George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984) - full transcript
Biography of director George Stevens by his son. It includes clips from many of his films with commentary by the actors and by directors such as Frank Capra, John Huston and Alan Pakula, among others. Also included are Stevens's war "home movies," found only after his death. Assigned by Eisenhower to film the war in Europe, Stevens used the opportunity to produce, at the same time, the only color footage ever shot in World War II. There is breathtaking film of D-Day and its aftermath; the triumphal march through Paris of the Allied liberators; and the unspeakable horrors of Dachau. This is what Goya might have done with a movie camera. On a more mundane level is a segment on Cecil B. DeMille's 1950 underhanded attempt to oust Joseph L. Mankiewicz, then president, from the Directors' Guild, which Stevens was instrumental in blocking.
an artist scrawled on a wall:
"Let something of me survive."
When my father died,
he left these things to me.
I looked through them,
hoping to learn more...
about the man I thought
I knew best in all the world.
Here I found his wartime diary.
He had written, "Life is a journey...
"and it's always most interesting
when you're not sure where you're going."
At the end of his career, a critic wrote:
"Whether or not
he intended such a thing...
"George Stevens has,
in a very important way...
"become the spokesman
for his country and his decades.
"His work, as he moved
from craftsman to artist...
"from romantic to realist,
reflects the course of the nation...
"and those assumptions,
both social and philosophical...
"upon which it is based."
His reflections on his country
and its people...
first started to appear
on America's movie screens in the 1930s.
I was fussing around,
trying to find a director...
for Alice Adams.
AH the expensive ones
wanted to do the picture.
But I was suffering from
the usual classiness of new stars...
and I said, "No, I don't want anyone
who's just interested in me.
"I want them to be thrilled
by the property, by Alice Adams."
Katharine Hepburn had a feeling...
that she would like to go
with William Wyler...
who wanted to do the picture at the time.
But I kept playing the Stevens idea.
Well, I was sitting in the car lot
with Charles Boyer...
flirting, I'm afraid, and talking
when all of a sudden...
your father's face came into View
this close to mine...
and said, "I'm George Stevens."
I said, "For heaven's sake."
What George said to me, I don't know.
But I'm sure he just said,
"I think you're the most fascinating...
"thrilling person in the world,
and I want to work with you."
I finally said, "Why don't we flip a coin?"
So she said, "Okay."
So I flipped a coin, and it came up Wyler.
And I looked at her,
and she looked a little bit disappointed.
And I said, "How about flipping it again?"
She said, "Okay."
We flipped it again, and that was it.
Pandro was obviously delighted.
I think George was getting
10 cents an hour...
and everyone else
wanted about $150,000 to do it.
No, I can't.
Look, I can't dance with all of you.
In 1935, after years of working
as a cameraman...
and a director of two-reel comedies
and minor features...
he found himself directing
one of America's most important stars...
and his first major film.
Alice Adams was
a terrible victim of snobbery.
If you were in one group
and wanted to get to this group...
that was a trip that was hard to take...
unless you were fascinating
or you had money...
or unless you really could fight your way.
And she couldn't fight her way.
But why aren't you dancing?
I have been.
I just wanted a chance to catch my breath.
Alice, this is Mr. Russell.
he wants to ask you for this dance.
Will you excuse me?
A romance grows between Alice
and Mr. Arthur Russell.
She finally gathers the courage
to invite him home to meet her family.
To make a good impression,
a maid is hired for the evening.
Dinner is served.
That's good. Let's go see if we can eat it.
George had a great deal of feeling...
and emotion in his work
and tremendous versatility.
I can't forget that great dinner scene...
the horrible frustration
of that terrible night...
which was a blend of real sadness
and a lot of comedy.
So these are Brussels sprouts.
They certainly smell up the house.
Now what can have been in cook's mind
not to have made an aspic...
instead of a heavy entree
for weather like this?
I'm afraid we let the servants do too much
as they like about the meals, Mother.
Perhaps we should
changer les domestiques, n'est-ce pas?
He shot it and cut it...
and I thought, "This is really not
as funny as it should be."
it was one of the brilliant comedy scenes
ever played, I think.
That was totally George.
George told everyone exactly what to do.
Timed it. Timed the angle of that
headpiece that she had on her head.
"That won't be funny. It's too much."
And he knew too much, too little.
He works so hard in his terrible,
Terrible, new factory, I should say.
He simply must have
lots of food to keep his strength up.
I don't see why most businessmen
can't leave most of the details...
to their employees, but then
I suppose some of them are like that.
They just allow their help to sit
around idle while they do all the work.
Of course, the end of that,
which George and I both wanted...
the real end
where she doesn't get the man...
and finally faces the realities of life
and goes to work...
that's a strong end to the picture.
The star and director would not get
the realistic ending they wanted.
Those decisions were made
by the RKO studio executives.
When Alice Adams opened
in America's largest movie house...
the critic James Agee wrote:
"What was in 1922
a shrewd and observant novel...
"emerges in 1935 as a portrait of an era...
"uproariously funny and perceptive."
it had been a significant piece of work
from a director who was only 30 years old.
But the truth was...
he had been aware of audiences and plays
for 25 years.
As a child in San Francisco,
he played parts on the stage...
and watched and listened
as his parents performed...
Shakespeare and Dickens
and period comedies.
He was 10 years old when his mother
gave him a Box Brownie Camera.
That's when he started to photograph
what he saw around him.
His mother was always a willing subject.
Theatergoers in San Francisco were
discovering a new form of entertainment.
The movies put his father out of business.
For out-of-work actors, there was
only one place to go in California.
With his father able to get
only occasional work in the movies...
he had to leave high school and get a job.
Still, he found time to read books
and educate himself.
Hollywood was a town
where a young photographer...
could learn to crank a movie camera.
When he was 17, the Ha! Roach Studios
took him to Utah...
as an assistant cameraman
photographing a wild horse named Rex.
