Category Archives: Robert Ryan

Blu-Ray Review: Flying Leathernecks (1951).

Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Edmund Grainger
Screenplay by James Edward Grant
From a story by Kenneth Gamet
Director Of Photography: William E. Snyder
Film Editor: Sherman Todd
Music by Roy Webb

Cast: John Wayne (Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby), Robert Ryan (Capt. Carl ‘Griff’ Griffin), Don Taylor (Lt. Vern ‘Cowboy’ Blithe), Janis Carter (Joan Kirby), Jay C. Flippen (MSgt. Clancy), William Harrigan (Dr. Lt.Cdr. Joe Curran), James Bell (Colonel), John Mitchum, Hugh Sanders, Gail Davis

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Howard Hughes wanted an airplane picture in Technicolor, and he cast John Wayne in it. Nicholas Ray thought a patriotic picture might keep the HUAC off his back, even though he hated war movies (and the politics of this one), and he cast the likeminded Robert Ryan.

When you take all that into consideration, it’s amazing that Flying Leathernecks (1951) works as well as it does. (In the divided, contentious  political environment of today, it’s doubtful something like this would get past the contract phase, much less result in a completed movie.) Flying Leathernecks has a lot of the things we count on (an ensemble cast, incredible battle sequences) and dread (back-home flashbacks of soldiers) about Hollywood war pictures of this period.

But it was put together by some of the absolute best Hollywood had around at the time — Wayne, Ryan, Ray — who somehow managed to keep the meddling Howard Hughes from screwing the whole thing up. And the end result is a well-acted, technically stunning story of Marine Corps pilots in the Pacific during World War II.

Robert Ryan is the Captain who wants to bond with his men. Wayne’s the Major whose strict methods are intended to bring as many planes back to base, and to get as many solders back home, as possible. The two officers battle each other as much as the Japanese.

Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby (John Wayne): “You just can’t bring yourself to point your finger at the guy and say ‘go get killed!'”

These kinds of conflicts have fueled war pictures since the silent days. And they provide a bit of interest in watching them — how will this one approach the conventions, and how well will it all work? What will carry this one — the writing, direction, acting, stunts, effects or something else? With Flying Leathernecks, the answer might be all of the above.

Nick Ray was a great actors’ director — many performers were never as good as they were in his films. This was Wayne’s only Ray picture; Ryan and Ray would follow this with On Dangerous Ground (1952). At the same time, Ray had an eye for composition that remains unmatched. (He’d really hit his stride when ‘Scope came along.) Flying Leathernecks was the director’s first color movie, and it looks terrific. Director Of Photography William E. Snyder does a particularly good job of matching his footage to color combat footage. The aerial sequences are really something, especially with the added allure of Technicolor. I’m sure those scenes, and that gorgeous color, made Mr. Hughes very happy indeed.

Snyder’s color camerawork is the main reason for making the leap from Flying Leathernecks on the old Warners DVD to the new, stunning Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. The film’s been given a through cleaning, from dialing in the sharpness and color to dazzling effect to tidying up the 16mm Kodachrome battle footage. You don’t expect a war movie, dominated by greens and browns, to be so vibrant. This is the kind of restoration I’d like to see every Technicolor movie receive. It’s amazing.

Flying Leathernecks is not going to make the list of Nicholas Ray’s best films. It’s job was to please Howard Hughes and make sure Ray could still work in Hollywood, and it seems to have succeeded. It also succeeds as a war movie, a good one — with John Wayne and Robert Ryan doing the good work we expect from them. All that, given a stunning Blu-Ray release, is really easy to recommend. 

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Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Nicholas Ray, RKO, Robert Ryan, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #306: Flying Leathernecks (1951).

Directed by Nicholas Ray
Starring John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Don Taylor, Janis Carter, Jay C. Flippen

Another Howard Hughes airplane movie, and it’s a good one. Shot in Technicolor by William E. Snyder and making good use of actual color war footage, Flying Leathernecks (1951) is impressive stuff. It’s great to see John Wayne and Robert Ryan go at it, and you can never really go wrong with Nicholas Ray. (Ryan and Ray would follow this with the terrific On Dangerous Ground.)

