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George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)

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Biography of director George Stevens by his son. It includes clips from many of his films with commentary by the actors and by directors such as Frank Capra, John Huston and Alan Pakula, ... See full summary »

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Title: George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)

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Biography of director George Stevens by his son. It includes clips from many of his films with commentary by the actors and by directors such as Frank Capra, John Huston and Alan Pakula, among others. Also included are Stevens's war "home movies," found only after his death. Assigned by Eisenhower to film the war in Europe, Stevens used the opportunity to produce, at the same time, the only color footage ever shot in World War II. There is breathtaking film of D-Day and its aftermath; the triumphal march through Paris of the Allied liberators; and the unspeakable horrors of Dachau. This is what Goya might have done with a movie camera. On a more mundane level is a segment on Cecil B. DeMille's 1950 underhanded attempt to oust Joseph L. Mankiewicz, then president, from the Directors' Guild, which Stevens was instrumental in blocking. Written by Jacqueline Jarvis <arlene@inx.net>

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3 May 1985 (USA)  »

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Superb Heart-felt Hollywood Documentary
29 March 2014 | by (Alexandria, VA) – See all my reviews

George Stevens Jr.'s warm and fond documentary that chronicles his father's work, "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey," is not a critical assessment, but rather a loving tribute. Although George Stevens won two Academy Awards for best director, none of his movies won Best Picture, despite his having made some of the finest and most beloved films in Hollywood history. A roster of his best work recalls the humor in "The More the Merrier;" the romantic closeups of "A Place in the Sun," the elegant dancing in "Swingtime," the vast Texas landscapes of "Giant," and the plaintive cry of a young boy watching his hero ride away in "Shane." Just reading Stevens's list of directorial credits evokes countless memories of great stars, great lines, and great images.

Stevens Jr.'s documentary has its own share of great stars; as an historical document, the film incorporates priceless interviews with Katharine Hepburn, John Huston, Fred Zinneman, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Joel McCrea, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, and Frank Capra, among other A-list directors and actors. As expected, all praise Stevens, enjoyed working with him, and comment on the quality and endurance of his work, both on screen and off. Mankiewicz is particularly interesting when he relates Stevens's resistance to Cecil B. DeMille, then president of the Screen Directors Guild, and DeMille's infamous campaign against foreign influence (read Communist) in Hollywood. Other highlights of the film-clip-rich documentary center on World War II, during which Stevens shot the only color footage and headed up a team that professionally filmed the D-Day landings; generous clips of his rarely seen war-related work are included.

Against a fine Carl Davis score, the film opens with a subjective camera that roves through a store room of Steven's memorabilia and pauses over Oscars, photographs, and film cans, while Stevens Jr. narrates. Understandably, Stevens's son focuses on his father's career peaks, which are many, but he does slight such lesser known early films as "Quality Street," "Vigil in the Night," and "A Damsel in Distress;" fails to discuss such modest successes as "The Talk of the Town" and "Penny Serenade;" and completely ignores his last film, "The Only Game in Town," a critical and box office disappointment that starred Warren Beatty and Elizabeth Taylor. The mixed reception for "The Greatest Story Ever Told," however, is covered, and, after an interview clip with Max Von Sydow, the film concludes shortly thereafter.

Despite a lack of objectivity, "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey" is an outstanding documentary. The well chosen film clips run long enough to illustrate the director's style, and the interview comments offer insight and historical perspective. The nostalgia-imbued book-ended segments in the storage room and early photographs of Stevens with his parents emphasize the film's personal and heart-felt nature. Among the best documentaries on Hollywood, "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey" is essential viewing for students of film and film history and for anyone who wants an introduction to a great American movie director's work.


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