He wrote home to his mother,
"We got off the train...
"rode off into the mountains,
rounded up a herd of wild horses...
"and started photographing them."
His letter ended:
"Mom, four weeks ago, I started out
just working for a place on the team.
"Now I belong."
His new friends
were men of the outdoors...
and he developed a love
for the American West.
His rapport with the Comanche Indians
and a likeness in manner and appearance...
would lead friends throughout his life
to suspect he was part Indian...
he did nothing to discourage.
He was a cameraman
at the Hal Roach Studios in 1926...
when Roach signed a brilliant
English comedian to a contract.
There was a problem.
His pale blue eyes didn't register on film.
A career seemed ended until the new
young cameraman came with an idea.
George, in some way,
got a hold of this panchromatic film...
from, somebody told me, Chicago.
They got some of this film...
and then made a test of Stan Laurel
with the panchromatic film...
and his eyes photographed all right.
And he was able to work as a comedian.
He was director of photography
and a gag writer on 35 films...
far Laurel and his new partner,
Oliver 'Babe " Hardy.
He said, "Until I met Laurel and Hardy...
"I didn't know comedy could be
graceful and human."
We were at Babe's house, my father and I.
Babe called and wanted to know
if he could bring his cameraman home.
They finally arrived.
I was sitting in the corner in a chair.
In those days, the little cutie pies
were in style.
He walked in and saw what he thought
was this little 12-year-old.
I was real thin and tiny.
But I kept waiting.
I thought maybe this was
the son of the cameraman.
I couldn't believe it.
Anyway, it turned out
that he was the cameraman...
and that I wasn't 12 years old.
So take it from there.
After a time, the young director
and Roach began to disagree...
about comedy style and stories.
He told a friend:
"Roach wanted me to direct gag comedies.
"I liked humor that came
from believable characters.
"If became a contest as to whether
I would make pictures his way or mine."
He was out of work for a year
until RKO signed him as a director.
I remember one day,
we were having dinner at Lucy's...
and someone who was a good friend
of mine came and sat down...
and talked about a deal
he'd made for someone...
and millions of dollars
and this and that...
and money and money, and he left.
George looked at me
and put his arms around me...
and gave me a big kiss on the mouth,
and I said, "George."
He said, "Money, money.
I can't bear that talk."
That was sweet, you know.
He said, "It's what we do that is so great,
After the unexpected success
of Nice Adams in 1935...
he would make seven pictures
in five years at RKO...
marked by their diversity
and the optimism of the '30s.
With each picture, he gained
greater control and a lifetime asset.
The stars of quality
wanted to work with him.
He said, "I loved the adventure
of doing things I hadn't done before."
One of the best remembered of his films
of the '30s was a musical...
Swing Time, with Fred and Singer's
dance of parting.
With Fred and me, he gave us a quality...
that we really had never had before.
He gave us that opportunity...
to talk to each other without speaking...
to love each other without loving,
without a word.
It was all done in a pantomime dance.
I loved that.
It was his quality that he added
that gave it that something special.
Today, looking back on it,
you don't think much about it...
but at the time it was quite an innovation.
This was one of the first, I think,
that actually told a little story...
or furthered the story of the plot.
She had to do a lot of solo spins
around me, and I did, too.
By the time the two of us got spun out...
he says, "Cut! Let's try another one."
We finally got a very good shot of it.
I saw it the other day and said:
"That didn't look so tough as it was
when we did it."
The script was written
to be filmed in the studio.
He agreed to do it on the condition
he could take the picture outdoors.
For the first time, he took his own
to photograph life behind the scenes.
I arrived on location
but I didn't have a thing on paper.
You'll notice the scene
where they're drilling on the ground.
The sergeant major I had as a
military adviser told me about this drill.
I knew it would take a good four hours
to get it organized...
and I got in the prop truck
and put the first scene together.
This is a scene in the story where...
Cutter, Cary Grant, meets Gunga Din...
who wants to be a military.
He was addressing what he considered
a director's most critical task:
giving structure to the story
and establishing believable characters.
Sam Jaffe plays Kipling's
regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
His longing to become accepted
by the men of the regiment...
became the focus of the story.
Two paces forward. March!
Head up, chin in.
Get those thumbs
behind the seams of your trousers...
Get them back.
Lower that left shoulder
an eighth of an inch. That's much better.
Otherwise you're looking
very regimental, Din.
Thank you, Sergeant.
- Was salute satisfactory?
- That's the idea...
They worked nights writing the script.
To keep the 2,000 members
of the cast and crew busy during the day...
he began shooting
a complicated action scene.
Reaching back for some old tricks
from the Laurel and Hardy days...
he called this,
Get behind the wall. Come on. Hurry up.
I didn't need to know anything
about what happened...
in the next reel or the next fade-in
to shoot that fight.
That required an awful lot of setups,
powder work, and all that.
It took me longer
than anybody imagined it would.
The studio got terribly anxious.
Get to the river!
George had always been quite economical
in most everything he'd done.
He'd never presented us with any...
large problems on cost.
So I figured that where this picture
was a huge investment...
and a high budget...
I was fairly safe
that George would stick to it.
- Come on, you sappers, over you go.
- Over you go.
All right, give me that.
We were threatened with closing down
the whole show...
because they said nothing matched,
scenes didn't seem connected.
Some things were overdone.
They were broad, too comic.
Other things were melodramatic.
They didn't know how
they'd be put together.
We knew because George was
kind enough and sweet enough...
to confide in us what he had in mind.
Sometimes he wouldn't even do that,
it was all in the back of his own mind.
He would never argue,
and if you called him up...
and said you wanted to do something
in some way...
that he didn't approve of,
he'd say, "Absolutely. You're right."
Then he would go out and do it
exactly the way he wanted to do it.
He was a man of convictions.
Polite and soft-spoken...
and stubborn as a mule.
It was stimulating
to go to work with George.
