Editor’s Note: In two posts which you can find here and here Sydney’s supercinephile Barrie Pattison did some retrieving of William Wyler’s early career. There were mentions of later films but the concentration was on several little known early career titles, notably The Love Trap (1929), The Shakedown (1929), The Gay Deception (1935) and A House Divided (1931). Some Facebook chatter then popped up and I’ve gathered the comments here to round out this little section on a director whose reputation has long been, all the way back to Andrew Sarris’s book and to Andre Bazin’s commentary, the subject of debate.
The first comment related to my choice of the word ‘unfashionable’ in describing Wyler’s current status. Some cinephiles gave it some thought. Now read on…
|Wyler (l) during WW2|
Peter Galvin: Gee I dunno Barrie and Geoff - Wyler has had quite a few re-assessments over the years and I seriously doubt 'unfashionable' still sticks as it once did - part of his recent rehabilitation can be found in Mark Harris superb group biography 'Five Came Back' - about the 5 biggest Hollywood directors who went off to WWII and served and made films - Capra, Huston, Ford, Stevens and like i said Wyler. Still, always great to hear from BP
Noel Bjorndahl: I've always thought of Wyler as an important Director. Good to see him getting some coverage.
David Hare: There are really great pictures scattered among the rest - Dodsworth. The Collector, Carrie, Friendly Persuasion - but I have trouble seeing him as a major auteur with a distinct personality.
Geoffrey Gardner: At Bologna last year Wyler rocked everybody's socks with the marvellous The Good Fairy with Margaret Sullavan. By chance some Italian company had just released the film on DVD and the (few) copies were swept off the shelves at the local video store.
Graham Shirley: The Good Fairy is truly excellent. Margaret Sullavan is as luminescent as ever and is central to making it work, aided by Herbert Marshall, Frank Morgan & Reginald Owen in rarely better comic support. Kino International released it as part of their 'Glamour Girls' box set in 2002. Oh, and screenplay by Preston Sturges.
Noel Bjorndahl: I see him at his best as a superior craftsman David. He was very capable of handling many kinds of material. He surely came through a long apprenticeship where he thoroughly learned his craft from the bottom up.. The great Margaret Sullavan was one of his wives. Now that showed great taste!! I love The Letter and The Little Foxes for starts. The Best Years of Our Lives was an absorbing and timely film, too. In later years, I thought The Collector interesting-a decent last hurrah..
David Hare: I think my hesitation is based on his dependence or need for "Big" theme pictures like Best Years and others. It probably goes back to my youthful auteurist purist days when anything remotely academic was viewed with suspicion if not disdain. The concomitant of that being I don't see anything personal about his style/mise en scene or his methods with actors or a particular felicity with certain genres, etc. I have Good Fairy on a bootleg (probably that Italian dvdr) and will get around to it now sooner rather than later.