A Tribute to John Huston
There is a very exclusive club, composed of great American directors who have also been successful as both writers and actors, and not always in their own films. It includes Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Woody Allen… and John Huston. But if you asked most people to come up with a few names in that category, I’d guess that few would name Mr. Huston. He was also the only person ever to direct both his father (Walter) and his daughter (Angelica) in Oscar-winning performances, and I’m betting that’s one trivia question that could only be answered by classic film buffs.
His remarkable life and career spanned over 50 years, and included 45 films as director, 37 as a writer, and over 50 as an actor or narrator. And he didn’t really get started in directing until the age of 35. But what a start! His first film as a director was The Maltese Falcon, one of his best films and one which not only started (or jump-started, in the case of Bogart) a couple of careers, but is credited by many with creating the film noir genre.
John Huston was the son of famed actor Walter Huston, born August 5, 1906, in Missouri. While he tried his hand at some acting and writing early on, mostly through his father’s contacts, he didn’t really begin to devote himself to films until 1938, when he began writing or contributing to scripts for various films. In 1941, he convinced Warner Bros. to let him direct a third version of Dashiell Hammett’s detective story, and made the most of the opportunity. After WWII, he won his first and only pair of Oscars, for directing and writing The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1949), also starring Humphrey Bogart. The collaboration between Huston and Bogart was legendary; in fact, of the five films generally considered Huston’s best, only The Man Who Would Be King (1975) doesn’t include Humphrey Bogart in its cast.
Of course, one would really be hard-pressed to name the five greatest Huston films. (The polls at the right list 20 good ones, divided chronologically.) He probably produced an equal number of flops, though some of his films — such as Moby Dick (1956) and The Misfits (1961) — were not fullly appreciated until well after they were released. But of all the things that could be said about John Huston, you could never say that he wasn’t up to a challenge, or open to trying something new. And though he didn’t always succeed, when he did it was spectacular.
Above you’ll see a photo of a statue erected in Huston’s honor in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They were very grateful to him and to Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, who put the formerly sleepy Mexican resort town on the map after the filming was over. Thanks for Kathleen Beloberk for sending me the photo.
In 1983 Huston was given the D.W. Griffith Award by The Director’s Guild, and that same year he received a Lifetime Achievement award from the American Film Institute. But he wasn’t finished. Three years later he won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for directingPrizzi’s Honor. The following year he died of emphysema.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: John Huston Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Books, Photos, Art, and Posters