In the Hollywood of Alton's era, "art" was a dirty word, yet his compositions invariably beg comparison with such master painters as Rembrandt, da Vinci, de la Tour and Caravaggio. Directors: Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann | Stars: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell. Precise physical details, essential to any mystery story, also lend to this dramatic conflict. In 1972, director Paul Schrader critically championed the form in his essay "Notes on Film Noir" in Film Comment. Though he defined and diagrammed the essentials of cinematography in his book, he remained mute as to specifically how he had achieved his signature shots. The year 1950 marked the beginning of a creative relationship with director Vincente Minnelli. At that time, he decided to "retire" from active work in the film industry. Sale! "One day, I had the nerve to drop the books, and I went down to look at the pictures," he recalled. MGM's Border Incident (featuring Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy and Howard da Silva) follows the "procedural" style of T-Men and He Walked by Night, as two agents infiltrate a mob involved in the exploitation of illegal labor from Mexico. Then I'd go home and, even though it took me a lot of time, I'd work out every scene — [including] which lights and tricks to use. In 30 days, I became a millionaire [by my standards]. It was all worked out.". Alton's light throughout is modulated yet harsh. Working with William Cameron Menzies as designer and Mann as director, Alton was inspired to pull off some of his most memorable shots, some of which seem three-dimensional. Directors: Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann | Stars: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell. "Nobody knew it, though. Add to Wishlist. That's my profession — not the lighting and how to light, but bringing out the mood.". Alton also worked extensively with film pioneer Allan Dawn in the 50s, mostly in decidedly B-pictures. I wanted to give them quality. El cine negro o film noir es un género cinematográfico que se desarrolló en Estados Unidos entre la década de 1930 y 1950 (aunque su pleno apogeo ocurre entre las décadas de 1940 y … His virginal pen pal (Marsha Hunt) gets mixed up in the escape, creating a twist on the usual romantic triangle. https://ascmag.com/articles/john-alton-master-of-the-film-noir-mood Shadowy cinematography by John Alton. Particularly memorable is a quick close-up of O'Keefe flinching and lowering his head as off-screen gunshots signal the cold-blooded murder of his partner. Noted Alton, "The most interesting things in the world happen at night. John Alton Film Noir Collection (T-Men / Raw Deal / He Walked by Night) - The ClassicFlix Restorations on Blu-ray For some, Painting with Light left an indelible impression. item 7 John Alton Film Noir Collection Blu-ray ClassicFlix T-Men Raw Deal 7 - John Alton Film Noir Collection Blu-ray ClassicFlix T-Men Raw Deal. Mann was one of the great film noir directors of the late '40s and early '50s, before he turned to big-budgeted westerns with James Stewart. The filmmakers planned not only to sing Alton's praises, but to showcase some of his work. ", The text, which Alton had often scribbled in notebooks on the set, also captured some of the cultural life of its day. Reviews. It was the only contact I had with what Hollywood [cinematographers] did, and it provided my first visual comprehension [of that world]. Alton next took charge of the camera department at Joinville Studios in Paris. The people making movies had one aim: to make money. ", In 1939, the Altons migrated to Hollywood. Albert Dekker stars in this fantastic b-movie from 1947. I call it 'work,' but I just stood next to Marion Davies, the star. Jakob has compared this aspect of Alton's art to that of Josef von Sternberg, ASC. The book put forth several controversial theories for the day, such as depth is created by placing the brightest object in the scene furthest from the camera, and that studio lighting must always simulate natural light in texture and direction. While cinematographer John Alton was adept with color photography, he was at his arguable best when using black and white. T-Men begins with a Treasury agent addressing the audience. Perimeter lighting. Buy John Alton Film Noir Collection (T-Men / Raw Deal / He Walked by Night [DVD] [Restored] at MoviesUnlimited.com. Born in a castle in 1901, in a village on the Austrian border of Hungary, Alton lived to a ripe old age before dying on June 2, 1996 in Santa Monica. The year 1949 also saw the publication of Alton's book Painting with Light. The table of contents includes chapters such as "Mystery Lighting", "Special Illumination", and "Visual Symphony". In The Amazing Mr. X, Turhan Bey plays a charismatic psychic who preys on dowagers. Over the years, he remained a figure of mystery, even when critical recognition finally began to come his way. Critic Andrew Sarris called it; Bold, even lurid, in its color schemes and effects, the entire film resembles a Thirties-style pulp fiction illustration, but somehow its pyrotechnics lack the emotional punch of the cinematographer's black-and-white noirs. Most of the things [in the book] had to do with different kinds of lighting — ways of exciting you about ideas in light. The coming of sound had left the thriving Argentinean film industry high and dry, and he stayed there for six years. ", It helped that Alton wasn't "afraid of the dark," as he put it. I'd say 'You don't 'pump' light into a scene. The next year, Minnelli tapped