is restoring literacy to America by producing cheap copies of good books with sexy covers.  And he was right.  In the days when such books filled racks in every drugstore, both classics and best sellers were bought by just about everyone who knew how to read.  Who even knows what today’s best sellers are, let alone reads them?

So “The Best of Everything,” in addition to satisfying the required dosage of romance and ambition in the lives of three room-mates who work in the publishing industry, today offers a little nostalgia for the average suburban housewife’s reading list of 1959, which probably included “Doctor Zhivago,” “Lolita,” “Anatomy of a Murder,” and “Exodus.”

But what the movie doesn’t have is memorable direction.  And there are several perplexing aspects of the picture that make it impossible to confuse with the work of Douglas Sirk.  First, Negulesco feels it necessary to include roughly a dozen establishing shots of the building in which the publishing company is located.  Most directors are confident that one such shot is enough to establish the location when a scene taking place in the work area is to follow.  Negulesco not only pans up the building at random moments in which the women arrive at work, but also pans down the building a few times when the women leave work.  The unnecessary shots reveal a weak directorial sensibility.

Most of the picture is constructed with a lazy eye.  When Negulesco exercises his imagination, the result is usually ludicrous, as one sequence, a conversation between two characters, is shot from three angles, three quarter rear, straight on, and three quarter front.  The general position does not change. We re always looking at two people sitting across from each other, but in one shot we see the back of the woman’s head, in another her profile, and in the third most of her face.  The flow of the shots is irritating, and the lack of real variety gives the impression that he is cutting to the same shot, albeit at slightly different angles that are repeated for no intrinsic reason.  Maybe he just didn’t trust the scene to hold our attention.  If so, he might have found a way to enhance the scene by finding more ways to give it variety.  Sirk certainly would have never shot a scene so stupidly.

In “Imitation of Life,” everything is intelligently designed with an eye to the whole.  In the early scenes, during Lana Turner’s  struggling years, the art direction is drab.  There is very little color, and furnishings are scant and utilitarian. By the end, the film has been brightly painted in luxurious colors and furnishings.   Everything Sirk does is done for the deepening of the characters and their relationships both to their environment,  alien environments, and the other characters.  When Lana Turner first meets with the slimy agent played by Robert Alda, his office almost breathes with corruption.   In  contrast, when the lecherous Brian Aherne makes a pass at the virginal Hope Lange, his office does not reflect his base personality.  It is simply a room.

But in one respect Jean Negulesco proves the equal of Sirk. I do not like Lana Turner at all, yet Sirk directed her with such perfection that her every move is meaningful.   Hitchcock did the same thing with the atrocious Kim Novak in “Vertigo” and the even worse “Tippi” Hedren in “The Birds.”  But Negulesco achieves more than these superior directors in his handling of one of Hollywood’s most intense stars.  As Amanda Farrow,  the bitch-on-wheels executive who hold her underlings captive to her every mood swing, Joan Crawford hold down the center in an emotional whirlpool of petty and fatal operatics.  The cast, which includes promising ingenues Hope Lange, Diane Baker, Martha Hyer, and Suzy Baker, could easily have over-run a lesser actress than Joan Crawford, and made the stoty all about themselves, as most movies of this nature are. But Crawford, small as her role is is in terms of lines and screen time, gives the deepest and richest performance of a very fine group, holding the center as the various dramas unfold,and ultimately  taking the cake as the most sympathetic character.

From the beginning of the film, the audience is warned about the monstrously cold Amanda Farrow, but Crawford shows us the holes in that emotionless exterior right from the start, and the holes get bigger as her performance grows. Most actresses take these “guest star” roles in stride, walking through them with a concealed bitterness that their best days are behind them.  But Crawford, like other Hollywood eternals such as Katherine Hepburn and Gena Rowlands, use the stalwartness of age to their advantage, creating some of their most interesting characters at a time in life when lesser actresses would have thrown in the towel.  “The Best of Everything” may lack the total  control a director like Sirk might have rendered over it, but it does have the absolute authority of star Joan Crawford.And that is enough to bring it up to the level of other, more acclaimed soap operas from the magical fifties.