He always had another idea.
When you went in you'd say:
"Lord, isn't that's marvelous?
Let's try that."
It made you feel like
it was a collaborative effort.
He never gave you
the sense of working under him.
You felt you were working with him,
that you were part of his team...
and he was part of yours, and we were all
aiming for the same objective.
I spent hours up an Annie.
She was a wonderful elephant.
I was there day after day.
I even had my lunch pitched up to me
because it was so damned difficult...
to get up and down the blinking thing.
There's nothing to hang on to,
except we had a rope...
painted gray to look like Annie.
Din, are you sure you're
on the right trail?
Yes, sahib. Here is the bridge, sahib.
- Is this bridge safe?
- It's safe, sahib.
Safe? What do you mean, safe?
Get out of my way.
It was the most expensive picture...
that RKO had ever made up to that time.
It cost $1,915,000.
I don't remember the original budget...
but I would say it was probably
So it was a tremendous overrun on cost.
Everybody was scared
we wouldn't have enough money...
to finish the picture with
because we weren't...
a too-affluent company, you know.
But, fortunately, when it was finished,
it was such an enormous success...
that we not only got all our money back,
but we made a little profit.
And it turned out to be
one of the best pictures RKO ever made.
Shooting Gunga Din,
he thrived on what he called:
"The excitement of necessity
when you have only yourself to rely on."
He realized his first responsibility
was not to the studio...
it was to the audience.
They're coming in.
- The Colonel's got to know.
Trumpeter, sound off.
Shoot him down!
- You take the left flank, I'll take the right.
- Yes, sir.
He took the essence out of Kipling.
It was all the things
that Kipling stands for.
It catered to the adolescent
in all of us, yeah. Wonderful.
I got a script that I wanted to do
Woman of the Year.
And I wanted to set it up...
wherever I could get a male star
that I thought was good.
My first try was Spencer,
whom I did not know.
I called George and said,
"I want to see you about doing a picture."
He said, "I'm terribly busy."
I said, "George, I have to see you."
He said, "Tell me the goddarn story.
Just tell it to me."
So I told him the story.
And I said, "Read the script."
He said, "I haven't got time to read it."
"You want to do this picture
with Spencer Tracy...
"and you want me to direct it. I'll do it."
Now, he felt that
I had gotten him the job...
in Alice Adams,
and that really started him...
on his remarkable career.
He was true. He paid an old debt.
I needed him. He said, "Okay, here I am."
She's waiting for you.
Come in, Sam.
- Haven't you met Miss Harding?
- Yes, in a belligerent sort of way.
- He hit me first. Hello.
I realize as much as anybody...
is a very stimulating thing. Very.
For the two stars, it was the beginning
of a lasting friendship...
which the public shared
and enjoyed in many other films.
For the director, who never wanted
to make the same film twice...
it was a one-time job
of establishing characters...
and drawing humor from life.
In a sense
Spencer and your father
had a lot in common...
in that they were, you know,
just watchers. They didn't have...
I have a lot of facial
expression and charm.
They were strong, silent men.
So Spencer was very influenced
by being around George...
just watching the scene.
The average director
would have had Tracy react.
Instead of which, George...
had Tracy play it the way George would.
He gives this wide look...
with that Indian impassivity.
There was nothing particularly
screamingly funny about it...
but it was a cumulative thing.
One is struck by his rhythm.
It is very different than the rhythm
of a lot of other comedy.
A lot of American directors,
feel that when you do comedy,
everything has to be speeded up.
And comedy is confused with cartoon.
For any of them, I advise them...
running the last sequence
of woman of the Year...
of Katharine Hepburn in the kitchen...
and how George gradually, slowly,
taking his time...
builds each prop in that kitchen.
And the more frenetic Katharine Hepburn
gets in trying to show...
she can be a good housewife
and cook a breakfast for Spencer Tracy...
the calmer the camera remains,
just sitting there calmly...
observing all of these things,
rather stoically, very much like George.
It's daring because it takes
a lot of daring and courage...
to take your time with comedy.
Fourth down. You better kick.
I hated to see George
go to the more serious pictures.
We used to have awful fights about that...
because what he could do in comedy
was really unique.
Just after the outbreak of World War II,
he started shooting The More the Merrier.
He said the war gave it an urgency.
Everything was a little more intense.
Joe! McCrea was a young actor
who shared his director's Western roots.
I had just finished a couple of pictures.
I was lazy and had a ranch to run.
So I said I didn't really care
about going to work right away.
It fascinated him, you know.
He didn't do any of the things
an ordinary director would do...
to try and get an actor to do a part.
Nothing. His was all original.
He said, "Come to dinner
and we'll talk about it."
So I went home with him.
He brought out all the stills
with Rex, the king of wild horses.
He said he carried the camera
and helped build the bull corrals in Utah.
I saw what a regular guy he was.
He was a terrific and a very original,
I said, "I want to do the picture."
He said, "You've got to do the picture."
I said, "I know it."
So we did and we had the greatest time.
Jean Arthur played Connie Milligan.
To ease the housing shortage
in wartime Washington...
she rents half of her apartment
to a Mr. Benjamin Dingle...
played by Charles Coburn.
Here's the bathroom and kitchen.
My alarm goes off at 7:00,
and we both get up.
At 7:01, I enter the bathroom.
Then you go down to get the milk,
and by 7:05, you've started the coffee.
One minute later, I leave the bathroom,
a minute after that, you enter it.
That's when I'm starting to dress.
Three minutes later, I'm having my coffee.
A minute after that, at 7:12,
you leave the bathroom.
At 7:13, I put on my eggs
and I leave to finish dressing.
Then you put on your shoes
and take off my eggs at 7:16.
Mr. Dingle decides
that Miss Milligan could use...
a high type, clean-cut, nice young fellow
around the house.
Are you here about the apartment?
Yeah, it says half an apartment.
Is it rented?
