Sometimes getting a handle on an artist’s oeuvre can be a bit daunting. Even tackling the output of creators whose work we adore can be an uphill battle. For example, Howard Hawks is my favorite director but I’ve only seen a measly 13 of the 47 films he helmed. Imagine the plight of the John Ford fan that has a total of 145 credits to contend with. Contemporary master Johnnie To has made more than 50 movies since the 1980s and he shows no sign of stopping. By the time his electric Drug War played at SIFF last year, his latest film Blind Detective was already in Chinese cinemas.
On the other end of the spectrum are the one hit wonders, often people who made their name in another capacity but took a seat in the director’s chair for just one film. Perhaps they planned on making more movies but something pesky like commerce or death got in the way. Let’s take a moment to sing the praises of those who left us with one tantalizing feature before disappearing back into the ether. At least they gave us one.
Charles Laughton made his name and cemented his legacy by being one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century. Having appeared in such classics as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mutiny on the Bounty, and The Island of Lost Souls, in 1955 he turned his attention behind the camera with the film The Night of the Hunter. Today The Night of the Hunter is recognized as one of the greatest films ever made (as well as one of the creepiest) but it was initially a huge flop and killed the potential second career for Laughton.
Writers from many different disciplines have tried their hand at filmmaking over the years as well. Playwright Tom Stoppard converted his play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead into a film in 1990. Screenwriter, novelist and famously blacklisted artist Dalton Trumbo directed an adaptation of his anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun in 1971.
Death recently cut short the directing career of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who helmed an adaptation of the stage play Jack Goes Boating, but he wasn’t the only one. Probably the saddest loss on this list in terms of artistic potential is that of Jean Vigo. Vigo had made a couple of well-regarded short films in France before production of his only feature, the magnificent L’Atalante. Unfortunately complications from tuberculosis ended his life in 1934, the same year his masterpiece was released.
~posted by Mike