Monday, July 21, 2008


I said some unflattering things about Hal Wallis's post-Warner-Brothers producing career in an earlier post, so for an alternative (and probably fairer) assessment, check out this article by Ed Sikov about Wallis and his business partner, Joe Hazen. He makes good points, even if he is writing at a site that was financed by Joe Hazen's foundation.

I still have my problems with most of Wallis's Paramount filmss, most of which -- even the good ones -- seem kind of stodgy compared to what he was doing at Warners. (He always liked making films out of stage plays, but his Paramount adaptations actually do feel like filmed stage plays, even to the point of hiring stage directors who were deadly dull on film, like Peter Glenville.) But it's true that he did produce a lot of entertaining movies, and, as Sikov notes, his arrangement at Paramount -- as a quasi-independent producer working at a major studio -- showed his grasp of how movie production would work in the post-studio-system era.

Also, in the DVD booklet for The Furies, an early Wallis production at Paramount, Anthony Mann is quoted as saying very good things about Wallis as a producer.


Thad said...

I'm interested in getting The Furies Criterion set, having just watched this bat-shit crazy wonder (I mean that in a very good way, of course). Perhaps I shall do an order with DeepDiscount, being that Criterions are buy one get one free for another week. I'm curious if the novel is as forked up.

Griff said...

I can't understand why Sikov describes Vitaphone as a sound-on-film system, or why he thinks Ray's BITTER VICTORY is a Wallis production.

Wallis did indeed make better pictures at Warners, and given his autonomy as an independent, I still find it hard to grasp why this would be. Perhaps he was hedging his bets. Wallis made braver, harder-edged movies as a studio executive than as an independent.

A small example. I don't know whether Wallis as an executive would have cast the inexperienced (and inexpressive) Glen Campbell in a pretty important role in TRUE GRIT; based on his work at Warners, I think he might have favored a stronger actor in the interest of making the film better. But as an independent producer (and as a producer of numerous Elvis movies), Wallis may have found the prospect of casting the pop-star a no-brainer -- something to use to bring the kids in.