Cinema Penitentiary diary July 27, 1984 Prince’s “Purple Rain”Opens at the Harvard Square Theatre



It was early July, 1984.  I had recently turned 33. I was covering the  box office at the Harvard Square Theater in Cambridge Massachusetts when the phone rang. It was the owner of the theater and he was being mysterious.

“I’m going to say just one word and I want you to think about it,” he began. After a long pause, he whispered, “Prince.”  And then there was silence.  When I didn’t break the silence, he did. “So what is your feeling about it?  What is your response?” he asked.

“I don’t have one,” I answered.

“Then this is what I want you to do.  Go to each member of the staff.  Find out what they think.  If they ask any questions, just repeat the word. Ask them what they think.  If they ask for more information, tell them you don’t have any.

When the box office attendant returned from her break, I asked if the name ‘Prince’ meant anything to her. She shrugged her sweatered  shoulders and shook her drooping head. I counted out the drawer and took the cash  into my office, counted it, put it in the safe, then went upstairs to talk to the usher who guarded the doors  of Cinemas 2 and 3. When he heard the word, he got excited.  He had been at the theater much longer than I, and remembered the days when acts such as Bob Dylan and The Clash had given concerts there.  His first thought was that we were bringing the concert schedule back, and that Prince would be opening the season.

I had never heard of Prince, and soon discovered that I and the box office attendant were in the minority.  The rest of the staff was gaga over him, and the rush of rumors was gaining momentum. “Everyone is excited about Prince,” I told the owner when he called back.  “They are all asking if he  is going to be giving a concert here.”

“No, no concert. But he has a movie coming out and we might be opening it.  I’m just worried about what kind of clientele it will draw.  Look into it and we’ll talk tomorrow.”  By the next day I had found out that Prince was a crossover rock and soul act who was likely to appeal to the Rocky Horror crowd as well. This seemed to be in accordance with what the film’s distributors had told the owner. “But are we going to have any racial problems?” he asked me. I then realized this was the crux of his concern, and assured him that everything would be fine.  The Orson Welles Cinema had showed “The Harder They Come” every Friday and Saturday at midnight   without incident, while the last time we showed the Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same,” three rows of seats had been torn out of the floor.

Once he was convinced that his theatre was not likely to be destroyed by unruly gangs coming up from Roxbury on the Red line, he made his decision to book the movie.  The staff was excited about it, and the more I learned about Prince, the more I looked forward to opening day.

Things didn’t exactly go smoothly.  “Purple Rain” was Rated R, so we weren’t supposed to sell tickets to kids.  The kids then got into the theater through the back doors while the previous audience was exiting.  Since all the shows were sold out, for every kid that snuck in there was an adult with a ticket who couldn’t get a seat.    So the ushers had to check the tickets of the kids in the theatre who appeared to be under age, and they didn’t leave peacefully.  To keep this problem under control, we started to let the kids in through the front door after selling them adult-priced tickets.  Still, there were people sitting in the aisles for every showing.  Problems were minimal when the movie was on the screen, but fights broke out occasionally , and some ushers were threatened to mind their own business. One night, a projectionist lost his cool and used a firehose to break up a fight.  The next day, on his timecard, he added in pen, four extra hours “combat  pay.”

After that first chaotic weekend, I assured the owners that, if we added several more ushers to the schedule, we should be able to handle any problems that arose.    Once everyone got into the swing of things, working “Purple Rain” was allot of fun.  Especially for me, because I spent most of my time inside the auditorium,  loving the movie more and more the more I saw of it. One night, after the last show, I recognized a group of people leaving that had been to see the movie several times, so I started talking to them about it, and they invited me and the closing ushers to an after hours Purple Rain party at their apartment in Central Square.  It one was unbelievable.  They played the soundtrack album over and over, not only singing along to every song, but dancing foot perfect to every step. an older guy remained seated during the Prince numbers, but came alive for the Morris Day and Time selections.  “Now that’s my style,” he confided, leaning on my shoulder for support as he rose to the occasion.

