The Old South

King Cotton, rise and fall and enduring sway.

A great account by Herman Hoffman, superbly arranged by Zinnemann.


Eyes In The Night

A film admired for its remarkableness, but not especially prized, though its themes were worked out by Buñuel in Viridiana and Bergman in Saraband later.

They figure in The Nun’s Story and The Day of the Jackal, and elsewhere.


The Seventh Cross

The lesson derived from Lang’s Hangmen Also Die! is a universal principle.

Whale’s Frankenstein gives the tortured escapee from a concentration camp and the little girl he might kill, if necessary.

Welles takes the self-serve bar and the complacent barman for The Stranger, and Konstantin Shayne as another escapee.

Crowther (New York Times) was uncertain, Zinnemann has a German resistance still operating in 1936, and one apolitical thinker who starts to.

Halliwell’s Film Guide praises the film as “impressive”, but finds “a rather obviously contrived story.”

There’s a touch of Hitchcock at the inn when two SS men check the register (The 39 Steps).


The Search

The end of the war, thousands of refugee children in Germany, which is rubble.

The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration at work.

A raw testament of the war years, an adept and accomplished masterpiece (note the passage for goldfish spilled from a glass tank, hurriedly scooped up into a champagne ice bucket, and later placed in a proper goldfish bowl).

A theory of Occupation is expressed, not a matter of Americanization or anything else but immediate need followed by eventual restoration, as far as possible.

Halliwell spoke for the critics (Crowther took the high road), “falls down in its elementary dramatics”.

Its true kinship is to De Sica’s Miracolo a Milano and Losey’s The Boy with Green Hair and Cassavetes’ A Child Is Waiting.


Act of Violence

The contractor is so unassuming, he credits the townspeople with their new suite of tract homes. He’s the one standing on the outdoor dais at the opening, a “WW HERO” in the paper, newly revealed. A man in New York, whose right foot drags along the pavement, is first seen at twilight against the silhouettes of skyscrapers, he goes to his furnished room, checks a .45 (the title appears in block lettering, no further credits) and boards a bus for Los Angeles. It lets him off at Santa Lisa, he checks into a hotel and looks up the address. He stands outside the two-story house with a raincoat over his right arm, he cocks the .45 underneath it, the hero’s wife opens the door, her husband is at Redwood Lake, fishing. The man rents a car and a rowboat, his quarry gets wind and departs.

The hero relates the cause, pilot and bombardier were shot down and imprisoned for one year, the hero as senior officer betrayed a tunnel “to save lives”, an SS commandant promised to “go easy”, bayonets and dogs met the escapees without a coup de grâce, all the men were “starving to death”, he was given food. “There were six widows, ten men dead, and I couldn’t even stop eating.”

The effect is told by the man with a game leg, he was thought dead, the rest hung on the wire until one “sounded like a dog hit by a truck”.

A Builders & Contractors Convention in Los Angeles is a drunken carouse, the hero knocks the man down and flees into the night past the Westlake Theatre and Bunker Hill with its view of The Times, past Angels Flight and Apex Rooms to the Columbus Inn at closing time (two drunks step out of a Pinter screenplay, “where were you?” “I was drunk, but I was there”), a woman at the bar takes him home to her furnished room for coffee, he must be broke or lonely, the two great ills, but if you’ve got money, “yes,” he says, “I’ve got money.”

She calls the man for him, the hero’s business and all his fortune are offered, the man laughs. She knows another place, after hours an attorney has his office there, he recommends security, knows the right man for the job.

The hero is boozed and bullied, “you did the same thing in Germany,” he’s got a wife and child, he stands in front of a train and loses his nerve, the assassin and the woman bed him down on the sofa at her place. He wakes up and realizes he’s hired a killer for $10,000.

The rendezvous is on a train platform at night, the train roars by, the hero leaps in front of the assassin’s bullet, steps onto the running board of his car and wrestles for the gun as they drive through Santa Lisa and into a light pole.

The man observes the hero’s corpse on the pavement, reconciled.

Zinnemann’s direction makes this a drama of light and darkness, light itself is a nightmare for the hero at bay, the hireling’s shadow falls as oblivious relief.

The stated poles of Surtees’ cinematography are realism and drama, Zinnemann’s diagonals embrace the action or corner it. At the lake he is on the shore for a view of lapping water and floating dock, takes the camera out to hunt in sunlight, has a high-angle view.

Directors will tell you that film noir was an economy of means, light never strikes without effect here. “I knew what I was doing,” Zinnemann says. Crowther was so shocked he took the film for a piece of effrontery like Ruskin v. Whistler.


The Men

FDR’s troops, who won “the second Victory”.



High Noon can be explained by means of The Men and Lincoln’s deserter, here between these two films is precisely the story of a young man whose “occupation is running away.”

An anecdote repeated with a difference in Nunnally Johnson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

John Schlesinger’s A Kind of Loving is a streamlined view.

“This time”, as the wartime song went, “is the last time.”

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “this highly commendable little picture”. Leonard Maltin, “ambitious but slow-moving”.  Film4 rather badly misconstrues “this relatively run-of-the-mill saga as a mentally unstable young Italian woman who marries GI”. TV Guide, “unfortunately the story's power didn't translate as well as it could have.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “careful, sensitive, intelligent”.


