While T-Men, shot in Detroit and L.A., was made in some six weeks, Raw Deal shaved that production schedule in half. The latter film is a nightmare journey into the underworld, in which terror is contrasted with idyllic pastoral scenes. He landed his first studio job at MGM's recently bought Culver City lot, where he quickly became a cameraman. Three years later, the Berkeley-based Pacific Film Archives (PFA) scoured film depots and vaults for rare prints of the lesser-known films Alton had made at such long-defunct studios as Eagle-Lion, Monogram and Republic, and booked them with his more famous noirs. This film-noir piece, told in semi-documentary style, follows police on the hunt for a resourceful criminal who shoots and kills a cop. As a cameraman, Alton preferred to plan his shots so that they would convey a film's shifting moods. Write a Review (0 reviews) Write a review and get bonus points. T-Men begins with a Treasury agent addressing the audience. 70. Sale! At the end of the day, they gave me a check. In the summer of 1923, five lads drove across the country full of optimism, joie de vivre, and the excitement of all things new. From catwalks, up high. Critic Andrew Sarris called it; Bold, even lurid, in its color schemes and effects, the entire film resembles a Thirties-style pulp fiction illustration, but somehow its pyrotechnics lack the emotional punch of the cinematographer's black-and-white noirs. In his spare time, he devoured music and books, and absorbed as much as he could of the art flourishing in museums and galleries, on movie screens, and on the streets. There's a meaning, and it establishes a mood.' I'd ask the director his opinion of how he would like to see each scene. He had already resigned from the ASC in 1944. Quick View. It was the only contact I had with what Hollywood [cinematographers] did, and it provided my first visual comprehension [of that world]. Sometimes Alton would wrap a scene in ebony blackness (as if there were another frame within the frame of the screen) to invest its minimal patches of light with a higher intensity. A child prodigy who sketched constantly, he had his own darkroom by the age of five. Knockout film noir follows Joe Sullivan (Dennis O'Keefe), a crook serving time after taking the rap for mob boss Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr). And... Alton proved himself to be the greatest film noir cameraman of all time. All of his film noirs pack a wallop, with fast-paced action and shocking violence. The year 1949 also saw the publication of Alton's book Painting with Light. No other individual defines the foreboding film style known as noir more than John Alton, the Academy Award-winning cinematographer (An American in Paris) who established his reputation as one of the movie industry's finest by plying his unique talents in the arena of B-movies. https://ascmag.com/articles/john-alton-master-of-the-film-noir-mood The coming of sound had left the thriving Argentinean film industry high and dry, and he stayed there for six years. Movies / TV: Suspense-Film Noir: 851968007064 Alton photographed some of the most famous films noir of the classic period. "Naturalism," or "realism," refers to an experience such as a walk on foggy night that fills one with a certain sense of awe. "I could see more in the dark than I could in color," he said. In the annals of film noir, the collaborations of the cinematographer John Alton and the director Anthony Mann are legendary: T-MEN and RAW DEAL represent high points for these artists. One subhead is entitled "What is thinking?" Alton recalled thinking, "At last, here is a director I can really sit down and talk with." The cinematographer's mobile camera used over 20 different movements during that 17-minute sequence, and actively integrated the choreography. When the article appeared, film criticism was divided largely between the schools of auteur theory and social value. In Combo, a deaf man being murdered sees the gunfire. In the Hollywood of Alton's era, "art" was a dirty word, yet his compositions invariably beg comparison with such master painters as Rembrandt, da Vinci, de la Tour and Caravaggio. Critic Manny Farber cites the film's climax, in which Murphy's character is mulched by a tractor and plow, as one of his favorite scenes in all of cinema. The "frame within the frame" motif recurs throughout film, especially in one indoor image of a man and woman engaging in conversation with a gleaming window situated between them. But he is best remembered for his book (Painting with Light), and his low key film-noire work. Of particular renown is Slightly Scarlet (1956), the last of six films he made with director Allan Dwan. He found work at RKO, Paramount and then Republic, averaging about four B-pictures a year. Raw Deal (Anthony Mann, 1948) B lessed with D.P. Directors: Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann | Stars: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell. In 1966, Alton shot the pilot for Mission: Impossible, which became a successful television series. Alton also worked extensively with film pioneer Allan Dawn in the 50s, mostly in decidedly B-pictures. Some people knew that there was something going on [in my pictures], but not what. In his swift lighting designs, he would establish a shot with only three lights, and then subtract one and then another. In 1932, he moved to Argentina where he shot many Spanish-language films and designed the country's first sound film studio for Lumiton and Argentina Sono Film. In an effort to avoid paying Joe the $50,000 he owes him, Coyle arranges an escape in the hopes the con will be killed in the break-out. The narrative revelation of Gantry's worthlessness is underscored through "concealed lighting." Get it today with Same Day Delivery, Order Pickup or Drive Up. They called me back the next day to work. The year 1950 marked the beginning of a creative relationship with director Vincente Minnelli. The films weren't always that good, but the images