John Huston

John Huston

John Huston was an American film director, actor and screenwriter, writing screenplays for most of the 37 feature films he directed. Huston received a total of 15 Oscar nominations throughout his 46-year career, winning twice, and directing both his father, Walter Huston, and daughter, Anjelica Huston, to Oscar wins in different films. Before becoming a Hollywood filmmaker, Huston had been an amateur boxer, reporter, short-story writer, a cavalry rider in Mexico and a documentary filmmaker during World War II. Huston was known to have also been an artist as he studied as a fine painter in Paris in the early years of his life. He explored the visual aspects of his films by sketching each scene on paper beforehand, then carefully framing his characters during the shooting. While most directors relied on post-production editing to shape their final work, Huston instead created his films while they were being shot, making them both more economical and cerebral, with little editing needed. After the success of writing the award-winning screenplay for Raoul Walsh’s High Sierra in 1941, (which transformed actor Humphrey Bogart from a supporting player to leading man) Huston finally directed his very first film The Maltese Falcon (1941), casting Bogart in the leading role. The Maltese Falcon was an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s detective thriller, and when released critics hailed it as a classic, with many today claiming it as one of the very first major film noirs. Bogart and Huston would eventually end up collaborating on several classic films together, most famously The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The African Queen (1951) and Beat the Devil (1953). Most of Huston’s films were adaptations of popular novels, often depicting a heroic quest, as in Moby Dick (1956), The Man Who Would Be King (1975) and The Dead (1987). In many of Huston’s stories, different groups of people, while struggling toward a common goal, would become doomed, forming “destructive alliances,” giving the films a dramatic and visual tension. For films such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Fat City (1972) and Wise Blood (1979) Huston explored lost souls or despicable anti-heroes, while involving other themes such as religion, greed, freedom, redemption and war. Toward the end of his career Huston also began to act in various films. Huston did not regard himself very highly as an actor, saying he was only proud of his performance in the neo-noir Chinatown (1974), playing the detestable villain Noah Cross. At 79 Huston is the oldest person ever to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar, while receiving multiple lifetime achievement awards, including one from the American Film Institute in 1982. Huston has been referred to as “a titan”, “a rebel”, and a “renaissance man” in the Hollywood film industry. Author Ian Freer describes him as “cinema’s Ernest Hemingway”—a filmmaker who was “never afraid to tackle tough issues head on.”

John Huston
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John Huston

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