You look like a high type, clean-cut,
nice young fellow.
No, it's not rented. Come in.
It's really only half of half of
an apartment, but it's not rented.
- What's your name?
- Bill Carter?
- Joe Carter.
- I used to know a fellow named Bill Carter.
- It wasn't me.
Don't you suppose I know that?
- Why did you ask for, then?
- I know what Bill Carter looked like.
- Not like me.
- Then you know Bill Carter.
No, I don't,
but he sounds like a great guy.
He never tried to show you how to act.
He never said you're not giving enough.
He never bawled anybody out.
I never saw him do anything
but instill confidence.
If somebody said, "We can make this over.
You can have Clark Gable.
"How would you like that?"
George said, "Not for this.
"I wanted McCrea for this."
He had that kind of
confidence in himself...
so that if it were somebody better...
like Gable, Cary Grant, or somebody...
George would say,
"No, for this I want you."
You looking for someone?
Who are you?
- How did you get in here?
- I live here.
- Since when?
- Since this morning.
The atmosphere on the set was very good.
It was completely unlike anything...
that Harry Calm would have had
in his studio.
I would go to Harry Coho's dining room...
where he would insult other directors.
He never dared insult George.
But Harry Calm said,
"He uses more exposed film...
"than any director I've ever had.
How many different angles?"
He said, "He's used more..."
So when I got back on the set,
I'd ask George. I said:
"You know, he asked me that.
"Why doesn't he come down
and ask you?"
He said, "Sam Briskin made a deal...
"for Leo McCarey and me...
"to make a certain number of pictures
"We had put in there
that if Harry Cohn disturbed us...
"at any time during the shooting...
"we had the right to leave the picture,
and he could finish directing it himself."
- Don't you ever go with any girls?
- Of course.
- Helen Tuttle.
- Is she your girl?
- I just go with her.
- A long time?
- No, just a girl I know.
- Is she your girl?
- I just go with her.
- Is she attractive?
- I guess so.
- Who did you go with before that?
- Oh, Elsie.
- How long?
- A couple of months.
- What happened?
- She wanted to get married.
- What happened?
- She got married.
- Who did you see before that?
- Martha and Adele, I think.
- What happened to them?
- I still go with them.
Are you afraid
to get married or something?
But I don't want to get involved.
It wasn't written that way.
George just said, "You come home.
"You don't want to say good night,
but you have to."
So forth and so on. He went on.
He said, "Let's fool around with it a bit."
So I was fooling around with it a bit.
All the time she was talking about
the OPA and CCC and different things...
I was copping feels around with her...
a lot of time and George was sitting
in back of the camera, laughing.
It was one of the funniest,
I'd ever seen. I think it's probably...
the sexiest and the funniest scene
I've ever seen in any picture.
Their words talked government.
Their hands talked something else.
We thought, Mr. Pendergast and I,
that it would be better...
to get a conservative ring
and put that extra money into our home.
That's the way to do it.
We found a lovely little house
- for after the emergency, of course.
Mr. Pendergast is so busy nowadays.
- He doesn't have time to think of it even.
- I can understand that.
Why, just last week...
one evening he had a dinner conference
Henderson and Donald...
Leon Henderson and Donald M. Nelson.
You see, that's the way
with those older men like Mr. Pendergast.
A girl gets to appreciate
their more mature...
George was guided to do the right thing
at the right time.
He had great ideas. He had ideals.
He wanted to do things.
alone in a Hollywood screening room...
he watched the Nazi propaganda film
Triumph of the Will.
"That film," he said, "influenced my life
more than any I would ever see."
There were a few men in Hollywood...
who, as soon as war was declared,
were in uniform.
There was Willy Wyler, Jack Ford...
Anatole Litvak, Frank Capra...
and, of course, there was George.
These were men way past military age...
who were all rather pacifistic.
Not pacifistic when it came to
dealing with studio heads...
or perhaps in a brawl in a nightclub.
But all very liberal men...
who had grown up with pacifistic ideas.
One and all, they gave up
very lucrative and prestigious careers...
and went right into the Army.
In London in 1944...
he received the most important
assignment of his life.
Genera! Eisenhower wanted the invasion
and the battle for Europe...
recorded for history
in a professional manner.
By June, It. Col. Stevens
had beside him a team of professionals:
the Special Coverage Unit
of the Allied Expeditionary Force.
William Saroyan, the writer...
assistant director from Roach Studios...
soundman from Columbia Studios...
novelist/screenwriter Irwin Shaw...
writer Ivan Moffat...
and cameraman Ken Marthey,
Jack Muth, Dick Hoer, and Bill Mellor.
On 0-day, they would fan out
among the Allied forces...
to cover the greatest seaborne invasion
A great occasion altogether, those days...
when hopes ran higher for the world
than I've ever known them to...
before or since.
I know that George had...
that high sense...
of the fate of the world
when he thought that...
with the rest of us, everything would be
all right forever afterwards.
In the dawn of June 6, 1944...
the armada of the Allied nations
set forth across the English Channel...
and drew near the heavily fortified
beaches of occupied France.
With the same camera that he used
far home movies an Gunga Din...
he shot what proved to be
the only color film of the war in Europe.
Discovered in his storeroom,
it has never been seen before.
He saw the captain of the HMS Belfast
read to his men assembled on the deck...
from Shakespeare, Henry V:
"We few, we happy few,
we band of brothers
"For he to-day
who sheds his blood with me
"Shall be my brother"
6:00, D-day. Landing time
for the first beachhead boats.
Now Signal Corps cameras
catch the full drama of the fateful hour.
George had an extraordinary sense...
of visualizing events and scenes.
But these visual horrors and paradoxes...
gave him a great deal of insight...
into things that
he'd never dreamed of before.
By August, the Allied armies
were in competition...
each hoping to be the first to Paris.
He decided to try to join the French forces
of General Jacques Leclerc.
