Her roles were largely stereotypical, yet her charm and goofiness made her memorable. Here’s a look at her work beyond Gone With the Wind.

DESIGN IN FILM: THE MODERN HOUSEAn eight-minute video montage of modern homes—real and fake—as seen on the silver screen.

An examination of the lengthy career of the Chinese-American character actor, from Charlie Chan to Woody Allen.

70MMThirty visually stunning films that illustrate the grandeur of large-format filmmaking.

Our look at the Texas actor’s 43-year film career, including an ill-advised Oscar campaign. 

A look at the professional life of an actress who proved to be much more than just the Wicked Witch of the West.

NEBRASKANSA look at some of the memorable talentsfrom Astaire to Zanuck—to come from the Cornhusker State.

Twenty-five cool photos reveal what goes on outside of movie camera range.

Our list of at least a dozen silent film performers that are happily still with us.

12 GREAT MOVIE SONGSElvis, The Beatles and The Supremes join our list of favorite movie themes of the 1960s.

WILHELM SCREAMWe trace the history of one of the most famous and beloved sound effects in movies.

LOST HORIZONA dud receives its due as we explore the elements that made this 1973 musical so preposterously memorable.

One hundred films whose final words of dialogue make indelible lasting impressions.

25 GREAT SILENT MOVIE POSTERSOur selection of artwork from the early days of motion pictures that expertly illustrate the tone and tale of the films they represent.

RAVES AND RASPBERRIES We select some choice bits from reviews by the late Roger Ebert.

ERROL FLYNN GETS WHACKEDThe actor recalls an unforgettable moment with Bette Davis on the set of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

CINEMATIC RIDESTen films where carnival attractions add to the plot and give their protagonists a cheap thrill.

Three overwrought cautionary tales from the 1930s examine the perils of smoking marijuana in polite society.

20 DIRECTORS / 20 FILMSSome of the world’s best moviemakers from Hollywood’s Golden Era provide a behind-the-scenes look at their creations.

LOS ANGELES IN THE 1920SVintage clips offer a look at famous boulevards, studios, theaters, eateries and more.

BILLY WILDEROur favorite lines of dialogue from the Oscar-winning writer/director.

WOODY ALLENChoice lines of dialogue, from Take the Money and Run to Midnight in Paris.

KATHARINE HEPBURNTen authoritative moments when Kate's movie character speaks her mind.

UFA MOVIE POSTERSA look at the early one sheets from the longest standing film studio in Germany.

THE LANGUAGE OF NOIRWe celebrate tough talk from the best of Hollywood’s gritty crime dramas.


Aerial shots of Hollywood in 1958 includes Griffith Observatory, Grauman’s Chinese Theater and major studios.

AMERICAWe celebrate one of the most exuberant dance numbers committed to film, a thrilling showcase for freakishly talented folks with music in their bones.

HOLLYWOOD POSTCARDSTen vintage postcards revealing the glories of Southern California's movie mecca.

MAJOR FILMS, MINOR GAFFESTwenty-five mistakes in some of the greatest movies ever made.

GEORGE GERSHWINTen classic songs as seen on the silver screen.

GREAT ENDINGSA memorable tussle in Death Valley caps Erich von Stroheim’s broken classic.

10 GREAT POSTERSOur look at striking works of art that just happen to sell movie tickets.

MUST READMGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot provides a fascinating look at a lost treasure.

IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENINGJane Wyman and Bing Crosby charm with the Oscar-winning song from Here Comes the Groom (1951).

PLUNDER ROADFilm noir at its best—and most economical. No backstory, a lean look and just 72 minutes long.

W.C. FIELDSTen of his most memorable character names.

Aliens and mutants take center stage in twenty-five spectacular movie posters from the 1950s.

Our list of ten must-see films—ten artful depictions of the human condition—by one of the world’s most influential directors.

Accomplished directors from the past 50 years talk about their triumphs and challenges in bringing a story to the big screen.

We single out five films that display the talent and range of the Warner Bros. character actor.

AL HIRSCHFELDWe select our ten favorite movie posters by the famed caricaturist.

Five films that best represent the fluttery voiced character actress’s charms.

DIAMOND SETTINGSWe take a look at five of our favorite baseball movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s.


A dozen books that became publishing phenomena and, at times, well-made and popular films.

SCREEN TESTSAudition footage from Monroe, Dean, Brando and others.

