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

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A Son's Loving Tribute
harry-7619 March 1999
"George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey" is a testimonial of Steven's son to his father. Stevens was a most talented director, whose work spanned many years and whose films embraced many genres. He was a fine comedy director and also directed musicals with class. His action films were spirited and his romantic dramas moving. Many critics have tended to first overrate, then upon re-evaluation underrate Steven's work. My feeling is that Stevens chalked up a remarkable record of high quality films throughout his career, and this bio provides a wide range of his work, through film clips, interviews by actors, producers and directors, and through a loving narration by George Stevens, Jr. This is a must for Stevens fans and an enjoyable film for others.
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A Loving Tribute
harry-7614 March 1999
"George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey" is a loving tribute by his son to a genuinely fine director. Whether one might prefer either pre- or post WWII films by Stevens, the quality of his over all output is staggering. Before the war his films were bouncy, frothy, and delightful. After the war a more somber tone was displayed, and at the same time, a unique feeling for atmosphere and especially timing. Too, the musical scores blended beautifully into his full tapestry. The photography of his films was peerless, and the acting always on the highest level. This is a wonderful monument to a most loving and beloved screen director.
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Superb Heart-felt Hollywood Documentary
dglink29 March 2014
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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A son looks at his father's legacy
blanche-224 June 2009
George Stevens, Jr. produced and narrates this look at his father's life and work. It includes interviews with Katharine Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Hermes Pan, Joel McCrea, Warren Beatty, and Mrs. Stevens, all of which are very interesting.

The most fascinating parts of this documentary are the ones which show footage from Stevens' own camera. There is on the set material from various films and his amazing World War II films of the liberation of Paris, Dachau, and the Normandy invasion. Staggering and stunning. This perhaps deserved its own documentary, and I believe that later on, the footage was released separately.

Film clips include parts of: Alice Adams, The More the Merrier, Shane, Diary of Anne Frank, Giant, A Place in the Sun, The Greatest Story Ever Told. Shelley Winters, not interviewed here, sadly, tells the story in her autobiography of Stevens having them rehearse without dialogue. It's perhaps the secret of the intimacy that is often captured in his films. "The More the Merrier" clip is that of an improvised love scene between McCrea and Arthur.

Someone commented here that it's not for Stevens Jr. to canonize his father. Being in the field of classic film, I disagree. This may not be a perfect documentary, and it may not dwell on his father's failures, such as the overblown The Greatest Story Ever Told. The common problem faced by many of these great filmmakers is that as the studio system collapsed and Hollywood changed, it was difficult for them to adjust.

The point is this: yes, the legacy speaks for itself - but who is there to hear it speak if the families don't honor their famous relative? A son's insight may be biased, but it's also more enlightened in many respects. If anyone believes there is some huge movement afoot to see that these wonderful contributors to film history are remembered, they're wrong. Even the theaters once devoted to classic film hesitate to show them now because they can't make any money. I say bravo to anyone willing to make a documentary on any aspect of classic film.
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Not The Filmmaker's Fall it ought to be
mgmax27 August 2002
No one can fault George Stevens Jr. for not wanting to make the movie that really ought to be made about his father-- the decline of a once-nimble and always intelligent filmmaker into the bloated self-consciousness of his 1950s films and the suffocating self- importance of his virtually unwatchable final work. But this is a frustratingly superficial work that misses what's interesting about early Stevens so that it can lavish praise on the noble intentions that were so disastrous to the later work. For instance, Stevens' apprenticeship at Hal Roach (where he directed Laurel and Hardy) is reduced to a soundbite about Stevens wanting a subtler approach to character-driven comedy than Roach-- as if Roach were Mack Sennett rather than the man who pioneered a subtler and more character-driven form of slapstick. If Stevens wanted to out-Roach Roach, that's surely a more interesting line of inquiry than making Roach out to be a hack. Likewise, Stevens is credited by Hermes Pan with inventing the idea of dance numbers that advanced the plot in Swing Time-- when seduction-by-dance had been a feature of the Astaire-Rogers films since The Gay Divorcee, and in any case it's doubtful how much Stevens would have had to do with the dance numbers' form. It would have been far more interesting (not to mention accurate) to have a real film critic explore the development of Stevens' style in these early house assignments, which in the end look like Stevens' most consistently fine work. Conversely, when we get to the postwar period, we hear only about Stevens' ideals and intentions, his encouragement of the actors and his technical innovations (Warren Beatty has a good anecdote to tell), but even well-chosen clips can't cover up the fact that Shane clothes a stock story in a handsomely muddly realism, that Giant is merely a ponderous soap opera, that Diary of Anne Frank, visually promising, is nearly unbearably wrong with those cute California kids telling each other Hallmark sentiments (in sadly ironic contrast to Stevens' own home movies of the camps)-- and that The Ghastliest Story Ever Told, the aircraft carrier of Jesus movies, is not even a movie but a series of visually exquisite, dramatically deadly religious postcards. By this period, almost any other series of similar films would be more interesting to examine-- who wouldn't rather hear Nicholas Ray talk about They Live By Night, Johnny Guitar and King of Kings, say? Or Anthony Mann talk about Winchester 73 and El Cid? Or Pasolini talk about how he was inspired to make The Gospel According to St. Matthew by how wrongheaded Stevens' Jesus was?
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Odyssey of Greatness-Documentary on Director for All Times ****
edwagreen9 January 2010
This is an outstanding documentary on the life of George Stevens, 2 time Oscar winner for best director.

