FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Joseph L. Mankiewicz |||
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Mankiewicz directed 20 films in a 26-year period, and was very successful at every kind of film, from Shakespeare to western, drama to musical, epics to two-character pictures, and regardless of the genre, he was known as a witty dialogist, a master in the use of flashback and a talented actors' director.

The 1950 Oscar for Best Picture and Screenplay brought Mankiewicz wide recognition as a writer and a director, with his sardonic look at show business glamour and the empty lives behind it. This well orchestrated cast of brilliant and catty character actors is built around veteran actress Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as her understudy desperate for stardom.

One of Mankiewicz’ more intimate films, this highly regarded and major artistic achievement is a spirited romantic comedy set in England of the 1880’s about a widow who moves into a haunted seashore house and resists the attempts of a sea captain specter to scare her away. This is a pleasing and poignant romance that is equally satisfying as a good old ghost story.

Mankiewicz wrote and directed this witty dissection of matrimony that has three women review the ups and downs of their marriages (with all its romance, fears and foibles) after receiving a letter telling them that one of their husbands has been unfaithful. Once again Mankiewicz deftly utilizes the skills of a well-chosen ensemble, which includes a young Kirk Douglas at his dreamiest.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Hail, Hail, Rock ‘N Roll

By CarrieSpecht

June 21st, 2006

At the Egyptian Theatre Hollywood Saturday, June 24 at 7:30pm. Following the screening Director Taylor Hackford (and surprise guests) will appear in person for a discussion and to reveal some surprise extras, some of which appear on the upcoming new DVD release of the film.

Hail, Hail, Rock ‘N Roll

The tagline proclaims, “The whole world knows the music. Nobody knows the man”.

Director Taylor Hackford ("Ray") rectifies this situation in his wonderful expose of preeminent musician Chuck Berry who was a prominent pioneer of the idea of singer as songwriter, and a highly influential leader in the infancy of rock 'n' roll. Berry is explored and exposed as never before in this revealing, inspiring and energizing documentary.

Filmed on location at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri, Hackford's earnest and attentive documentary is an all-star extravaganza revolving around a concert given in Berry’s hometown on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

This lovely and personal account of Chuck Berry is told in the usual documentary fashion, with Berry the man revealed through his own words and those of his friends and colleagues through an entertaining mix of interviews, some vintage behind-the-scenes clips, and live-concert archival footage.

The film abounds with a multitude of guest appearances by many legends and luminaries in concert as well as in interviews, including Etta James, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Robert Cray, Julian Lennon, Linda Ronstadt, legendary musicians Bo Diddley, Little Richard, the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen who once opened for Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis early in his career.

Although standard in it’s presentation Hackford does an impressive job of capturing Berry's charismatic performances, his humor, and the uncompromising standards he has set for himself, often presenting Berry as a difficult character, avoiding the trap of idealizing or idolizing him. By showing the enigmatic showmen in all his humanity makes this one of the best and most honest rock films of all time.

With its charm and exuberance it’s no wonder that this film has long been a fan favorite and it’s DVD release has been so greatly anticipated.

My rating: A-