MOVIE MOMENTS THAT MAKE LIFE WORTH LIVINGOur collection of ten little moments of breathtaking beauty, expert craftsmanship and happy accidents that rank as our favorites.

A tribute to a character actress who’s made aunts and spinsters her specialty.

STARS ON STARS: 30 CANDID OPINIONSA collection of favorite quotes from movie folk discussing their peers.

We take a good look at the work of MGM’s legendary art director.

JOHN QUALENFive of our favorite performances from the character actor’s lengthy career.

We select three movie musicals we deeply wish the sunny singer/actress would have made.

Twelve examples of what made the late actor such an enduring movie star.

Ten artful, playful and downright silly shots from some of the most famous movies in existence.

JEFFREY HUNTERWe tip our hat to the underrated (and very pretty) actor best known for going toe-to-toe with John Wayne in The Searchers and hanging on the cross in Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings.

ELVIS PRESLEYFive essential films for the Elvis movie fan.

We take a closer look and listen at Johnny Mercer’s witty ditty about the coming of the season.

BILL GOLD’S MOVIE POSTERSOur salute to the legendary graphic artist, including 25 of his posters for some of the most famous movies ever made.

BEAUTIFUL MENFilm giants Cary Grant and his ilk will have to wait. Here we look at ten not-so-obvious choices—actors blessed with incredible good looks, if not legendary status.

BEAUTIFUL WOMENTen of the most physically stunning females to grace the silver screen.

FOOTBALLFive classic films where gridiron shenanigans drive the plot. 

THE 43 FACES OF JOHNNY DEPPWe review the wide variety of characters the actor has played, from early teenager roles to larger-than-life eccentrics.

FRED ASTAIREFive lively numbers from the peerless hoofer.

THE ROAD TO HELEN LAWSONJudy Garland, Susan Hayward and the bumpy road Valley of the Dolls producers experienced in casting an important role in a truly lousy film.

 AMERICAN LANDMARKS ON FILM From the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, we take a look at ten famous sights that added drama to the movies.

THE GIRL HUNT BALLETWe revisit the stylish Fred Astaire dream ballet from The Band Wagon (1953).

IOWA FILMS & STARSTen contributions the Hawkeye State has made to motion picture history.

FOX THEATEROur fond look back at one of San Francisco’s grandest movie palaces.

AUTOBIOGRAPHIESTen great titles penned by industry legends.

THE BAND WAGONNanette Fabray recalls a glaring mistake in the 1953 classic musical.

TRIGGERWe celebrate the life and somewhat creepy afterlife of Roy Rogers's favorite mount.

CHARACTERS: AGNES GOOCHPeggy Cass's memorable turn as a plain Jane coaxed into living a little in Auntie Mame (1958).

DESIGNS ON FILMA handsome volume by author and designer Cathy Whitlock chronicles the history of Hollywood set design.

REBECCAFive screen tests for Hitchock’s 1940 classic, with comments by David O. Selznick.

CHARACTERS: BABY ROSALIEIn a daffy send-up of Shirley Temple, June Preisser plays an aging child star in MGM's let's-put-on-a-show musical, Babes in Arms (1939).

PRESTON STURGESSnippets of dialogue from six of the writer/director’s best films.

ANSELMO BALLESTEROur gallery of ten striking one sheets from the Italian poster artist.

GREAT MOVIESCelebrating the cool jazz short, Jammin’ the Blues (1944).

BETTY HUTTONTwelve films that exemplify the charms of this freakishly energetic performer.

JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZSmart dialogue from the Oscar-winning screenwriter.

DESERT NOIROur report from this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

RED DREAM FACTORYWe profile eight films from a unique Russian-German film studio of the twenties and thirties.

Entries in 20 directors 20 films (20)


King Vidor on The Fountainhead (1949)

A script had been written by a husband and wife team by the time I arrived at the studio. I read it and then studied the book carefully. I thought they were spoiling the book. So they asked, “What do you suggest?” I said, “Why not get Ayn Rand?” They said she didn’t know anything about screenplays, but I said I would work with her and take care of the screenplay continuity and technique—sort of guide her. I spent a couple of weeks going through the chapter headings and marking out what the film should keep and what it shouldn’t. By the time she came in I had a pretty good skeleton of what the screenplay was.