High Noon

The return of Frank Miller, “WAR IS DECLARED”.

“Some o’ you were special deputies when we broke this bunch. I need ya again, now.”

An awesome and terrible analysis of the situation, a matter of time.

Mazeppa, with an All Star Cast”.

Oscars to Cooper, Tiomkin, Washington and the editors, Writers Guild Award to Foreman.

Truffaut, “facetious” (with reference to Vera Cruz, dir. Robert Aldrich). Godard, “superWestern” (with reference to Man of the West, dir. Anthony Mann).

Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema), “Zinnemann is hardly a Stroheim... anti-populist anti-Western.”

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “a thrilling and inspiring work of art”. Variety, “highly satisfactory”. Leonard Maltin, “legendary Western drama about a crisis of conscience.” Michael Atkinson (Village Voice), “a scorching and sour portrait of American complacence and capacity for collaborationism.” Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader), “not entirely devoid of virtues.” Time Out, “dark, dark, dark amid the blaze of noon. TV Guide, “not a frame is wasted in this taut, superbly directed, masterfully acted film.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “a minor western”, citing Pauline Kael, “a sneak civics lesson,” et al.


From Here to Eternity

Suckers for the Japs at Schofield Barracks have only just started to get their snafu ironed out when the attack hits, and therein lies the whole structure of the film with its archipelagic stories and characters, who bring out all the reasons for the disaster as amounting to criminal negligence and worse, a disgrace instantly extirpated when it is discovered, but too slowly found.

This is the key film in the construction of Rosenberg’s Cool Hand Luke, which counts among its bases also Ford & LeRoy & Logan’s Mister Roberts and LeRoy’s I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.



The other hired hand.

A dissatisfied customer, a firebrand, a thief.

A very careful maneuver around him for the State.

And therefore, the taming of the West.

Zinnemann films on location for the first half, dissolving in dream.

It recurs, in notably accurate filming throughout.


a Hatful of Rain

A delicate way of writing the screenplay leaves the playing area (maintained by Zinnemann frequently) clear of main arguments relating to the theme, which is never stated. This proved to be a difficulty for Crowther.

A dependence on morphine inflicted on a Korean War hero while treated for his wounds is construed as enemy action beyond the war, probably from Wellman’s Heroes for Sale.

All critics have seen, proceeding from the New York Times review, is Eva Marie Saint’s performance as the hero’s wife, missing all the rest just as good, Anthony Franciosa negotiating his role as the brother from one moment to the next, Don Murray acting “the Age of the Vacuum”, and Lloyd Nolan as the somewhat shiftless and yet exacting father.


The Nun’s Story

The military caste along the lines suggested after a fashion in Bergman’s tale of maternity patients, called in English So Close to Life (Nära livet).

A nun in 1930, who survives the discipline to see the overrun of Europe. Her promotion to civvy street is a raise in pay, no doubt. There isn’t anything more ultra-lucid.

In general, a most fervent and brilliant critique of the war, especially and most satirically in the light of Eliot’s play, The Cocktail Party.


The Sundowners

The Australian drover, a film very much like Renoir’s The Southerner (or Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, for that matter). The Zinnemann theme is more refined and essential than in The Nun’s Story, even.

The greater structure is an outward movement describing the drover’s trade, the shearing of sheep, a landfall of sorts in the vast plains of New South Wales, an Irishman’s pleasure of horse-racing, the domicile that eludes the drover’s wife.

Pleasant people, Crowther thought, like gypsies in the movies.


Behold a Pale Horse

It is ridden by a Fascist or a Communist or a clergyman, depending on the point of view, nevertheless it belongs to Anthony Mann’s El Cid, who serves “God, the King, and Spain”, and that is the meaning, viewed twenty years later, of the Spanish Civil War, as in Salvador Dali’s famous Premonition, the Soft construction with boiled beans of 1936.

For Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, a botched film because “it is difficult to determine just what is going on”, a classical response.

Halliwell was even more confused, “an action film... somehow not very interesting apart from the action sequences,” and he cites Judith Crist, “ a fine example of a high-class failure.”

For Andrew Sarris in The American Cinema, “painless political allegory”.


A Man for All Seasons

The folly of history.

It comes out to nothing, after all.

A mummery, the Act of Succession.

Nothing to do with England, or Henry VIII, or the saint.


The Day of the Jackal

Two attempts on President De Gaulle’s life, the second involving a considerable outlay of cash obtained by robbing banks for the hiring of a professional killer.

A masterpiece much imitated and exhibiting a central theme of Zinnemann’s work dating from Eyes In The Night.



The writer is a woman of leisure with an attachment to a notable success, a clever thing might be cobbled out, dismissed.

In Paris the workers are on strike, in Vienna Julia lies beaten.

The Children’s Hour.

A hatful of money to Julia in Berlin.

Poor Yorick in Moscow.

A daughter in Alsace, “not a village, a province.”

Nick & Nora Charles, it might as well be Asta.

The Little Foxes.

Zinnemann has this idea of structure from the Oklahoma! dream ballet.