Alton for the ballet scenes in An American in Paris (1951). He even compared photography to music: "A beautiful feminine close-up can be compared to a violin solo, and a strong characteristic picture of masculine beauty to a cello solo.". I don't even know where I left the books!". Gantry roars with fire and brimstone — real, imagined and implied. From that point onward, he could promise a quickie dressed up to resemble a major production, and command A-picture salaries for his work on B-movies. They called me back the next day to work. The characters also include a thug (John Ireland) and his boss (Raymond Burr), a mob kingpin given to dangerously smoldering moods. Curated by VCI Kansas City $ … He landed his first studio job at MGM's recently bought Culver City lot, where he quickly became a cameraman. Over the next decade, he made some 34 films. The Spiritualist), He Walked by Night, Hollozu Triumph (a.k.a. That was the difference between my pictures and some of the others: [in mine], each mood was different. - John Alton No other individual defines the foreboding film style known as noir more than John Alton, the Academy Award®-winning cinematographer (An American in Paris) who established his reputation … "Mind you, I was fighting for their own good. Elmer Gantry (1960) was Alton's last film of note. Yet again, an agent infiltrates a mob. In one scene, the clever placement of 30 extras to look like a mob is a miraculous visual coup. Throughout the picture, the mystery of such locations as telephone booths, steam rooms and midnight waterfronts is heightened by their contrast to such everyday edifices as the offices of the Treasury Department and the Los Angeles Farmers' Market. Alton attended the premiere and was hailed by dozens of contemporary luminaries of cinematography. What is concealed is heightened." Laurel Awards: Golden Laurel, Top Cinematography, Color, This page was last edited on 3 January 2021, at 13:38. Three years later, the Berkeley-based Pacific Film Archives (PFA) scoured film depots and vaults for rare prints of the lesser-known films Alton had made at such long-defunct studios as Eagle-Lion, Monogram and Republic, and booked them with his more famous noirs. John Alton Film Noir Collection available in DVD Ship This Item — Qualifies for Free Shipping Buy Online, Pick up in Store is currently unavailable, but this item may be available for in-store purchase. Though their attempts to interview him were thwarted (unbeknownst to Alton), the finished film — which included many striking examples of his work — lured the great cameraman out of his long exile. [When I first read it], I was shooting films in Chicago. Having found work at the Paramount Studio lab, Alton soon saved enough cash to buy a car and venture to California. He returned to Hollywood in the late 1930s, with two dozen film credits, and became one of the most sought-after cinematographers of the time.. Then we went on location. From the moment they "cross the line," the agents communicate only through low-key glances. Alton recalled thinking, "At last, here is a director I can really sit down and talk with." One day, he saw a man on the street grinding a little box; inside the box, pictures danced on a screen. Simply because, with the growing appreciation of film noir as the most interesting style/genre of the post-war American cinema, it has become obvious that the director of photography is as important, even in many cases more important, than the director in creating the fatalistic mood and compositional tension which are the hallmarks of film noir expressiveness. For much more on the famous noir-architect, check out the three-part article John Alton: Cinematography’s Outlier, an appreciation and history penned by John Bailey, ASC in 2013. Knockout film noir follows Joe Sullivan (Dennis O'Keefe), a crook serving time after taking the rap for mob boss Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr). At the end of the day, they gave me a check. He found work at RKO, Paramount and then Republic, averaging about four B-pictures a year. Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward, co-editors of the original Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, re-team to offer solid observations about the film's place in the noir cycle. Fate dealt Alton his winning card in 1947 when Republic assigned him to a fairly new director who had just joined the studio: Anthony Mann. You just pump a lot of light in!' In the March 1979 PFA calendar, filmmaker Dennis Jakob wrote, “Why do we feature John Alton? Reign of Terror), is an entertaining melange of genres — a "historical romantic action thriller." I had one aim: to make beautiful pictures. That light has to tell something. On He Walked by Night, Anthony Mann took over the directing reins from Alfred Werker near the end of production. Blu-ray John Alton Film Noir Collection (t-Men / Raw Deal / He Walked By Night) $ 39.95 $ 29.96. "When I got a story, I'd sit down with the director and work out each scene — just the two of us. However, he remembered, "Every time I looked at a scene, I saw the light on the actors' faces and didn't hear [a word] they were saying, so I knew I wasn't going to be a director. A child prodigy who sketched constantly, he had his own darkroom by the age of five. Thus began a collaboration that would define a high-water mark of pictorial storytelling; Alton and Mann worked together like guns and ammo. In 1962, Alton was fired from "The Birdman of Alcatraz" when director Charles Crichton was replaced by John Frankenheimer. There's a meaning, and it establishes a mood.' In his spare time, he devoured music and books, and absorbed as much as he could of the art flourishing in museums and galleries, on movie screens, and on the streets. 