were captivating. In that genre, Alton possessed the rare ability to photograph exterior shots as effectively as studio work. Noted Alton, "The most interesting things in the world happen at night. Schrader stressed visual style. After the freedom he had experienced in Argentina, the idea of changing careers and becoming a Hollywood producer was rather unappealing. [Audiences] noticed something different. During the rest of the Fifties, Alton averaged about three pictures a year, and he even tried his hand at 3-D filmmaking. Curated by VCI Kansas City $ … Free shipping on orders of $35+ from Target. On He Walked by Night, Anthony Mann took over the directing reins from Alfred Werker near the end of production. In 1932, he moved to Argentinawhere he shot many Spanish-language films and designed the country's firs… )”Superb visual quality that does justice to John Alton?s striking black & white cinematography…” https://www.amazon.com/Alton-Collection-T-Men-Walked-Night/dp/B079FLRGN4 I never went back to the college. 851968007071. Alton photographed some of the most famous films noir of the classic period. The crime angles keep the love triangle dynamic, and the narration (from Trevor's character) adds to the angularities. We're waiting for you! It addresses both conventional and unconventional methods of studio motion-picture lighting. Comparing him to such predecessors as Fritz Arno Wagner and Karl Freund, ASC; Schrader observed that Alton transformed Expressionist techniques to a new generation that craved realism. "When I got a story, I'd sit down with the director and work out each scene — just the two of us. I didn't realize that the big-time cameramen spent as much time taking things off as they did putting them on. Alton resigned from the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) in January 1944, reportedly due to conflicts with ASC founding member and MGM camera department head John Arnold. The initial pairing of Anthony Mann and John Alton resulted in this classic noir actioner, with a pair of dedicated Treasury agents (Dennis O'Keefe, Alfred Ryder) assigned to infiltrate a … Another of the film's high points is the slaying of Schemer (Wallace Ford) in a steam room — a scene played out against the spooky strains of a theremin. Since 1930, Alton had been a contributor to International Photographer, so Painting was the fruition of both Alton's studio work and his journalism. For much more on the famous noir-architect, check out the three-part article John Alton: Cinematography’s Outlier, an appreciation and history penned by John Bailey, ASC in 2013. '", [Editor’s Note: You'll learn much more about Alton's work on An American in Paris — and the controversy around the Oscar win he shared with Al Gilks, ASC — here.]. The mood had to be done with lighting. The nightmare sequence, for which Minnelli expressly drafted Alton, is a visual tour de force; however, MGM was normally known for its polished look, so Alton invested most of the film with the light-hearted radiance of winsome, poignant comedy. His virginal pen pal (Marsha Hunt) gets mixed up in the escape, creating a twist on the usual romantic triangle. But the real glue that holds this set together comes from cinematographer John Alton, who photographed all three movies. [On] The Black Book, I copied the masters. Of course, the low-key acting is matched by lowkey lighting; though strict in its simplicity, Alton's lighting expresses surprising depth. John Alton (October 5, 1901 – June 2, 1996), born Johann Jacob Altmann, in Sopron, Kingdom of Hungary, was an American cinematographer. The book put forth several controversial theories for the day, such as depth is created by placing the brightest object in the scene furthest from the camera, and that studio lighting must always simulate natural light in texture and direction. Particularly memorable is a quick close-up of O'Keefe flinching and lowering his head as off-screen gunshots signal the cold-blooded murder of his partner. Majestic images of man in nature, worthy of Ansel Adams, alternate with scenes so dark that at one point practically all that can be seen of Robert Taylor is his cheekbone and a glint of shirt buttons. to interior rooms. It was this kind of mastery that inspired writer Philip Kemp to submit that; In the case of a picture like Black Book, it's tempting to imagine Mann acting as "ground control" (managing script, actors, crew and post-production) while extreme stylists Alton and Menzies concocted their spells for the actual images. Quick View. Be the first to write a customer review. Fate dealt Alton his winning card in 1947 when Republic assigned him to a fairly new director who had just joined the studio: Anthony Mann. This similarity helps the Feds to understand their prey, but it also gives them a hint of menace. In its pages, Alton maintained that films come in one of three categories: comedy, drama, and mystery. (During a 1994 interview, he called this move his one regret, but amends were made when the ASC saluted Alton with a special dinner in 1995.) MGM's Border Incident (featuring Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy and Howard da Silva) follows the "procedural" style of T-Men and He Walked by Night, as two agents infiltrate a mob involved in the exploitation of illegal labor from Mexico. Alton himself said that he used black and white as colors in his work. Menu. ", The text, which Alton had often scribbled in notebooks on the set, also captured some of the cultural life of its day. When he wasn't training crews or screening films at the studio, he wrote, directed, and produced a few features on his own. Be the first to write a customer review. These widely circulated retrospectives helped increase awareness of Alton nationwide. To do this, he would often incorporate dark, negative space that Jakob called "an active aesthetic element in the frame.". Though their attempts to interview him were thwarted (unbeknownst to Alton), the finished film — which included many striking examples of his work — lured the great cameraman out of his long exile. I don't even know where I left the books!". The table of contents includes chapters such as "Mystery Lighting", "Special Illumination", and "Visual Symphony". ', "They put me in a dressing room, stuck me in a uniform, and put me next to Marion Davies, a big star at that time. The Spiritualist), He Walked by Night, Hollozu Triumph (a.k.a. Their first title, T-Men, was a crime procedural based on federal records, which the duo rendered in a noir stylization. ", In 1939, the Altons migrated to Hollywood. He returned to Hollywood in the late 1930s, with two dozen film credits, and became one of the most sought-after cinematographers of the time.