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September 16, 2005

Guy Green

Is there some kind of strange ju-ju going on? This is the second day in a row that the death of a director has been reported. While as a director, Guy Green was not in the same league as Robert Wise, their careers verify the general rule that editors more frequently become distinguished directors, while cinematographers do not. A couple of former editors: David Lean and Hal Ashby. A couple of former cinematographers: Jack Cardiff and Freddie Francis. Even the exception, Nicolas Roeg, began his film making career learning the fundamentals of editing as a lowly gofer. Still, Guy Green made a couple of films as a director that are worth considering.

The Light in the Piazza has gotten more play from Turner Classic Movies now that there is the successful Broadway musical based on the book. I guess you could call the story a fairy tale. We are to believe that the beautiful daughter, made "simple" by a kick in the head from a horse, will find happiness with an Italian playboy. Sure, the film has two of MGM's prettiest stars - Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton. Watching the film, I got the feeling that Hamilton wasn't the brightest bulb on his family tree either. If there is a film begging for a sequel, this is it.

Maybe it's my morbid imagination, but I had to wonder after seeing this film how the marriage fared. Considering that it was constently pointed out how child-like the Mimieux character was, one wonders if the marriage was actually consumated and if there were any children, whom I would imagine to be very photogenic. Would Hamilton get tired of Mimieux in a matter of days, weeks or months and start going out with various mistresses or have discreet liasons with prostitutes. Would he keep Mimieux locked in the family villa or institutionalized? There may be light in the piazza, but the premise for this film logically leads to someplace dark and gothic as far as I'm concerned.

Green's previous film, The Mark, is amazing in that you had relatively major Hollywood talent making a film that probably could not be made today. Actually, the only film I can think of off-hand that was made recently about a child molester was The Woodman, which pretty much came and went from theaters in a hurry. It's been almost forty years since I saw The Mark, which was broadcast on late night television a couple of times. The film is about a convicted child molester, Stuart Whitman, who upon release from prison, attempts to live a "normal" life. In addition to checking in with his psychiatrist, Rod Steiger, Whitman tentatively establishes an adult relationship with Maria Schell. Based on what is more common knowledge now, child molesters usually do not change, or have an even harder time than Stuart Whitman does in this film. The Mark seems more meaningful when one considers how much harder it seems to make a thoughtful film on a serious subject in today's current film making landscape.

Going back to Green's career as a cinematographer, he co-founded the Royal Society of Cinematographers with Freddie Francis and Jack Cardiff. As a cinematographer, Green is probably best remembered for his work with David Lean on the two Dickens adaptations, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. Green won an Academy Award for the latter. On the downside, Green worked on two of Lean's least remembered films, The Passionate Friends and Madeleine.

Green's last theatrical film as a director was the camp classic, Once is not Enough. Unlike Francis or Cardiff, Green never had enough sense to go back to being a cinematographer when recognizing that the directorial assignments would never get better. The closest Green came to being awarded as a director was for a film he also wrote, A Patch of Blue. Maybe as the first British cinematographer to win an Academy Award, once wasn't enough.

Posted by peter at September 16, 2005 11:06 AM