It was a craze, a phenomenon, and it seemed the whole city of Cambridge was jumping on the bandwagon.  But I was so out of it that I didn’t know Prince had been turning people on for six years, and the five albums that preceded the “Purple Rain ” soundtrack had been best sellers.  Where had I been?  The only music I had been  listening to in the 80’s was Kate Bush and Elvis Costello.  I had loved soul music in the sixties, but white appeal artists such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson had put too much grease around the edges and I stopped following it. Now Prince was bringing it back in full force and it was more exciting than ever. It was like Elvis Presley  reborn with Smokey Robinson’s voice, James Brown’s dancing shoes, and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.  I was hooked and remained so for the next ten years.

Unlikely as it may have appeared to an outsider, Prince was somewhere on the grounds of nearly everything that happened in the ensuing decade.   As I fought against the news yesterday that he had passed away, I saw for the first time  how pronounced his influence was on everything I remembered of those years.  I heard him in Bob Dylan’s “Empire Burlesque” and Miles  Davis’ “Live Under the Sky.”  He had rekindled the country’s desire to learn new dance steps and cleared a road for dancing divas such as Paula Abdul.  Admittedly, she was not the greatest thing to hit the airwaves, but she put some life into those dead Reagan years.  And life is what Prince was all about.  You couldn’t sit around and be depressed with “Let’s Go Crazy” on the turntable.  When Prince was in the house,  there was always the optimism that something good was about to happen.  And even when a day passed that hadn’t an ounce of good in it, there was always tomorrow.  And every tomorrow began with the invitation to “Get up.”  And we did.  And even though Prince is gone now, I still hear his admonishment to “Get up.”  So do it.  Get up and celebrate life.  Don’t let the elevator bring you down.

Prince Dead at Age 57 – remembering “Purple Rain”



The shocking news has been confirmed.  Prince is dead.  I can’t believe it,and I can’t write anything. Like the rest of the world, I am devastated.  Here is something I wrote  about the movie  in which I discovered his immense talent.

“Purple Rain” is a musical revolution, crossing gender, racial, and geographical boundaries.  Rhythm and Blues meets Glam Rock in a Minneapolis Club called First Avenue that has its entrance on Seventh.  The film wastes no time, beginning with the invocation / invitation / indoctrination “Let’s Go Crazy,” and those unfamiliar with Prince are in the middle of a brand new thing. The Kid is an electronic-voiced Smokey Robinson  re-choreographing James Brown via Bob Fosse, and it doesn’t hurt that he is an ace guitarist.

His nemesis, Morris Day, sticks to the basic, old-school moves that always work, akcdistanced showman  while The Kid is a passionate artist tottering between transcendence and incomprehensibility,  Lately, The Kid has been losing his audience, and club owner Billy is looking for a replacement act.  When Apollonia shows up from New Orleans,  she is immediately drawn to The Kid, but Day whisks her into his pimped-up world with promises of stardom, plotting to use her to develop an act that will knock The Kid off the bill.

The Kid has internal problems, beginning with his band.  Wendy and Lisa have been trying to get him to do some of their material, which he won’t even listen to. And everybody, the band, the audience, and the club owner, is sick of The Kid’s own music, which is more an expression of his inner conflicts than something the crowd can groove to.  His home life is also a nightmare, with his musical failure of a father getting drunk and beating his mother in fits of paranoid jealousy. The Kid is trying not to follow in his father’s footsteps, but his quick-tempered hostility towards new girlfriend Apollonia, who he  suspects of infidelity with Day, drives his music into further self-indulgence until his act becomes an embarrassment to everyone concerned.

This might seem a set-up for a generic musical, but “Purple Rain” is anything but generic.  Prince is subversive on several levels, beginning with the variant perceptions of his own act. His way of delivering a super performance and then making it seem, in narrative terms, a disaster, is a brilliant toying with random aesthetics.  The  back-to-back   performances of “Computer Blue” and “Darling Nikki,”   with The Kid’s   upper torso greased and an S&M blindfold across his eyes,  provide an extreme example,   A simulated sex act in the first song makes the audience uncomfortable, but when Day  disses him,  Billy replies that “the kid is in rare form,” suggesting that he approves of the act, which functions as a validation for the movie audience who, having no personal stake in what is happening on stage, can enjoy it for its aesthetic value alone.  There is no approval, however, for “Darling Nikki,”  the lyrics of  which condemn and ridicule  Apollonia’s supposed infidelity.  The climax of the song, with The Kid grinding atop the piano, switching between male and female roles, is more subversive than the rude lyrics, as it  posits the performer as both the victim and victimizer, a cross between mother and father that is later   touchingly expressed in the song “When Doves Cry.”

