horrible title for a very good film - the
best film I've ever done in my life."
November 12, 1904, in Paris, France. Died Dec.
19, 1977 in Bergerac, France.
became involved in film thru his father, the director
Using the pseudonym Jack
Turner, Jacques Tourneur began directing
short films after a time of apprenticing as a
script boy and editor for his father. Val
him as a second-unit director for the Selznick
film A Tale of Two Cities in 1935.
has long been debate about how much Tourneur versus
Lewton is responsible for the moodiness and the
high quality of the appearance of the Lewton RKO
"B-films." Mainstream filmographers
tend to credit Tourneur for this as it corresponds
to the film-school rule of thumb that the director
originates the identity of a film overall. On
the other hand, Lewton was not the usual producer
of films, and though his involvement was rarely
obtrusive (Lewton is summed up as a "benevolent
David O. Selznick" in Scorsese's A Personal
Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American
Movies), it is still evident that Lewton contributed
in a number of ways, besides the frequent last-drafts
he would work on his film scripts.
the best approximation of this is the characterization
given the team of Lewton/Tourneur in Banzak's
book Fearing The Dark: The Val Lewton Career:
can only wonder why Tourneur's ghostly hand
seems so prevalent in the Lewton films made
after his departure from the unit. It is entirely
possible that "the Tourneur touch"
and the "Lewton touch" were but
fragmented halves of a single phenomenon.
went on to direct "noir" classics like
From Out Of The Past (1948) and the highly
esteemed British/American horror film Night
of the Demon (USA title: Curse of the Demon)(1958).
Tourneur's visuals for the Lewton films, and others,
like Demon, have long been imitated by
other directors. Kept from having full control
over his films, Tourneur often found himself prevented
from making final edits, or in the case of Night
of the Demon, even suffering scenes reshot
and inserted by the producer after completion
(Hal E. Chester inserted
explicit shots of the demon creature into the
final print, something both Tourneur and the writer
Charles Bennett argued
against, such to an extent Bennett wanted his
name pulled from the credits after seeing Chester's
edits. Dana Andrews,
the star of the film, remembered in a 1973 interview
that Chester was a "little son-of-a-bitch"
and resented his meddling with the film, which
he had taken on in order to work with Tourneur.)
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tendency to chronicle the exploits of an outsider trying to
cope within a foreign environment provides a continuous thread
that runs through most of his work. [Jean-Pierre Coursodon,
in American Directors, Vol.1]...notes that though Tourneur's
protagonists may "have conspiratorial motives of their
own, [they] nevertheless fall prey to larger and more unpredictable
Ed Banzak's Fearing the Dark: The Val lewton Career, McFarland and
complemented one another, never argued. We sailed together often
but nothing extraordinary ever happened; we just relaxed and
made a point of never discussing films. Usually he was easy-going
and between pictures tended to put on weight. He never got drunk
or arrested or ran around or did anything crazy. We worked so
well together. At the time it apeared beneficial for both of
us to split up but now I realize that it was a mistake."
Tourneur, as quoted in Joel Siegel's
Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror, The Cinema One Series,
The Viking Press,