When he wanted to get around authority...
he knew how to do it,
usually just by remaining quiet.
I know he did that in Hollywood,
and he did the same thing in the Army.
He was not a rebel...
but he knew what he wanted
and he knew how to get it.
they joined Leclerc's armored division...
to photograph the liberation of Paris.
An atmosphere somewhat between
a circus and a bullfight, and then...
a sudden, quicksilver fear
running through these crowds...
when the firing began. And then, it would
melt away, then come back again.
George went right to the top.
He went with the German Command
to the Gare Montparnasse...
and filmed the taking their surrender
by General Leclerc.
Paris free again.
And the beginning of the last act
in its amazing story:
the surrender of It. Gen. Von Choltitz...
German Commander of the Paris region.
At a dingy office
in Montparnasse station...
formal end of German rule.
As the men of the 29th Infantry
marched through Paris...
Irwin Shaw bet George Stevens
that the war would be over by October.
But ahead was the coldest winter
in 20 years...
and history to be recorded.
He had never understood
what we'd been faced with...
the proportions of horror and cruelty,
until he'd witnessed it...
and he took it very, very hard.
There was a great deal of homesickness...
a feeling that this might drift on
for months and months.
Their journeys had started
half a world apart.
Yet the men from the Special Coverage
Unit and their Russian counterparts...
seemed like old friends
when they met in April on the River Elbe.
One of the most extraordinary features...
of that marvelous spring,
when the war was coming to an end...
was a sense of everybody going home.
Italians going south,
Norwegians going north...
French going west,
Poles and Russians going east.
At the Dachau concentration camp,
what they saw and recorded...
would not be forgotten.
All of the outrages of human nature...
bring these latent
and deep-rooted emotions...
to the surface,
but nothing like a concentration camp.
Everything evil will be exposed in a day.
because it undercuts one terribly.
I would examine it on the basis...
of what would happen if! was in
the other army, the German army.
I hated the bastards, what they stood for.
It was the worst possible thing
that's happened in centuries...
and yet, when a poor man...
hungered and unseeing
because his eyesight is failing...
grabs me and starts begging...
I fee! the Nazi in any human being.
I don't care whether I'm Jew or gentile.
I fee! the Nazi. Because I abhorred him,
and I want him to keep his hands off me.
And the reason I abhor him...
is because I see myself...
being capable of arrogance and brutality...
to keep him off me.
That's a fierce thing,
to discover within yourself...
that which you despise the most.
Once or twice a year...
our Uncle Chris,
with his great loud voice...
and his fierce black mustache...
would come down
from his ranch in the north...
and descend upon San Francisco
in his automobile.
"Returning to America
after four years," he said...
"films were much less important ta me,
and in a way, perhaps, more important."
He would not make comedies anymore...
and he wasn't ready to deal with
postwar America or the years 1940 to '45.
So he returned home
to the San Francisco of his youth...
what he called
"the confirmed period of the past."
I Remember Mama
brought him back together...
with the people
he had always understood and trusted...
and prepared him to place his energies
behind his convictions.
I think one of the real misfortunes...
with our American motion picture
has to do with the fact...
that it's almost entirely
a dollar-and-cents conjecture.
I think there's more to a motion picture
than its commerce.
I think its ideas have untold worth.
You see his films, and through it all,
you see who George Stevens was.
You see his outlook on life,
how he looks at war...
at honor, at love, at freedom.
And I think no matter how you put it...
films, for a director,
are always autobiographical.
You want a ride?
He placed Theodore Dreiser's characters
in a postwar setting.
The studio feared the controversial theme
of the pregnant factory girl...
and the tragic tone of the story.
But he believed he could involve audiences
in the dilemma...
of the young veteran
who dreams of his place in the sun.
- Hello, darling! Good to see you again.
- Hello, there.
I see you had a misspent youth.
I guess it was.
Why all alone? Being exclusive?
in all the things that he did...
there was an immediacy.
I mean, I lived the material.
I didn't comment on it as I went along.
I just lived it as the picture went along.
He had me there, within the scene.
I became a part of it.
You better tell me.
I've loved you
since the first moment I saw you.
I guess maybe
I even loved you before I saw you.
You are the fellow that wondered
why I invited you here tonight.
I'll tell you why.
I love... Are they watching us?
I love you, too. It scares me.
But it is a wonderful feeling.
It's wonderful that you're here,
I can hold you, I can see you.
I can hold you next to me.
But what's it going to be like next week?
All summer long. I'll still be
just as much in love with you.
- You'll be gone.
- But I'll be at the lake.
You'll come up and see me.
Oh, it's so beautiful there.
You must come.
I know my parents will be a problem...
but you can come on the weekends,
when the kids from school are up there.
You don't have to work weekends.
That's the best time.
If you don't come,
I'll drive down here to see you.
I'll pick you up outside the factory.
You'll be my pickup.
Or we'll arrange it somehow,
whatever way we can...
and we'll have
such wonderful times together.
Just the two of us.
- I'll be the happiest person in the world.
- The second-happiest.
Angela, if I can only tell you
how much I love you.
If I can only tell you all.
Tell Mama all.
There's a quality, first of all,
in the way he portrayed human beings...
with a kind of truthfulness...
that was very hard
to find in many other people's work.
He gave the characters a kind of weight...
and a kind of reality
and a sort of compassion...
that was almost unique.
A compassion, perhaps,
being the most important of all.
He not only understood people
who were in trouble...
but he became involved
in what the troubles were.
We'll go to another town
where nobody knows us...
then we'll get jobs, maybe together.
We'll do things together,
go out together...
just like any other old married couple.
George, you'll see.
After a while, you'll settle down...
and you'll be happy and content...
with what you got instead of
working yourself up all the time...
over things you can't have.
it's the little things in life that count.
Sure, maybe we'll have
to scrimp and save...
but we'll have each other.
I'm not afraid of being poor.
Stop it, Alice!
- What's the matter?