851968007071. Their first title, T-Men, was a crime procedural based on federal records, which the duo rendered in a noir stylization. Perhaps it was for the best that Alton didn't get boxed into making just A-level films. Free shipping on orders of $35+ from Target. Alton eventually returned to MGM, where he'd already worked for 18 years. He moved to France with Ernst Lubitsch to film backgrounds for The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927) and ended up staying for one year heading the camera department of Paramount Pictures's Joinville Studios. After Gantry, Alton decided to take a well-earned vacation. Critic Manny Farber cites the film's climax, in which Murphy's character is mulched by a tractor and plow, as one of his favorite scenes in all of cinema. Despite his experience, he couldn't find a niche in A-films — perhaps because he appeared cocky to many. The mood had to be done with lighting. And to rough-and-ready American film crews, that could be the greatest affront of all.". "In the morning, when many cameramen came in, they didn't have any plans for what they were going to do, so they just lit [everything] up," he said. The Art Director’s Guild produced this short on Alton and his expert work with his key collaborators: Act now to receive 12 issues of the award-winning AC magazine — the world’s finest cinematography resource. At the event, he summed up his achievements with the wisdom of his 94 years, exclaiming, "I took something, improved it, made something with it and I offered it on a platter for the public to enjoy.". The Scar), and Raw Deal. He began as a lab technician in Los Angeles in the 1920s, later becoming a cameraman within four years. Alton resigned from the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) in January 1944, reportedly due to conflicts with ASC founding member and MGM camera department head John Arnold. At 18, he set sail for New York to live with a prosperous uncle, and to take up studies in photochemistry. Alton admitted, "When I got an assignment, I read the script — or the book and the script — and then I went out to the art museums, even to Paris sometimes, to see what the masters had done. After the freedom he had experienced in Argentina, the idea of changing careers and becoming a Hollywood producer was rather unappealing. Of particular renown is Slightly Scarlet (1956), the last of six films he made with director Allan Dwan. The scene seems routine until one notices a small statuette of Abraham Lincoln that casts an exaggerated, ink-black shadow; the shadow undercut the traditional centrality of the speaking figure, and also provided a visual pun, implying that government agents were "shadowing" mobsters. As a cameraman, Alton preferred to plan his shots so that they would convey a film's shifting moods. Matte paintings were used to re-create the Parisian skyline on the Culver City lot. "But when I'd take most any director aside and ask him to sit down with me, he'd look at me as if I were crazy. Sometimes Alton would wrap a scene in ebony blackness (as if there were another frame within the frame of the screen) to invest its minimal patches of light with a higher intensity. Some people knew that there was something going on [in my pictures], but not what. All of his film noirs pack a wallop, with fast-paced action and shocking violence. In 1932, Alton was offered the opportunity to design and supervise a five-acre studio in Buenos Aires. Quick View. See all 9 - All listings for this product. John Alton Film Noir Collection [DVD] UPC. Alton had never seen such a thing, and was instantly fascinated. To do this, he would often incorporate dark, negative space that Jakob called "an active aesthetic element in the frame.". Mann already had a dozen B-pictures under his belt, along with a recently completed RKO noir film (Desperate) photographed by George E. Diskant, ASC. Indeed it is in the shadowy realm of film noir that he is best known. Film noir was a style that registered a certain social discontent before and after World War II. Alton photographed some of the most famous films noir of the classic period. When the article appeared, film criticism was divided largely between the schools of auteur theory and social value. Mar 29, 2015 - Alton had a long and creative career as a cinematographer shooting many different genres and styles. Another technique that draws the viewer into T-Men is the studied performances of the two actors portraying the story's stylishly dressed heroes, who operate undercover. In its pages, Alton maintained that films come in one of three categories: comedy, drama, and mystery. First-unit soundstage shots perfectly match the location work of the second-unit. Van Dyke once said, "You fundamentally still have the old stereoscope as your basis to work from, but somebody's got to get that picture on the wall. The gangster genre, so popular during the Great Depression, used the underworld to mirror corruption on high. The nightmare sequence, for which Minnelli expressly drafted Alton, is a visual tour de force; however, MGM was normally known for its polished look, so Alton invested most of the film with the light-hearted radiance of winsome, poignant comedy. John Alton's effortlessly precise cinematography mostly most extreme effects while lending realism and character. No other individual defines the foreboding film style known as noir more