In a town full of eccentrics, Nicholas Ray blazed a relatively brief yet notably distinctive path through Hollywood. He is remembered, in both his life and in his art, to this day (“cinema is Nicholas Ray,” proclaimed Jean-Luc Godard in 1957).
He was born Raymond Nicholas Kienzle, Jr. in Galesville, Wisconsin, on August 7, 1911. His high school years were split between nearby LaCrosse and Chicago, where he stayed with his older sister. Finishing 152ndout of 153 students (excelling only in English and public speaking), Ray subsequently spent but one semester at the University of Chicago, yet managed in that time to befriend both professor Thornton Wilder and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. After working with folklorist Alan Lomax recording folk and blues musicians for the “Back Where I Come From” radio program, he worked as Elia Kazan’s assistant on the 1944 film A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and subsequently directed his only Broadway show, the Duke Ellington musical “Beggar’s Holiday”, two years later.
Shortly thereafter he directed his first picture, the influential They Live by Night, which was held up for release until 1949. After nearly a dozen black and white films, including In A Lonely Place, Ray in 1954 directed the defiantly uncategorizable Trucolor drama Johnny Guitar, which Francois Truffaut described as “the Beauty and the Beast of westerns”.
The next year, Ray proved himself both a perceptive interpreter of outsider youth and a master of the widescreen CinemaScope frame with Rebel Without a Cause, James Dean’s final film and the only one in which he received top billing.
A heavy smoker and fond of drink and drugs, Ray’s contrarian instincts made him a tough sell in the 1950s studio system, and despite such remarkable work as Bigger Than Life (1956), Party Girl (1958) and the 1961 biblical epic King of Kings (derisively referred to by some as “I was a Teenage Jesus”), his career ended abruptly after he collapsed in the midst of the 1963 epic 55 Days at Peking.
Following that, as the story goes, Ray ran in to Dennis Hopper at a 1970 Grateful Dead concert, and the actor secured him a job teaching filmmaking at the State University of New York in Binghamton. He spent the next two years making the improvisational feature We Can’t Go Home Again with his students. Shortly after collaborating with Wim Wenders on the 1980 documentary Lightning Over Water (aka Nick’s Film), Nicholas Ray succumbed to lung cancer on June 16, 1979 at the age of 67.
If you want to read the rest you will have click through to the Cinema Reborn website
Just so you know the fabulous 4K restoration is described thus:
The new restoration of In A Lonely Place premiered at Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato in 2018. Introducing the program, Columbia Pictures executive Grover Crisp mentioned that he had never been happy with the previous restoration prepared for the DVD release in 2001. Since that time, the technology had been developed which enabled the damaged Original Camera Negative to be repaired and then used, for the first time, as the material for this stunning 4K digital restoration.