Man with the golden arm

Anatomy of a Legendary Filmmaker: Cinematheque Launches Otto Preminger Retrospective

How do you earn a spot in cinematic history? Otto Preminger's formula was simple: compelling characters, good stories, and mastery of the craft. Cinematheque Ontario has tracked down restored, rare, and archival prints to showcase Preminger's distinguished career in a series that will run throughout the month of June, Fallen Angels: The Films of Otto Preminger.

The biggest Hollywood stars of all time worked for Preminger - even though he had a reputation for being a mean tyrant. Preminger is reported to have said that "directing Marilyn Monroe was like directing Lassie." She signed on with Robert Mitchum for River of No Return (1954), a light western in which a love triangle develops between a no-good gambler, a sultry saloon singer, and an ex-con seeking a simple quiet life.

For me, the standout in this retrospective is Bunny Lake is Missing (1965), which I've never had the opportunity to see. This is the set-up: Ann Lake has just moved to London. She drops her daughter off at a new school. When she returns a few hours later to pick up the 4 year old, Bunny Lake is missing. Detectives show up and uncover more questions than answers - and before long, the viewing audience is wondering if there ever was a Bunny Lake.

The programme kicks off tonight with a slick murder mystery, Laura (1944), one of Preminger's most famous and finest films. Other highlights include Daisy Kenyon (1947) where Joan Crawford, a successful magazine illustrator, juggles a dashing (unhappily) married man and a devoted (but neurotic) veteran. And don't miss the courtroom classic Anatomy of a Murder (1959) or Frank Sinatra playing a junkie in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955).

But the series wouldn't be complete without Preminger's historical epics like Exodus (1960) or In Harm's Way (1965). In the former, Paul Newman leads a ship of Jews who fled Europe to seek entry to Palestine. The later stars John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, and takes us into the lives of navy captains and nurses, during and after Pearl Harbour. Though both films feature exotic location shoots, action sequences, and very large boats, Preminger's focus stays on his complex characters and their evolving relationships.

Fallen Angels: The Films of Otto Preminger runs from May 29th to July 2nd at Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas Street West. Still from The Man with the Golden Arm courtesy of Cinematheque Ontario.

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