There is more gender subversion in “Purple Rain” than the simple matter of The Kid’s androgyny. Traditional male and female roles are often reversed, as witnessed by the strong characters of Wendy and Lisa as opposed to the weak, submissive characteristics of the male band mates.   Apollonia, despite her trashy venality, is honest both in her emotions and her ambitions, while The Kid is rigged with so many violent defense mechanisms that he  doesn’t care about anybody except himself, a situation that is laced with self-destruction. It isn’t until his father attempts suicide that he realizes he has to open himself up to the people around him if he is to survive.

The final reel of “Purple Rain” liberated R&B from the debilitating influence of Stevie Wonder’s middle-of-the-road meanderings and the baby-pap of Michael Jackson, returning it to the possibilities once opened by artists such as Little Richard and James Brown.  The Kid begins by dedicating a song by Wendy and Lisa to his father, then delivers a knock-out  rendition of the title song that is like a marriage between John  Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.  The crowd reaction shots, though corny, perfectly reflect and return the  communicative energy coming from the stage.  When it is over, he is completely spent,  fleeing  the stage in pent-up confusion,  bursting into the street where,   hearing  the applause from inside, he smilingly returns to the stage to deliver a relentless barrage of straight, solid funk. As he performs “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star,” he realizes that the people are looking, not for a martyr, but for someone to represent them, a symbol, not of despair, but of joy.

The film’s most revolutionary statement is this rejection of selfish expression.  Contrary to the esteem in which mentally ill and  suicidal personalities are held in the broken canon of Western popular art, “Purple Rain”  maintains that the  artist is not the one with the most neurotic personality, but the one who can best express the culture of which he is a part.

Life of an Artist


Andy Warhol bought one of my paintings.

He was looking for a cheap canvas

To paint over.

And talked  the pawnbroker down

From five dollars to three.


Katherine Hepburn almost bought one of my paintings.

When she came to my house to look at the goods

She admitted she was not interested in my art

But was looking for sex with a younger man.


The only person who valued my paintings

Was the insurance salesman

Who talked me into burning them.


Now I am rich

And live on the island

Where a syphilitic Gauguin died of heart failure

And the beaches are spotted with the sores with radioactive fish.


I tell the native girls that I am a famous artist from Paris.



…………………………………………………….By Bill White  April 15, 2016

Hillary Clinton: “I Wish I Were More Like Bernie Sanders”



I like Bernie Sanders.

I wish I could be more like him.

But Im just a human being and Bernie is a myth, a symbol who walks on clouds.

If he was at a wedding, and the host ran out of wine,

Bernie would turn the water into wine.

But I am no miracle worker.

I am a human being with all the faults of a human being.

When a prostitute threatened to testify that my husband had raped her,

I didn’t smile and let it pass.

I made a telephone call and a man went to her house, forced her to write a suicide note,and shot her in the back of the head.

I am a problem solver.

I know how to solve probems.

I admit that my way is not always the best way

but it is the most practical way.

If Bernie needs $27 million dollars, he asks a million people for $27 dollars apiece.

When I need $27 million dollars, I ask 27 people for a million dollars apiece..

It is more efficient that way.

As president, I may not be as magical as Bernie Sanders,

But I will be more efficient.

And more practical.

We cannot wish our way out of the perpetual war.

We have to carpet bomb our way from one engagement to the next,

And do all we can to cut the percentages in our favor.

I am no saint

But I was first lady,  senator,  secretary of state, and maybe more important, I am a woman.

A persecuted woman. I have been accused of everything under the sun

And have paid millions of dollars in fines

But I have never done anything wrong.

Remember that when you go to the polls to vote for me

and while you are giving me your vote, I want you to think of Bernie Sanders.

Because I know that what you really want

What you really need….is what Bernie Sanders is promising.

But to get the things Bernie promises,

You have to go through me.

You don’t get a direct line to Bernie.

If you want affordible health care, you can have it

but you can only have it my way

And I admit my way is flawed, and nothing is going to happen overnight.