I got along great with her. They didn’t even have to pay her because she was so anxious to get the book on the screen. She said she’d do it under one condition—if they changed any lines, she wanted the possibility to be telephoned and called to the studio. That was a great help to me because actors always want to change lines. So I used that as a prop. I’d say to Gary Cooper, “Okay, you’ll have to phone Ayn Rand.” And he’d say, “How long will it take her to get here?” “Oh, it’ll be about an hour.” And he’d say, “Oh God, let’s go, I’ll read the line.” Many actors, out of nervousness or fear, will say, “I can’t read that line.” But if they try hard they can.

For The Fountainhead I always thought that either Humphrey Bogart or James Cagney was the ideal casting, not Gary Cooper, because he’s such a nice and quiet guy. But when I saw the picture a few years later I thought Cooper was ideal because he’s very quiet and he just says, “No, that’s not the way I want it.” Very quiet, like the strong guy of High Noon, and I thought it was much better than having a guy losing his temper and being arrogant and yelling.


John Huston on The Night of the Iguana (1964)

The adaptation was based on suggestions within the play that would be interesting to put on screen. The actual operation was done with a collaborator, a very dear friend of mine named Tony Veiller. We worked extremely well together. Our method was that I’d write a scene and Tony would write a scene and I would hand mine over to him, and his to me.

One thing I couldn’t reconcile in the film was the part Ava Gardner played. She was in Tennessee [Williams’s] original play, and despite a certain charm and humor she had in the original, she turned into a kind of great bloated spider that consumed this man. I didn’t change the character out of any desire to sentimentalize the material, but she just defied being put into that role on film. So one day we changed her completely so far as the end of the story and their relationship is concerned. I talked to Tennessee about this and he said it wasn’t what he’d intended at all. I accused him of hating women and twisting her to his own devices and purposes. He said maybe there was that, and agreed my changes were permissible. I wanted his approval, as I have too high a regard for him to have just gone blindly in another direction.

The scene I’m talking about is in Mexico where the girl comes to Richard Burton’s room to importune him. She’s trying to seduce him, but he’s had an unfortunate background so far as the seduction of maidens is concerned and he’s doing his level best to avoid this one. But she comes into the room, and this dialogue scene ensues where he tries to explain to her why he chooses not to make love to her. I’d written the scene, Tony had worked on it, but it still wasn’t very good. The dialogue was good, but the scene wasn’t satisfactory, so I asked Tennessee to look at it and see if he had any ideas. He came back the next morning with the scene he’d written, and if you’ve seen the picture you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It opens with Burton standing before a chiffonier and there is a bottle of whiskey on the chiffonier, and the girl opens the door and startles him. He’s shaving and he cuts himself, and the bottle falls off the chiffonier. The dialogue then continued as he walks on broken glass barefoot. Presently the girl, in the spirit of martyrdom, joins him walking on broken glass, and the scene proceeded in that vein. As these lines bounced back and forth between them they were walking on broken glass, something that served to dramatize the scene. The scene was the same except for broken glass on the floor, and this gave it something extraordinary. It’s an example of real dramatic genius, one of the best scenes in the picture.


Fritz Lang on M (1931)

I had made Die Nibelungen, Metropolis and Girl in the Moon. Big films, crowds and so on. I got tired of this kind of film and I was thinking of simpler stories. I was talking with Thea von Harbou, my wife. What was the most abominable, the greatest crime which we reject? We decided, let’s write some nasty son-of-a-bitch stories. And one day I came to her and said ”Listen, darling, let’s make a film about a child murderer who is forced by a power within him to commit a crime which he afterwards resents very much.” And then we made M.

Those days there were lots of horrible crimes in Germany. There was a mass murderer in the Rhineland, and many reviewers said that was the inspiration, which is not true. M was finished long before this mass murderer. At the Berlin Scotland Yard I saw the result of many murders. One case I will never forget—a small shop where a woman was murdered, and the murderer cut her throat and the blood just dripped over the counter into an open sack of white flour. I will never forget that my whole life. Another one was in a big apartment house where they found chopped-off hands on a plate under the bed of the murderer, where he was cooking something. There was a man on the border of Germany and Czechoslovakia who killed travelers and made sausages out them and sold them, and the people liked them very much. It was a horrible time.

I first saw Peter Lorre on the stage. He came to Berlin and was in two plays, and my idea was to cast the murderer differently from what Lombroso has said a murderer is: big eyebrows, big shoulders. You know, the famous Lombroso picture of a murderer.* And so I used Peter Lorre, who nobody would think to be a murderer. I had a big fight with Peter. In the kangaroo court scene, which I shot at the Staaken Zeppelinhalle, he didn’t want to come because he was playing at night in Squaring the Circle and had rehearsals. I had to force him. I said, “Look, I will bring an injunction against you because I have a contract with you.” And so he came, and we shot the last scenes and we didn’t talk until it brought on a great success, and then we talked again.

