John DiLeo is the author of 5 books about classic movies:
– Screen Savers II: My Grab Bag of Classic Movies
– Tennessee Williams and Company: His Essential Screen Actors
– Screen Savers: 40 Remarkable Movies Awaiting Rediscovery
– 100 Great Film Performances You Should Remember- But Probably Don’t
– And You Thought You Knew Classic Movies!
Q: Which film do you love that might surprise people?
JD: People are usually surprised to learn that I’m a lover of westerns of the 1950s, especially those directed by Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher, but also many others. That era of “psychological western” fascinates me. Hollywood had moved on from the forging-a-frontier category of western (exemplified by CIMARRON in 1931), mostly done telling us how the west was won. In the ’50s, the genre presented characters marked by psychological turbulence (think Gregory Peck in THE GUNFIGHTER or Jimmy Stewart in THE NAKED SPUR), placing them into compelling (and primal) morality plays. Too many to recommend, but how about THE FURIES (1950), DEVIL’S DOORWAY (1950), THE FAR COUNTRY (1955), and RIDE LONESOME (1959)?
Q: If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, which two would it be & what kind of film?
JD: I wish Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra had paired up for a big MGM musical circa 1948. I also wish Cary Grant and Claudette Colbert had teamed for a scintillating sophisticated comedy of 1939. (They only appeared together for seconds in WITHOUT RESERVATIONS from 1946.)
Q: Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?
JD: THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT! (1974). It shaped my taste, my aspirations, my sense of wonder. I was 13 when it came out and I saw it on the big screen 13 times that spring and summer.
Q: If you could have one prop from any film what would it be?
JD: Whenever I see a movie with a painting of a central character—the most obvious example being Gene Tierney’s portrait in LAURA (1944)—I always wonder what happened to the artwork after the film wrapped. I would love to have one of those paintings, gazing daily upon some beloved movie star (as if one of the family). Yes, Gene Tierney would do nicely.
Q: Is there any subject matter which you would not make a film about?
JD: It’s all in the treatment. If anyone had described THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964) to me—its plot, its entirely sung dialogue, its emotional climax at a gas station—it would surely have sounded pretty lame. And yet it’s a magnificent movie, one of my all-time favorites. So, you never can tell what will and won’t work onscreen. That said, the subject matter I’d like to prohibit from the screen is anything involving a superhero, at least for a decade. Also, I would forbid any further unions between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.
Twitter Handle: @JOHNDiLEO
#DFNYFocus is a series from Daily Flick NY focusing on the personal film tastes of Screenwriters, Directors, Producers and other individuals working in film and related industries