Flying Leathernecks has been restored, and Warner Archive is bringing it to Blu-Ray on September 15th. Highly, highly recommended — and with Wayne, Ryan and Ray, why wouldn’t it be?

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Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Nicholas Ray, RKO, Robert Ryan, Warner Archive

DVD/Blu-Ray News #165: Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).

Directed by Robert Wise
Starring Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters, Ed Begley, Gloria Grahame

Greed, lust, corruption, murder — film noir can pack about every sin, vice and crime you can think of into about 90 minutes of goodness. That’s why I love em so much. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) goes a step further and stirs in a big fat helping of hatred. You could easily say it’s a movie about racism, but it goes deeper than that. Robert Ryan’s character just plain hates — everybody. He’s a guy with absolutely zero to recommend him. Where did such a kind-hearted (by all accounts) man go to dredge up all this nasty stuff?

A couple of despicable crooks (ex-con Ryan, ex-cop Ed Begley) bring a black man (Harry Belafonte) in on their bank job. Everything goes to hell, as it always does in these kinds of things, and we get to watch. It’s a gritty, tough and terrific picture — and it packs quite a wallop. Robert Wise did this before directing West Side Story (1961). And while in some ways the two movies couldn’t be more different, they both give us a look at what kind of damage hate can do. It was Wise’s last film in black and white.

The score by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet is terrific, and the album of the MJQ performing it (Music From Odds Against Tomorrow) is unbelievably cool. The actual film score was also released.

Olive Films is bringing this out on both DVD and Blu-Ray in May. I’m on a bit of a crime picture/noir binge right now, spurred by the incredible Shield For Murder (1954), so I’m really stoked to learn this is on the way. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gloria Grahame, Olive Films, Robert Ryan, Robert Wise, United Artists

Remembering D-Day.

This is a movie blog, so we’ll pay tribute to those who fought on the beaches of Normandy via color stills from The Longest Day (1962, which is in glorious black and white CinemaScope), itself a tribute to the many sacrifices that helped push World War II toward its end.

Here’s the crew hard at work recreating the events of June 6, 1944.

Richard Burton (as Officer David Campbell) and Richard Beymer (as Private Dutch Schultz). Burton took time off from Cleopatra (1963) to shoot his scenes. Cleopatra was bleeding 20th Century-Fox dry at the time, which had a huge (negative) impact on Darryl Zanuck’s budget for The Longest Day.

Robert Mitchum as Brigadier General Norman Cota.

Richard Todd as Major John Howard. Todd’s voice is one of God’s great gifts to mankind — I would listen to him (or Richard Burton, for that matter) read the phone book.

John Wayne as Lt. Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort.

From the Army’s website: “The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.”

To quote John Wayne in an entirely different movie (John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon): “Lest we forget.”

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Filed under 1962, 20th Century-Fox, John Wayne, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Roddy McDowall, Sean Connery

Blu-Ray News #78: On Dangerous Ground (1952).

on-dangerous-ground-bts

Directed by Nicholas Ray
Starring Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond, Charles Kemper, Frank Ferguson, Olive Carey

Seems like every day, another great movie’s being announced for DVD or Blu-ray. We’re on a real hot streak here, folks.

On Dangerous Ground (1952) is a great Nicholas Ray movie that hasn’t gotten its due. I know that’s kinda like saying that water is wet. Warner Archive has announced it for an upcoming Blu-Ray release.

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In a way, it’s two movies in one. The first half concerns Robert Ryan’s burned-out New York detective at the end of his rope, then it shifts gears as he’s sent to the country to investigate a murder. There, he falls in love with the killer’s blind sister (Ida Lupino). In less capable hands, such a story could’ve been laughable, but Ray and his cast pull it off with ease. Everybody in it’s terrific.

I saw a 35mm print of this a couple years ago, and George E. Diskant’s cinematography really knocked me out. This one’s essential, folks.

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Filed under 1952, Frank Ferguson, Ida Lupino, Nicholas Ray, RKO, Robert Ryan, Warner Archive