Primo Preminger

sarris ottopreminger2v Primo PremingerOtto Preminger (1905-1986) is the subject of a 23-movie retrospective of his controversial career at Film Forum from Jan. 2 to Jan. 17. I have been graciously quoted in the publicity release as having once noted: “Otto Preminger is still the most maligned, misjudged, misperceived and misunderstood American filmmaker. His films have stood up better stylistically, thematically and subtextually than I ever imagined they would.”

His problem, almost like that of Orson Welles in the aftermath of Citizen Kane, is that early in his career, he came up with the magical Laura (1944), with which all his subsequent works would be invidiously compared. The opening double bill, Jan. 2 and 3, will feature Laura itself with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price and Judith Anderson, and Daisy Kenyon (1947), a Joan Crawford vehicle with Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews. Anatomy of a Murder (1959), with James Stewart, Ben Gazzara, Lee Remick, George C. Scott and Eve Arden, will screen on January 4 and 5.

Two of his most underrated noir classics will play on Jan. 6 as a double feature. These are Angel Face (1952), with Roger Mitchum, Jean Simmons, Mona Freeman, Leon Ames and Herbert Marshall, and Fallen Angel (1945), with Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, Alice Faye and Charles Bickford. A more uneven double feature follows on Jan. 7 with The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), with Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak and Eleanor Parker in an early heroin saga, and The Moon Is Blue (1953), with William Holden, Maggie McNamara and David Niven, the main significance of which was Preminger’s precedent-setting defiance of the Production Code to ban the word “virgin” from the only good joke in the play and the movie. In Harm’s Way (1965) his vastly underrated war movie, with John Wayne, Patricia Neal, Henry Fonda and Kirk Douglas, plays on Jan. 8. Subsequent programs include, on Jan. 9, a Jean Seberg remembrance with Bonjour Tristesse (1958) and Saint Joan (1957), which the French liked much more than we did. Bunny Lake is Missing (1965), on Jan. 10, with Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea and Laurence Olivier, is a film I book in my film history class, and if you’ve never seen it, I would advise to give it a shot. More on Preminger later.