Arlecchino Cinema > 11:00


George Stevens


Sunday 25/07/2021


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

One of the most uncompromising attacks on the American Dream. Stevens had a long association with Theodore Dreiser’s source novel, about a young man murdering his pregnant girlfriend, which he first read when it came out in 1925. It was Paramount that purchased the rights to An American Tragedy and Josef von Sternberg who directed it in 1931, to Dreiser’s disdain. Its failure made Paramount hesitant in revisiting the expensive property until Stevens fought relentlessly to have it made his way. He passed the material over to the leftist Michael Wilson and poet and novelist Harry Brown to adapt, and cast Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, who gave us one of the screen’s most enthralling moments when they kissed: a deliriously romantic shot using a six-inch lens takes the audience into their arms. With Shelley Winters joining the team, the main cast was complete – which, in Manny Farber’s words, gave “streaks of frighteningly natural acting.” By Hollywood standards, there was another curious and staggeringly effective innovation involved in the production, which commenced on October 1949: the extensive use of languid lap dissolves that Stevens devised for achieving “a kind of energy to flow through.” It took Stevens 19 months to edit his material and seven previews to convince him that he had just made one of the finest films of his career, further endorsed by six Oscars, including wins for best director, screenplay and editing. Stevens changed the name of his hero from Clyde to George, perhaps because he saw a touch of himself in the naïve loner who hitchhikes his way to a better world, only to end up on the gallows. Bleak as it is, the romantic vision puts the hero in a state of reverie, allowing him to walk through the calamity, terrifyingly calm and sober. “The typical American tragedy is the typical romantic tragedy,” Donald Richie wrote, and this is Stevens’s fullest tragedy in the sense that all promises made are false and all good goes to waste.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Sog: based on the novel Una tragedia americana (An American Tragedy, 1925) by Theodore Dreiser e dalla pièce omonima (1926) di Patrick Kearney. Scen: Michael Wilson, Harry Brown. F: William C. Mellor. M.: William Hornbeck. Scgf: Hans Dreier, Walter Tyler. Mus: Franz Waxman. Int.: Montgomery Clift (George Eastman), Elizabeth Taylor (Angela Vickers), Shelley Winters (Alice Tripp), Anne Revere (Hannah Eastman), Keefe Brasselle (Earl Eastman), Fred Clark (Bellows), Raymond Burr (procuratore distrettuale R. Frank Marlowe), Herbert Heyes (Charles Eastman), Shepperd Strudwick (Anthony Vickers), Frieda Inescort (Mrs. Vickers). Prod: George Stevens per Paramount Pictures. DCP.