Rossen. Robert Rossen only directed 10 feature films over the course of his career which is rare for a director who worked in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s.  He passed away at the young age of 58 but also was first blacklisted then named names in the HUAC trials. He’s no style+ director and I’m not sure I could easily pair The Hustler with All The King’s Men but the combination of those two make for an overwhelming filmography at this point of the list. Body and Soul and Lilith are ambitious artistically, too.

Best film: The Hustler. Pretty easy choice here as strong as All the King’s Men. Any time Scorsese makes a sequel of your film, directs it extremely well, and you still have the better film of the two— it says something.

an iconic shot from Rossen’s The Hustler

total archiveable films: 5

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Lilith isn’t the triumph The Hustler is but it is no throwaway either

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  1 (The Hustler)

a gorgeous frame, symmetry, background detail — from The Hustler

top 100 films of the decade:   2 (All the King’s Men, The Hustler)

most overrated: Nothing here. The Hustler is the only Rossen film in the TSPDT consensus top 2000. They have it at #436 and I’m at #470 so extremely close.

most underrated All The King’s Men. At the time it was praised for its realism. It’s not the best film of 1949 and sometimes that gets held against Academy Award Best Picture winners for winning—but, rightfully, I never see this one on lists of the worst best picture winners, either.

more than a patter- symmetry in the frame, creating a frame within a frame with the shoulders of the onlookers here- from All the King’s Men

gem I want to spotlight : Body and Soul. Rossen didn’t invent the boxing movie- there are some good ones before this one (King Vidor’s The Champ in 1931 is really strong) but John Garfield’s lead performance and James Wong Howe’s photography make for a worthy entry.

stylistic innovations/traits:

  • Natural black and white settings and lighting making for authentic, if not dour/gritty-looking, films like All the King’s Men and The Hustler
  • Acting- not quite Kazan—but look at the work in All the King’s Men- three nominations and one win for Crawford (John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge) and you think of The Hustler as a Paul Newman vehicle and it is- one of his best- but Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott were nominated as well
  • Self-destructive characters
from Lilith – from the opening credits (above) to the shot choice (here) – there’s an artistic ambition throughout

top 10

  1. The Hustler
  2. All the King’s Men
  3. Body and Soul
  4. Lilith
  5. Brave Bulls

By year and grades

1947- Body and Soul
1949- All the King’s Men MS
1951- Brave Bulls
1961- The Hustler MS
1964- Lilith 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