I remember one thing that was very funny. Thea von Harbou and I sat for two hours in front of the room where the censors were looking at the film. We didn’t have to be ashamed, and yet you look there like a schoolboy worrying if you got a good note or not. Finally they came out and they said, “Mr. Lang, this film has practically everything about which we disagree and which we cannot accept, but it is done with such integrity that we don’t want to make any cuts.”

It’s very peculiar because in M there’s no love story, and I’ll tell you what happened. A young man came to me—very elegant. But he had a very peculiar reputation. He asked me if I would like to make a film with him, and I said no. I didn’t want to make films anymore. I wanted to become a chemist. And he came again, and I said, “Let me tell you something. I will make a film for you, but you have no rights except to give me the money for what the film costs. You will have no rights to subject, no rights about cutting, no rights about casting.” He accepted this. Otherwise M would never have been made, because it has no love story, nothing.

* Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) was a highly influential Italian criminologist and physician known for his study of the relation between mental and physical characteristics.


20 Directors / 20 Films

The American Film Institute has a long history of inviting many of the world’s most successful directors to their facility to speak with young moviemakers. In the late 1960s through the 1970s, several greats from Hollywood’s heydey came to speak in a series of seminars compiled and edited by George Stevens, Jr.—founder and former director of AFI—and published as Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Over the next several weeks, we will present excerpts of these interviews designed to shed light on one particular director talking about one particular film.

Online now:
George Stevens on Giant (1956)

Fritz Lang on M (1931)

John Huston on The Night of the Iguana (1964)

King Vidor on The Fountainhead (1949)
Alfred Hitchcock on Vertigo (1958)
Raoul Walsh on The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Rouben Mamoulian on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Stanley Kramer on The Defiant Ones (1958)
William Wyler on The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Federico Fellini on 8 1/2 (1963)
George Cukor on Camille (1936)
David Lean on Great Expectations (1946)
Fred Zinnemann on High Noon (1952)
Elia Kazan on A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Mervyn Leroy on Tugboat Annie (1933)
Frank Capra on It Happened One Night (1934)
Howard Hawks on Red River (1948)
Billy Wilder on Sunset Bouelvard (1950)
Jean Renoir on Grand Illusion (1937)
Ingmar Bergman on Cries and Whispers (1972)


George Stevens on Giant (1956)

The original script of Giant was by Ivan Moffat, myself and Fred Guiol. It was based on Edna Ferber’s novel and was 370 pages. I talked with Edna and she liked the script very much, saying “You know, I wrote this book twice already, and wanted to write it a third time and fill it out. But I think you’ve done it with the screenplay.” This was a surprise assessment from a lady whose novel we were massacring, After finishing the script I made a deal with Warner Bros. to make the film there. Then Freddie and I sat down and worked on cutting the script. We cut it from 370 pages to 250 pages. I think we got it down to 240 pages.

The film runs three hours and nineteen minutes and was made to be screened with an intermission. We had worked on the cut to move it along as fast as possible, but I didn’t see how we could keep an audience sitting there for that amount of time without an intermission. The end of the first act is when Jett Rink’s oil well comes in, and he arrives in his old rickety truck and confronts his rich friends on the porch, salutes Bick Benedict’s wife and gets punched on the chin for his trouble and then hits Bick. It was a good act ending: strong and with promise because things were difficult. The next act started with the oil wells coming in. When we first screened it, we found that somehow or other the pace of the picture meant we could get away without an intermission, and we knew we had to run the picture that way. I would have predicted disaster for Giant, because when you have an intermission, people go out and talk about it; then they’re anxious to go back in and see the rest of it, and it’s not much of a burden on them. But the picture went straight through, and it’s always been run that way. The picture did extremely well; it had far more audience than any Warner Bros. picture ever had.

The structural development, I believe, is what saves it. It has an excellent structure design, which has to do with the audience anticipating and looking some distance ahead all the way to the finish, which is a reversal on how this kind of story would normally end—in which the hero is heroic. Here the hero is beaten, but his gal likes him. It’s the first time she’s ever really respected him because he’s developed a kind of humility—not instinctive, but beaten into him.

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