I never knew that he started out on comedies and that the advent of World War 11 had such a profound effect on him,that he never made another comedy after returning from the war.

The man was a genius at comedy. His slow-pace belief as depicted in 1942's "Woman of the Year" was terrific to watch. Remember the scene with Katharine Hepburn trying to make breakfast for Spencer Tracy?

Stevens was an American icon. His American Trilogy included "A Place in the Sun," as well as "Shane," and "Giant." His World War 11 classic, "The Diary of Anne Frank," shall live on in the hearts of all of us.

A fair-minded man, he went on the attack when Cecil B. DeMille demanded that everyone sign a loyalty oath in an attempt to drive out Joseph L. Mankiewicz from the film industry.

The following people received acting Oscars under the direction of Stevens: Charles Coburn, "The More, the Merrier, (1943) and Shelley Winters, "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959).

The following people received Oscar nominations under the direction of Stevens but did not win: Katharine Hepburn- "Alice Adams," and "Woman of the Year." Brandon De Wilde and Jack Palance for "Shane," Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters for "A Place in the Sun," as well as James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Mercedes McCambridge all for "Giant." Also: Ed Wynn for "The Diary of Anne Frank."

How ironic that 1962's "The Greatest Story Ever Told," was a colossal failure.
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Tribute to George Stevens narrated by his son...
Neil Doyle22 June 2009
This lengthy tribute to director George Stevens tries to cover almost too much ground during its one hour and fifty minutes. It even includes the color war footage that he took during the liberation of Paris in WWII and a visit to Germany and the concentration camps. While all of that footage is very interesting, a more compact look at Stevens' career would have been preferable.

His early films interested me the most--especially the film that brought out the kid in all of us--GUNGA DIN. A generous amount of film clips from this film makes for enjoyable viewing, as does the long musical clip from SWING TIME with Astaire and Rogers cavorting around the highly stylized B&W art deco set.

Other enjoyable clips from THE MORE THE MERRIER (the famous love scene where he let Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea improvise), WOMAN OF THE YEAR (Katharine Hepburn trying to make breakfast for Spencer Tracy), and earliest of all, ALICE ADAMS with the breakfast scene that includes Hattie McDaniel as a hapless maid hired to impress Fred MacMurray.

Other clips from A PLACE IN THE SUN, GIANT, SHANE and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK take up precious time but are worth viewing. And then a sad look at one of his box-office and critical failures--THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD.

Summing up: A not too objective look at his father's career by a doting son, but a tribute that is indeed deserved.
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George Jr.
wwkentucky19 July 2005
I think George Jr. is using his position at the American Film Institute to "manage" his father's legacy---which is wrong. The impact of George Stevens' work should be judged on its own merits. His films speak for themselves, and it's embarrassing to see a son canonize his father so publicly.

I'm proud of my dad too, but I wouldn't erect a monument to him for being one of America's all-time great little league coaches.

If George Stevens' films are important (they are) and stand the test of time (they do), then let others praise this unique American artist. For a son to create documentaries about (and name AFI awards after) his father is a tacky cry for attention. "Hey, don't forget my dad! He was a great American filmmaker!" Usually, TV producers will see the potential of (or a market for) a documentary about a great American filmmaker and ask the artist's family to participate by donating old photos and agreeing to be interviewed on-camera. George Jr. apparently grew impatient waiting for such an offer. Possibly he feared no offer would ever he produced his own documentary. And all to build up his father's legacy.
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