- Just stop it!
What did you think of
when you saw the star?
You wished that
you weren't here with me, didn't you?
You wished that I was some place else
where you'd never have to see me again.
Or maybe you wished that I was dead.
- Is that it? Do you wish that I was dead?
- No, I didn't!
Leave me alone.
George, I know it isn't easy for you.
I shouldn't have said that.
Stay where you are.
"I had a strange feeling," he said...
"that that young man
wasn't on trial as much as we were.
"For him, it was just a dream
that crossed his path...
"in the shape of reality.
Lost illusions, lost hope, lost desire."
I guess there's nothing more to say.
I know something now
that I didn't know before.
I am guilty of a lot of things.
Most of what they say of me.
All the same...
I'll go on loving you...
for as long as I live.
Love me for the time I have left...
then forget me.
Seems like we always
spend the best part of our time...
just saying goodbye.
Somebody said that all arts
aspire to the condition of music...
because music is really
the finest art there is.
It's the most intangible
and yet the most powerful...
and you feel it.
And I think that film at its best...
must aspire to the condition of music.
It's really the music
of images in movement.
And this was the strongest thing...
that came to you
from the screen when he was at it.
Goodbye, George. I'll be seeing you.
He received honors
with his wartime cameraman, Bill Mellor.
That night, he spoke of the test of time.
He said, "We'll have a better idea
how good this film is in about 25 years."
Before the war and immediately after,
he had served three terms...
of the Screen Directors' Guild.
In 1950, he was a member
of the governing board...
when charges of un-American activities
and blacklisting divided the film industry.
Cecil B. DeMille,
the Guild's most famous member...
initiated a bylaw
that would require every director...
to sign a compulsory
and public loyalty oath.
The president of the Guild was opposed.
Joe Mankiewicz was then the president,
and a very good one.
And the faction
which was headed by Mr. C.B. DeMille...
he was not worthy to be a president...
and wanted him removed...
a vast campaign of persuasion...
which also included intimidation.
When they started
to unload Joe Mankiewicz...
they sent telegrams
to all the board members.
I got this telegram
that said they were doing this action.
And that was about 5:30".
so I call the Guild
and the phone doesn't answer.
Well, that put me to wondering.
That's when he arrived
at the Directors' Guild...
and wanted to find out
how all of this could've taken place...
without anybody in the Guild
knowing about it.
And then he had with him
Martin Gang, a lawyer...
and George's cross-examination...
would've done honor to Clarence Darrow.
He had every one of these girls testify...
that the Guild had been, for months,
run from Cecil B. DeMille's office.
tried a putsch in the night...
and sent motorcycle riders out
and tried to get a vote...
on the part of the whole membership
to disavow Mankiewicz.
And then, when this came out...
why, he was
thoroughly discredited at a very...
You probably know
about that famous meeting.
The assistant directors
at that time had no vote...
and they were sort of relegated
to the balconies, like the rabble.
And below them
sat the majesty of the senior directors.
And without exception, they were there...
and I have never witnessed
a more emotional meeting..
In my entire experience.
DeMille spoke. I spoke.
Then DeMille started right off...
in an attempt to show
the foreign influences that were at work.
Mr. DeMille stood up and said:
"This document was signed by Mr. Vyler...
"by Mr. Vilder, by Mr. Tzinnemann."
And he made a point
of pronouncing it in that way...
to accentuate the fact
that we weren't born in this country.
till exactly the perfect moment of timing.
And he then read an account...
of the detective work he had done.
First he resigned from the board...
and said, "I want no part of this.
"I want no part of this
as an American, as a director...
"or as a human being."
He says, "Because this is a conspiracy."
I said, "There's the indictment.
"I'm one of the board members
that's responsible for this.
"There's only one fair thing I can do.
"and I recommend
that every other man on this board...
"that's responsible for this in any way
by omission, as I am...
"or by being
a party to this conspiracy, resign."
That was when John Ford got up and said:
"My name is Ford. I direct Westerns."
And then he looked over at DeMille...
and he said, "Cecil, look,
we've been together since 1916 or '15.
"I respect you, Cecil."
And my heart was sinking.
I said, "My God,
after everything that Stevens did?
"Ford is going to wipe this out?"
He says, "You make movies better than...
That the world wants to see...
"and nobody in this room can touch you."
He says, "But I don't like you, Cecil...
"and I don't like a goddamn thing
you stand for."
George brought all the influence
to bear that he possibly could...
to direct these assaults away
from these people...
and, in fact, defend the Constitution
of the United States.
He was a very true...
in the best sense.
That was right during the height
of the McCarthy trials.
It was the most thrilling experience
to know something like that...
I drove 50 miles up the road
to Venture and back...
I was so exhilarated
by seeing a victory being won...
over the McCarthy thing.
To the younger members
of the Guild who were idealists...
in terms of quality
and wanting to make good films...
he was sort of a pope
or certainly a cardinal.
I met George when I was 22 years old...
and I found myself
in the Paramount front office...
working for Don Hartman,
who was then head of production.
Don, who always had great respect
for George Stevens...
read the script of Shane and said to me:
"Well, it's a nice Western...
"but why would George Stevens
want to do that?"
George made the film, and we understood
why he wanted to do that.
Ever since his days
with Rex the Wonder Horse...
he had been interested
in the frontier life of his country.
He thought audiences
would be interested, too.
He said, "They don't come just to escape
or be entertained.
"They come to learn about themselves.
"Kids come to live an hour of the life
they haven't yet lived...
to live the lives they've missed."
Shane is the story of a family
and an outsider who comes their way.
He saw it as an American tale
in the King Arthur tradition...
and he chose to tell the story
through the wondering eyes of a boy.
Somebody's coming, Pa.
Let him come.
Always have it here...
where the grip
is between the elbow and the wrist.
So when your hand comes up...
your gun will clear the holster
without coming up too high. You see?