And some of you may even end up paying more only to discover you are getting far less.

but that is the way of the flesh.

The human way.

If you want miracle health care and you want it now,

Go to a faith healer.

You will have a better chance with a faith healer than with Bernie Sanders.

Better to take small steps with me, someone who knows from experience what works and what doesn’t work,

Than giant steps with a chimera, who will lead you to a wonderland that, when the enchantment wears off,

Turns out to be a broken ghetto where the lights have been cut off due to lack of payment.

There is no free lunch.

I have fought hard for every goddam one of your votes.

So you better get into line and hand over  those votes.

I wish I were more like Bernie Sanders.

But I’m not.

I am Hillary.

And you damn well better get used to me.

Movie Review: How John Huston Killed the Biblical Epic



It was the age of the epics. Movies that lasted four hours shown in 3,000 seat movie palaces with screens so big you had to sit at least ten rows back to see the whole picture. The movies were usually based on bible stories or stories that were improbably associated with the bible. “El Cid” wasn’t a bible story, but  it was about religious wars, and neither was “Cleopatra,”  but it had Romans and  Egyptians and a story that wasn’t far removed from David and Bathsheba.  At least it seemed that way to an twelve year old kid who had to lie his way past  the censorious box-office girl who insisted that the movie was not for kids although there were no “Adults Only!” signs in the foyer. You have probably seen these movies on television back in the days before cable delivered high definition pictures, or you might have seen some of them more recently on a Blu-ray that looked gorgeous even though it completely misrepresented the original colors and textures of the 35 or 70 mm original theatrical prints.  There is no way to recapture the experience of seeing an epic movie in a 3,000 seat movie palace in the years 1949-1961.  You had to have been there.

I only caught the tail end of the era that began with the arrival of cinemascope with “The Robe” in 1949 and ended with Cinerama’s “The Greatest Story Ever Told” in 1965.  I saw Ben Hur, The Big Fisherman, and Solomon and Sheba in 1959,  Barabbas and King of Kings in 1961,  El Cid and Sodom and Gomorrah in 1962, Cleopatra in 1963, and The Greatest Story Ever Told in 1965.   That was the extent of my religious education. At least until   sometime in the early seventies when I subscribed to a  Luis Bunuel series at the University of Washington.  That’s when I really got interested in religion.  But in 1965 I was through with religious movies, and epic films in general.  I didn’t even go to see The Sound of Music, although it played at my favorite downtown Seattle theater for two years.

So you can probably guess that I had zero interest in John Huston’s “The the beginning” when it came out in 1966. And I wasn’t the only one.  That Greatest Story at the Cinerama had tired out the whole city, and nobody wanted to see another religious epic. Their butts were still hurting from the last one. Huston’s take on the opening chapters of Genesis  received bad reviews all around the table, and killed the biblical epic for the next couple of decades.  It never did make a full return to its former glory.  When King David was released in 1985, the film-going public shrugged its collective shoulders and asked, “Who wants to see Richard Gere in a diaper?”

Since the turn of the century, biblical stories have provided either fodder for preposterous CGI revisionism or ultra sincere made for television schmaltz.  Movies like Noah and Son of God make one long for Richard Gere in a diaper.  So I was wondering if Huston’s “The Bible” was as bad as its reputation would have it, and was determined to watch the whole thing from start to finish. I had made several past attempts at watching it on crummy videotapes but had never made it past the garden of Eden.  Now I had a Blu-ray and, what I hoped was, an open mind.

After watching the whole thing, I told myself that the only explanation for such a fiasco was that Huston had challenged himself to recreate the grandeur of Cecil B. DeMille’s silent epics.  It was all voiced-over pantomime and tableau, with Huston playing God, Noah, and narrator.  The dialogs between the off-screen God and on-screen Noah were particularly dysfunctional.  But some of the shots of the animals entering the ark were pretty grand, and later, the ascent to the top of the Tower of Babel, its stairs littered with corpses, was inspired. But mostly it was sanctimonious shit.  Why are actors so knee-bent holy when it comes to enacting biblical passages?  Ava Gardner is one of Hollywood’s most sensuous actresses, yet here when she should be enraged at her handmaiden for giving birth her husband’s bastard son, she shows no passion at all.  It is hard to believe this is the same director who directed her in “The Night of the Iguana,”  where she was fit to kill poor little Sue Lyon for looking twice at Richard Burton’s defrocked priest, and here, where she should be rooty tooty hysterical, she barely raises her voice.

