Preminger. Preminger made 4 outstanding top 500 of all-time films that helped him make this list. That many films in the top 500 would normally warrant a higher ranking but Preminger has zero films in the top 300 so they’re (Anatomy of a Murder, Laura, The Man with the Golden Arm, Fallen Angel) all wedged between 300-500. The remaining body of work of his is uneven but deep (15 archiveable films total) and stylishly directed (he loves the rolling tracking shots) even if the final product isn’t always perfect. Many think of Preminger as the stereotypical director: accented and tyrannical. He’s famous for his quote: “I do not welcome advice from actors, they are here to act.” The content of his films doesn’t always mesh from film to film but the style is vibrant and thorough. He started with some excellent noirs in the 40’s (led by Laura and Fallen Angel), made some great films in the 1950’s (led by the man with the golden arm and anatomy of the murder) and then fell on his face a little in the late 60’s (some would argue early 60’s). Although I’m not sure he made a top 100 film of the decade in the 60’s (advise and consent probably is but I want another look) I really enjoy his films during this era as well as Preminger was one of the best to experiment and work in widescreen and his films during this stretch always consistent of a large ensemble of the best actors of the era.
Best film: Anatomy of a Murder is wonderfully written and acted film (another brilliant turn from Jimmy Stewart) that is impeccably directed with such nuance and detail by Preminger. It is a procedural narrative with a director who is very procedural—a perfect marriage.
total archiveable films: 15
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 4 (Anatomy of a Murder, The Man with the Golden Arm, Laura, Fallen Angel)
top 100 films of the decade: 4 (Anatomy of a Murder, The Man with the Golden Arm, Laura, Fallen Angel)
most overrated: literally nothing- only two films in the TSPDT top 1000 are laura and anatomy and both are underrated.
most underrated: The Man With the Golden Arm– for those that doubt the acting chops of Kim Novak or Frank Sinatra this is a great one to watch. It’s got an all-timer of a score from elmer bernstein. It is, however, Preminger though who is the main attraction as this is his most spectacularly directed film. It actually reminds me of the energy of like joe wright in atonement. It’s a stylistic showpiece. It is complete bull that it’s not in the TSPDT top 1000.
gem I want to spotlight: Fallen Angel has a so-so RT composite score (6.9), is not in top 1000 and is a must-see top 5-level film of 1945. Perhaps it’s the same follow-up syndrome as like Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (which directly followed Lost in Translation) and others following a great film as this came the year after Laura. This one just never been rediscovered.
stylistic innovations/traits: Few directors can match Preminger’s acute sense of detail and his rigorous use of the camera. The common content trait is the exploration of human psychology and complex and ambiguous characters. But mainly he’s a visual stylist who could master the film noir, court-room drama, musical, epic or many other genres. When I think of Preminger, who I adore, I think of long takes and very complex blocking and staging. It’s really unique to see some direction in Hollywood. Later he became known for his striking use of CinemaScope and widescreen. He’s also synonymous with the brilliant of poster and title artist Saul Bass. 7 of Preminger’s archiveable films (from really Carmen Jones on) use Bass’ work in the poster and titles. There’s plenty of praise to heap on Preminger for his visual work in cinema.
- Anatomy of a Murder
- The Man with the Golden Arm
- Fallen Angel
- Advise and Consent
- Where the Sidewalk Ends
- Angel Face
- Bunny Lake is Missing
- River of No Return
By year and grades
|1945- Fallen Angel||MS|
|1947- Daisy Kenyon||R|
|1947- Forever Amber||R|
|1950- Where the Sidewalk Ends||R|
|1952- Angel Face||R|
|1954- Carmen Jones||R|
|1954- River of No Return||R|
|1955- The Man with the Golden Arm||MS|
|1959- Anatomy of a Murder||MS|
|1962- Advise and Consent||R|
|1965- Bunny Lake is Missing||R|
|1965- In Harm’s Way||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
After deciding to leave John Huston for some other time (watched a few of his and some were really good like The Asphalt Jungle, but he’s just not much of a stylist) I went for Preminger instead having seen Angel Face right before starting with Huston and Laura in November and, well, he’s pretty much what could’ve happened if Max Ophuls had stayed in the United States (ok Ophuls would surely have had more than 1 masterpiece but the similarities with their camera movement are clearly there)
1. Laura – MP
2. The Man with the Golden Arm – MS (leaning MS/MP)
3. Anatomy of a Murder – MS
4. Advise and Consent – MS (could go higher even despite a few form and narrative issues)
5. Where the Sidewalk Ends – MS
6. Fallen Angel – MS (really interchangeable with #5, hard decision)
7. Bunny Lake is Missing – HR/MS (should arguably be top 3 if not #1 with the visual approach but the story somehow stayed on the ground for me for the entire film despite the very interesting premise and then when you have Keir Dullea’s performance… come on)
8. Angel Face – HR
9. Whirlpool – R (leaning HR)
10. River of No Return – R
And I mean even both Whirlpool and River of No Return are great films that I don’t regret watching even if they’re not as strong as the ones above them.
Forgot to mention but Ophüls is also a very playful director and Preminger is pretty far removed from that, very serious. I couldn’t imagine a guy like Preminger making something like La Ronde with Anton Walbrook going around rambling about “La ronde” to everybody he sees confusing the hell out of them (not complaining, I’m all about it). But I do draw a bit of a line between Ophüls’ American films and his French films and in the American ones he is clearly more reserved emotionally, not unlike Preminger.
Drake, I wonder if you’ve seen Bonjour Tristesse? I did watch it a month ago when I went through the films above and, well, if you’ve seen it, I think you’re right after one viewing of it myself not to have put it in the archives; shocking he could direct a film like that in between The Man With The Golden Arm and Anatomy of a Murder.
@Zane- I do not believe I have actually
[…] 85. Otto Preminger […]
My ranking of Preminger`s films that I`ve seen:
1. Laura MP
2. Anatomy of a Murder MS
3. The Man with the Golden Arm MS
4. Fallen Angel MS
5. Advise and Consent HR/MS
6. Where the Sidewalk Ends HR/MS
7. Bunny Lake is Missing HR/MS
5 Best Performances
1. Sinatra- The Man with the Golden Arm
2. Stewart- Anatomy of a Murder
3. Tierney- Laura
4. Novak- The Man with the Golden Arm
5. Parker- The Man withe Golden Arm
(6. shout-out to Clifton Webb for Laura)
@RujK- Thank you for sharing these – impressive work yet again