Now you try it. Real fast. Straight.
- Gosh, is that the way real gunfighters do?
- No, Joey.
Most of them have tricks of their own.
One, for instance,
likes to have a shoulder holster.
Another one puts it
in the belt of his pants.
And there are some who like two guns.
But one's all you need, if you can use it.
10 or 15 paces...
No good at all, pull it where you want it.
Let me see you shoot, Shane.
What do you want me to shoot at?
The little white rock over there, see?
Gosh Almighty! That is good!
George Stevens defied
all kinds of technical conventions...
and in particular,
I'm thinking about the sound in Shane.
We were very impressed by it.
In Bonnie and Clyde...
we wanted the gunshots
to jump out at you like they did in Shane.
I spent time with George.
He described to me...
shooting cannons into trash cans.
We did our sound of our gunshots
in the same way...
and it all came from George Stevens.
And by the time we were showing
the picture in London...
to the critics,
they all come on one night...
and at the Warner theater in London,
it seemed like 19 balconies,
and the sound was just all very quiet.
It didn't jump out, it didn't surprise you.
And I ran up to the projectionist,
and I walked into the booth...
and he was surprised to see me...
because I was in the movie,
he didn't know I had produced it...
and he said, "You're the producer?"
I said "Yeah."
He said, "I've really helped you out
on the sound here."
I said, "What?"
He said, "I've made a chart here.
"I turn it up here, down here, up here."
He said, "This is the worst-mixed picture
that I have ever...
"I haven't had a picture
so badly mixed since Shane."
Film and TV was full of guys with guns.
Everybody was bang-banging
with cap pistols...
and I knew this story called Shane...
it was a real putdown
on the heroic aspects of the six-shooter...
and the Western legend.
And that really started the motivation.
I thought it was a good time...
to do that kind of a thing
about this weapon.
You know, not give it a sense of grace,
but to show it for what it was...
a destructive, violent instrument.
- What can I do for you?
- And where do you think you're going?
- To get a whiskey.
They tell me they call you Stonewall.
Anything wrong with that?
No, it's just funny.
Guess they named a lot of that...
Southern trash after old Stonewall.
Who'd they name you after?
Or do you know?
I'm saying that Stonewall Jackson
was trash himself.
Him, Lee, and all the rest of them Rebs.
You're a lowdown lying Yankee.
We came back, and all over the studio
they would say openly:
"You guys have sunk
this studio, you know?
"Stevens has ruined the studio.
"You know, he shot so much film,
it's so expensive...
It's not going to go together..."
They were really death.
And George was sitting there calmly
for months in the cutting room...
just cutting away, you know.
Didn't seem to bother him a damn bit.
Paramount also attempted
to sell the film to Howard Hughes.
It was a glorious day
in the front office...
when Y. Frank Freeman
came running down the hall saying:
"Hughes is going to buy the picture.
We're going to come out with a profit...
"and he's paying,
he's going to pay too much for it...
"because an Alan Ladd film
has only grossed such-and-such amount...
"and there's no way
that this picture can gross beyond that."
Well, for some reason,
Howard Hughes defaulted...
or the deal didn't work out,
and Paramount was stuck...
with one of the biggest
hits in its history.
What Mr. Freeman and those people
didn't realize was...
this was not an Alan Ladd picture.
It was a George Stevens film.
What's that mean to you, Shane?
I've heard about you.
What've you heard, Shane?
I've heard that
you're a lowdown Yankee liar.
Shane, look out!
In the 12 years beginning in 1954,
he would make three films.
Same saw Giant, slang with
A Place in the Sun and Shane...
as his American trilogy.
He shot it in Texas with Hock Hudson
as the proud head of a ranching family...
Elizabeth Taylor as the independent
Eastern woman he marries...
and James Dean
as a maverick ranch hand.
Giant was a 3 hour and 20 minute film...
about family and generations
and change in America.
Jett Rink was another of the outsiders
he seemed to understand.
He described their aspirations
in his own way:
"this need to get some acknowledgment...
"for all the trouble
you've put in over the years."
What do you want?
My well came in, Bick.
That's wonderful, Jett.
Everybody thought I had a duster.
You all thought Spindletop and
Burkburnett was all the oil there was.
I'm here to tell you it ain't, boy.
There ain't a dang thing
you gonna do about it.
My well came in big, so big.
And there's more down there,
I'm rich, Bick!
I'm a rich one. I'm a rich boy.
I'm gonna have more money
than you ever thought you could have.
You and the rest of you
stinking sons of Benedicts.
Leslie, go into the house.
Take the women with you.
Jett, we're glad you struck oil.
Now, you go on along home.
My, you sure do look pretty, Miss Leslie.
You always did look pretty.
Pretty, good enough to eat.
Wait a minute.
Take it easy!
You're touchy, Bick.
Touchy as an old cook.
You should have shot him a long time ago.
Now he's too rich to kill.
In 1958, he finally made his war film.
The true story of a Jewish family
hiding from the Nazis...
came from the diary
of a 14-year-old girl, Anne Frank.
He was moved that her ideas
and her optimistic spirit...
survived in history beyond
the powerful forces that persecuted her.
He said he wanted the diary of Anne Frank
to be evidence of a truth...
and close to the way it happened.
In Amsterdam, he was shown the attic
where the Franks hid for two years...
by Otto Frank,
the lone survivor of the family.
I knew those were painful boards
he was treading on.
I couldn't help but think about it...
as he went up
one narrow flight after another.
And we took the last flight
up toward the garret.
There was this window that was open.
It was a gabled window.
And when we walked up the ladder...
there was some large bird.
We didn't see it...
but it made a great rustling,
and this man was a strong man...
but he weakened on that ladder.
You know, the sense of life,
being there, and being winged.
And he was terribly shaken by that...
as if it had been her spirit...
particularly her spirit,
because she used to use this.
On his way back to America...
he returned to the site
of the concentration camp at Dachau.