than John Alton, the Academy Award-winning cinematographer (An American in Paris) who established his reputation as one of the movie industry's finest by plying his unique talents in the arena of B-movies. Remarked director Vincente Minnelli, "[People] interpreted John's continental poise as effete and arrogant. Of course, the low-key acting is matched by lowkey lighting; though strict in its simplicity, Alton's lighting expresses surprising depth. Starring Dennis O'Keefe and Alfred Ryder as agents of the Treasury Department who infiltrate a counterfeiting ring, the film captured a new, post-war realism through its deft compositions, which offered compelling depth and space. In this case, the criminals are French Revolutionaries engaged in a plot to replace Robespierre with a more politically moderate candidate. FOR SALE! Despite the vast technical advances achieved within the motion picture industry much of the content is still pertinent. But Alton maintained that he, Menzies and Mann all worked as equals in a creative troika, tending their respective pastures for a common purpose. Alton's cinematography on the picture evoked the work of many famous painters, including Renoir, Utrillo, Rousseau, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. I didn't know anything about gobos. It doesn't make any difference if that figure talks or sings; it's still a picture, and the picture will always be the basis of the movies. Film-noir has played a gigantic role in enticing Leon Lewis into studying film, and who better to write a book about than “the most influential noir cinematographer” John Alton. The "frame within the frame" motif recurs throughout film, especially in one indoor image of a man and woman engaging in conversation with a gleaming window situated between them. The climactic chase scene prefigured inspired similar scenes in many subsequent films, most notably Carol Reed's The Third Man. In this film, Alton's exterior artistry is as expert as his interior work, with landscapes assuming an active importance. In 1960, Alton abruptly quit the industry. Reviews. It addresses both conventional and unconventional methods of studio motion-picture lighting. Reflective surfaces — glass-topped tables or puddles in the street — figure prominently in T-Men, and help to make the point that the honest agents are still a gang, just like their targets. Though his film work is later represented by such iconic noirs as Border Incident and The Big Combo, the three features in this collection present the incomparable John Alton at the peak of his art.T-MEN (1947, 92 min. A replica of the Place de Concorde (made of translucent plastic) was done up in the style of Dufy, and later serves as the site of the tale's climactic pas de deux. One subhead is entitled "What is thinking?" In 1932, he moved to Argentina where he shot many Spanish-language films and designed the country's first sound film studio for Lumiton and Argentina Sono Film. Add to Wishlist. He continued to read voraciously and took up oil painting; he crafted over 100 small canvasses and then gave them all away. All of a sudden a door opened, and a man grabbed me by the shoulders and said, 'Hurry up! Alton's lighting in these films was often an active, dramatic narrative element, and another striking moment in Mr. X is a quick shot of a character walking into a darkly lit room: the figure is definitely female, but it's difficult to ascertain whether the woman is a gullible widow or her suspicious sister. Alton honed his cinematographic skills shooting Westerns for "Woody" Van Dyke, a man who valued the input of his cameramen and often defended their interests when no one else would. Quick View. Read reviews and buy John Alton Film Noir Collection (Blu-ray) at Target. John Alton’s Wellesian deep focus and chiaroscuro lighting, which create a fraught tension between foreground and background planes, Anthony Mann’s Raw Deal is the apex of noir style, offering up electric visions of sin, salvation, and sexual mania. ', "They put me in a dressing room, stuck me in a uniform, and put me next to Marion Davies, a big star at that time. Alton de-emphasized the human form, making it an element within a mosaic of different visual events. Of course, lighting, and light in itself, is a mystery!" His style is most notable in the films noir: He Walked by Night, The Big Combo, The Amazing Mr. X, T-Men, and Raw Deal. Another of the film's high points is the slaying of Schemer (Wallace Ford) in a steam room — a scene played out against the spooky strains of a theremin. [On] The Black Book, I copied the masters. In the lobby, a Gypsy fortune teller read their palms. Widely regarded as epitomizing the visual style of high film noir as it approached its baroque period from the late 1940s, cinematographer John Alton’s work in the genre took a thoughtful approach to light, shadow, and their mysterious rapprochement in … The story's wedding is all the more enchanting because it survives some harrowing detours, such as a series of unexpected late-night phone calls. The crime angles keep the love triangle dynamic, and the narration (from Trevor's character) adds to the angularities. In Combo, a deaf man being murdered sees the gunfire. Still, the richest, darkest and best of Alton's 1948 crop is Raw Deal. Well, at home I used to get $1.50 a week, and here they gave me $12.50, for one day. 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A well-earned vacation matte paintings were used to get exposure for slow film and slow lenses Whit..
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