Nicholas Ray, born this day 97 years ago. Thanks to Tom Farrell for the picture and the heads-up.

“Born. Lived. Interrupted. And it happens every day.”

7 Responses to “Born.”

  1. The definitive book on Ray is Mostly About Lindsay Anerson by Gavin Lambert. Ray is the “other than mostly” part of this essential volume. A brilliant, manipulative bisexual with ego larger than his far from inconsiderable talent, Ray epitomizes the crash and burn of Hollywood in the post-WWI period. His inability to restart his career in europe as Losey so spectaculary did led to his directorial downfall. Not that he was expecting anything less as In a Lonely Place shows.

    Party Girl, his last Hollywood film, was praised to the skies and beyond in an infamous “Cahiers du Cinema” essay by Fereydoun Hoyveda who went from cinema to “real life” when he became the Ambassador to the U.S. for the Shah of Iran.

    Now THERE’s a Nick Ray movie in and of itself.

  2. Arthur S. Says:

    His inability to restart his career in europe as Losey so spectaculary did led to his directorial downfall.

    It depends on what you mean by “downfall”. Ray couldn’t get to work anywhere and the like but that doesn’t have much to do with talent as films like ”The Savage Innocents” or even ”55 Days” shows. A lot of directors have difficulty finding avenues to work in but that doesn’t mean they have a downfall or anything. I also think his last film co-directed by Wenders while problematic(for understandable reasons) to some who knew Ray, like Lambert is a beautiful, poignant film and Elia Kazan who initially didn’t want to see it liked it a lot as well.

    By the way, I like that photo, is it from his years teaching at NYU, he only got his patch at the end of the 60’s during that aborted film he tried to make about the Chicago Trial.

    Nicholas Ray has long been one of my major favourites and I like practically all his films, my favourites being ”The Lusty Men” and ”Bigger Than Life” though ”In A Lonely Place” is a masterpiece as well as ”Johnny Guitar” and ”Rebel…”. A one-of-a-kind film-maker who worked with big stars but had such a command of depicting emotion that his actors seem very much close to life. Save for ”Party Girll” which is a still a very good film and has good performances but feels more detached than his other films.

    I didn’t know that about Fereydoun Hoveyda. I knew he wrote the screenplay for Rossellini’s ”India” and a Rohmer film but him becoming a Diplomat for the Shah is a shock. Thanks.

  3. I can find interest in nearly all Ray’s work — even the “aborted” film isn’t really that — it does exist, after all. Tom Farrell, one of his students and collaborators from the teaching days, keeps feeding me these great pictures.
    Considering how people like Peckinpah were able to keep making films despite fairly serious personal problems/personality defects, it’s a shame Hollywood couldn’t find a way to continuously channel Ray’s unique and erratic abilities. So many modern directors in the commercial sphere just seem UNPLEASANT, and Ray was never simply that.

  4. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ray’s work enormously. If you can snag a copy get the Masters of Cinema edition of The Savage Innocents. Bill Krohn and I do the alternate track commntary, ending with a rousing chorus of “The Mighty Quinn.” But he was a very complex, high strung and frequently self-destructive character. That and circumstance conspired against him. Working for Samuel Bronston would have seemed to be a “way in” to the emerging new international cinema. But it proved a dead end. Fascinating, but dead nonetheless. Ray tried do go the independent route in the U.S. (eg. The Janitor) but it didn’t work out. So he turned to teaching and later acting. I quite like his turn in The American Friend but I can’t say I care for Lightning Over Water.

  5. I treasure my copy of the MoC Savage Innocents.

    Ray is quite well-served by books: I think not only is Mainly About LA an essential volume, but the Eisenschitz biography and I Was Interrupted, edited by Susan Ray, are essential reading.

  6. Arthur S. Says:

    I have heard of the MoC release but it’s out of print now, for rights reasons apparently. I very much liked your commentary with Bill Krohn on the MoC version of Murnau’s ”Faust”. I have seen ”The Savage Innocents” in revivals and theatres in acceptable prints until now so I’d like to get that copy for sure.

  7. Merci.

    I do wish they would get that rights situation straightened out. With the polar ice caps melting the film is fast becoming a period piece.

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