22 August 2011


A.  You probably don't know who John Huston is.  We'll get back to him.

B.  Chinatown is a brilliant movie.  Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson are both at their best, as they play a private eye and widow trying to get to the bottom of a mystery.  The dialogue is as sharp and sweet, the plot as engagingly unpredictable as any I can think of, and on the whole the film has most of the wit and power of a classical Greek tragedy.  (5)

C.  When I first saw Chinatown I was taken by the voice of Faye Dunaway's father.  I knew that voice, and struggled to figure out how.  I couldn't remember seeing the actor before.  So I looked him up on IMDB and found that he was the voice of Gandalf in the old cartoon film versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King.  When I was small, The Hobbit was my favorite movie.  My mom used to rent children's movies from the Christian bookstore near our house, and I would ask for The Hobbit over and over again.  My love of the story prompted me to read the book when I was in 2nd grade, and shortly thereafter to start reading The Lord of the Rings, which I had reread about 6 times by the 8th grade.  Anyway, I knew that voice very well.  Even to this day, I find I can do a decent imitation of it.  Of course Gandalf was played by John Huston.  He has the most excellent voice.  Here's a random sample.  (Keep listening and you'll find out that he's a cannibal.)

D.  However, it turns out that John Huston wasn't just a minor actor who starred in Roman Polanski's best film.  He was actually a major screenwriter and director in his own right.  His best works (of which I've seen none) mark out one of many big holes in my knowledge of American cinema.  They are:
  1. The Maltese Falcon
  2. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  3. The Asphalt Jungle
  4. The African Queen
  5. Moulin Rouge (the original)
  6. The Misfits
E.  In addition to all of the above, John was the father of Angelica Huston, one of those rare actresses one can't help but enjoy watching on screen.  (I won't pretend to have seen most of her films.  I did like her in The Royal Tenenbaums [4] and Crimes and Misdemeanors [4], though.)