Save me! No!
- No! Don't take me!
- Stop it!
We stuck with the feelings
that We needed in the scene that day.
He gave us everything.
He gave us the sounds.
He gave us the sirens.
He gave us the sound
of the Nazis marching in the streets.
I mean, I could cry now because of the...
Because of how much atmosphere
he gave us.
was a heavy atmosphere...
for six months for us to live with.
And he demanded the finest from you.
And some people disliked him...
because they felt so threatened
by this demand...
because he never gm'. close to you.
I'd laugh to myself all the time...
because I'd see him looking
through his sunglasses.
You never got to see his eyes very often.
He never looked directly at you.
He never wanted to make direct contact
unless he wanted to say,
"This is the way this has to be done."
'Cause all he wanted to do
was do the work.
He treated everybody differently,
and it seemed to me...
he treated them
the way he felt he needed to...
in order to get the performance
out of them.
And if he had to be cruel, he was cruel.
And if he had to love, he would love.
If he had to be standoffish,
he was standoffish.
was a reaction to how he treated us.
I think the world may be going
through a phase...
the way I was with Mother.
Maybe not for hundreds of years,
I still believe, in spite of everything...
that people are really good at heart.
I want to see something now,
not a thousand years from now.
But, Peter, if you'd only look at it
as part of a great pattern...
that we're just a little minute in life.
Listen to us.
Going at each other
like a couple of stupid grownups.
Look at the sky. Isn't it lovely?
Someday, when we get outside again,
I'm going to...
I am honored.
"shall be called the house of prayer,"
says the Lord.
But you have made it a den of thieves.
It is written in the scriptures,
"I desire mercy...
Do not buy or sell in
the house of the Lord!
You have made a robbers' den
of my father's house!
You have defiled this holy ground!
The Greatest Story Ever Told
would take five years...
and make him,
far the first time since Alice Adams...
unbankable at the studios.
It seemed an unusual choice...
for a man who was such
a distinctly American director...
but ever since the war...
he had been intrigued
by Judea-Christian thought...
and by the ideas in this story
that had challenged artists for centuries.
The king will not be urged,
will not be put upon...
will not be directed
to destroy this baptist man...
who he's in a contest with.
So he walks away from them.
He wanted to use his skills
to tell the story...
in a way that allowed both the faithful
and the skeptical to respond.
It was mast necessary
far there to be a messiah...
a savior, at this particular moment...
because the persistence
of man's inhumanity to himself...
was enormously evident at this time.
And the aspects of the story
are so fascinating.
The great belief of this little group
of people around Jesus...
and their enormous doubts.
How do you show
a miracle in a film like this...
which is supposed to address itself
It has to be done in such a way...
that it can be accepted on different
levels, so to speak, so that...
a true believer can accept it directly,
that this is divine miracle...
or those who do not believe fully...
should be able to have some
kind of an excuse to believe it anyway.
Did you not see? My Jesus of Nazareth.
I saw it with my own eyes.
Lazarus was dead. He's alive!
Try and get ahead of him a little bit.
Far behind schedule, he was stunned...
by the death of his cameraman and friend
And the worst weather
in half a century swept into Nevada.
He had this ulcer growing. It got worse.
The worry about the film...
it was just an extraordinary
On top of it, the film itself...
and George Stevens told me many times:
"Every scene that we have
on this particular script is hard."
When we first were going to tackle
the walls of Jerusalem, the snow came.
And it snowed for a couple of days,
so we couldn't shoot.
And everybody felt that this will pass,
the snow will melt.
But it didn't. Then he summoned
the entire production. Everybody.
And he asked them to volunteer
to excavate Jerusalem out of the snow.
So, I think it was a Sunday...
everybody went up with shovels
and blowtorches and brooms...
and all kinds of things...
and we managed to at least clear
some of the area...
and shoot, at least, some close shots.
Why don't you let your folks get
under shelter as well as possible, Johnny?
Get your ladies and your children
under the tents if you can.
All right, the women, children...
Ladies, children, and soundmen,
under shelter, please.
And the soundmen.
But then the following day,
we had more snow...
and unfortunately, we had to break,
go back to the studio...
and return when the winter was over,
and shot these scenes up there.
When you think
of the intense concentration...
that it takes to keep going
every day after day...
and to keep all the other people
up and going, too.
One person can do it, but it's killing.
[always think in terms of that picture,
that it was almost his life's blood.
Do not weep for me.
Weep for yourselves...
and for your children.
For a time is coming when men will say:
"Blessed are the barren...
"the wombs that never bore a child."
And they will say to the mountains:
"Fall on us"...
and to the hills, "Cover us."
For if these things are done
when the wood is green...
what will happen when it is dry?
You cannot create...
which everybody will approve of.
So in one way, it was a failure, I think.
But I think it was a wonderful failure.
Beautiful. A very moving failure
in many ways.
That film didn't presume perfection.
It couldn't attempt to presume perfection.
It was an exposition.
And I saw that film.
I hadn't seen it for a long time...
I saw some of it yesterday
over in a theater...
and went back to the theory
that I had in mind...
when I had done the work on the film.
And that's the way I would do it again
if I had to do it again.
Don't know when I could get a loan
big enough to go into it...
on that premise.
What he once said about Laurel and Hardy
might be said of him.
He understood something
about the human condition.
The movie camera let him do
what no generation before could do...
spend his life
exploring the nature of man...
see the world through his eyes.
For years, he had filled his films...
with families and friendships
Now there was time to keep in touch
with old friends...
and to photograph the next generation.
When my father died in 1975, a friend said:
"He was a diverse man,
composed of many parts.
"The only time they converge
is on a strip of film.
"That is when you can say, that's him."
He'd never been able to shoot you
if you'd have seen him.
Bye, little Joe.
He'd never even have cleared the holster,
would he, Shane?
Pa's got things for you to do!
And Mother wants you!
I know she does!