[3]. I'd say 'You don't 'pump' light into a scene. Perhaps it was for the best that Alton didn't get boxed into making just A-level films. Add to Wishlist. These films were offbeat dramas in which dark and light, good and evil, were touched by the finger of Fate and switched roles. In the March 1979 PFA calendar, filmmaker Dennis Jakob wrote, “Why do we feature John Alton? Directors: Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann | Stars: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell. The filmmakers planned not only to sing Alton's praises, but to showcase some of his work. Perimeter lighting. Mar 29, 2015 - Alton had a long and creative career as a cinematographer shooting many different genres and styles. Elmer Gantry (1960) was Alton's last film of note. Reviews. His seminal essay singled out Alton as "the greatest master of noir... an Expressionist cinematographer who could re-light Times Square at noon if necessary." Alton attended the premiere and was hailed by dozens of contemporary luminaries of cinematography. ... Film Noir … Working with William Cameron Menzies as designer and Mann as director, Alton was inspired to pull off some of his most memorable shots, some of which seem three-dimensional. Scarlet suffers in comparison to his work the previous year for director Joseph H. Lewis on The Big Combo, which presented a bitter, repressed world of menace and doom. Having applied noir to the French Revolution in The Black Book, Alton used the style to great effect in Anthony Mann's admirable first Western, Devil's Doorway. "I stopped at the gates of the Cosmopolitan Studio. Though his film work is later represented by such iconic noirs as Border Incident and The Big Combo, the three features in this collection present the incomparable John Alton at the peak of his art.T-MEN (1947, 92 min. That lucky lad was John Alton, a cinematographer whose art has been lauded at recent film festivals in Vienna, Japan, Argentina, Telluride, and San Francisco, as well as in retrospectives at the American Museum of the Moving Image and the Pacific Film Archives. "You, I tell different," she said. After Gantry, Alton decided to take a well-earned vacation. Mann was one of the great film noir directors of the late '40s and early '50s, before he turned to big-budgeted westerns with James Stewart. Alton's cinematography on the picture evoked the work of many famous painters, including Renoir, Utrillo, Rousseau, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. That was the difference between my pictures and some of the others: [in mine], each mood was different. Alton de-emphasized the human form, making it an element within a mosaic of different visual events. The way I had to work, the problem was always to create enough light to get exposure for slow film and slow lenses. Alton's light throughout is modulated yet harsh. Reflective surfaces — glass-topped tables or puddles in the street — figure prominently in T-Men, and help to make the point that the honest agents are still a gang, just like their targets. In the film, a thief turned cop-killer (Richard Basehart) eludes a police dragnet by hiding in the sewers of Los Angeles. Indeed it is in the shadowy realm of film noir that he is best known. Alton also photographed many color movies including Slightly Scarlet (a color film noir). Alton honed his cinematographic skills shooting Westerns for "Woody" Van Dyke, a man who valued the input of his cameramen and often defended their interests when no one else would. He was soon trekking across Europe and Asia, where he shot short subjects and foreign-language features. Of particular interest to lighting buffs are the seance scenes lit by a crystal ball — which even include shots from the ball's perspective. I didn't know anything about gobos. - John Alton No other individual defines the foreboding film style known as noir more than John Alton, the Academy Award®-winning cinematographer (An American in Paris) who established his reputation as one of the movie industry's finest by plying his unique talents in the arena of B-movies. 851968007064. In this case, the criminals are French Revolutionaries engaged in a plot to replace Robespierre with a more politically moderate candidate. Their first picture together was Father of the Bride, shot in just 28 days. From that point onward, he could promise a quickie dressed up to resemble a major production, and command A-picture salaries for his work on B-movies. Shadowy cinematography by John Alton. Then I'd go home and, even though it took me a lot of time, I'd work out every scene — [including] which lights and tricks to use. Add to Wishlist. A replica of the Place de Concorde (made of translucent plastic) was done up in the style of Dufy, and later serves as the site of the tale's climactic pas de deux. John Alton, whose cinematography helped define film noir and who later shared an Academy Award for ''An American in Paris,'' died on June 2 … The very term "film noir" was, in fact, an afterthought — a French term derived from the expression "roman noir" ("dark novel") which describes English Gothic fiction of the 19th Century. Child prodigy who sketched constantly, he remained a figure of mystery, even when recognition. 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