I kept thinking of how much life Pasolini brought to his trilogy of Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights, and The Decameron. Now here comes John Huston with these tales that have lasted thousands of years, and they are moribund.  Would anyone who had not heard these stories be impressed with them as they are told here?  I don’t think so.  It’s no wonder the stories in the bible were no longer considered suitable for screen adaptation after this.  Huston’s  Reader’s Digest abridgements  were more suitable for comic books than the big screen

Movie Review: Marilyn Monroe Nurtures Clark Gable with her Milky Breasts in”The Misfits”



At a certain point in John Huston’s film of Arthur Miller’s original screenplay, “The Misfits,”  Marilyn Monroe’s breasts are poised to tumble out of her blouse and into Clark Gable’s hungering mouth. She seems born to the task of suckling this aging cowboy, as well as his two friends, played by Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift. Without the nourishment bursting from her blouse, these three losers are unlikely to survive for long.  They are predators whose prey is becoming extinct because of their greed, and without prey, the predators themselves shall surely die.  And in these final days in the Nevadan desert, each in turn makes his case for salvation via the milky world of Monroe’s nurturing breasts, now freshly available in the wake of a Reno divorce.

On the surface, “The Misfits” plays as Miller’s screed against masculinity, written in the desperate haze of the disintegration  of his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. He is wild with fear of his marriage being eclipsed by the powerful allure of the men will fill Monroe’s life in his absence. It is the paranoia of competition, which sets man against man in the sexual arena where the best man often loses.  This story of a divorcee who rides into the desert with three crusty suitors is the nightmare of all men who have lost the woman they love.  Beneath the competing passions lie the roots of murder, and since these men are still too civilized to murder each other, they band together to round up a dozen misfit mustangs, and then to murder these equine doppelgangers, and sell them for dogfood.

But the film goes deeper than that. Miller realizes that he is the fourth member of this gang, and no better than the other three.   In fact, these three men are not simply an invasion of masculine force that will determine the future of his dissolving wife, but a harbinger of his own lonely fate.  And she will reject them just as she has rejected him. When men depend on the favors of a woman to perpetuate their own childlike alienation from the rest of the world, they  give her the power of the ultimate predator.  And in they end, as each continues his solitary journey, they will perish, and like figments of a Bunuellian dream, they will grasp for their mother’s breast in their final vertiginous moments.

I have never been a fan of Marilyn Monroe, but her performance in “The Misfits” has stayed with me through the years.  Watching it again today, I see that her acting is really no better here than elsewhere, but Huston captures something in her expressions that I have never seen in her  cardboard airhead roles.  Except in the earlier scenes with Thelma Ritter, who carries  the scenes she shares with Monroe, she is terrible when she has to act.  Her  close-up reaction shots,  however, are often remarkable.  I don’t know if this is the magic of Huston’s direction, or some combustive intuition that manifests itself in the muscles of her face, but it strikes me as real as the projections from Marlon Brando’s id that illuminated the mystery of Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now.”

John Huston is possibly the least brilliant of Hollywood’s pantheon directors.  He batting average is  250, with one out of every four movies being a treasure and the other three ranging from indigestible swill to passable junk food.  “The Misfits” is more Arthur Miller’s movie than his. But Huston does full justice to it. Even Gable’s ridiculous over-acting in key scenes is believable in the hyperbolized emotionalism of Miller’s erotic nightmare. Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift are excellent throughout, Clift being especially good.  I kept wondering if he were playing out his relationship with Elizabeth Taylor here, as so many of the scenes echoes things Taylor has said about her intimate relationship with Clift.

“The Misfits” benefits from its not being a film adaption of a pre-existing  Arthur Miller play, but a living entity created for the screen, for these particular actors, with much of it being revised and rewritten in the artistic fury of production. Had it been simply the transfer to the screen of a work that had a pre-existing life on the stage, it would not be nearly so complexly alive.