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July 9 - August 9

Nicholas Ray: Hollywood's Last Romantic

Canonized as one of postwar American cinema’s supremely gifted and ultimately tragic filmmakers, Nicholas Ray (1911-1979) was an artist whose candle burned from both ends with furious energy and inspiration. Ray’s films are among the most heartfelt and disarmingly authentic works of the Hollywood studio era, intimate portraits of indelibly three-dimensional characters and lyrical intimations of loneliness and loss. Above all, Ray’s cinema glows with an ardent humanism, a passionate sympathy for the most vulnerable underdogs, those wounded loners and outcasts who stumble nobly across his films. First appreciated by the French directors and critics affiliated with Cahiers du cinema – and especially revered by a young Jean-Luc Godard – Ray was embraced as a cult director, crowned as auteur and celebrated for the searing romanticism, eccentric visual style and single-mindedness which would force him into one conflict too many with the Hollywood establishment. Each of Ray’s films became increasingly hard won victories until finally he was banished from the studios’ kingdom to become himself one of the lonely wanderers who had so captured his imagination.

Born Raymond Nicholas Kienzle in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Ray spent formative months during 1931 as an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright in the first class of the architect’s newly founded utopian school of Taliesin. A subsequent move to New York City brought Ray in contact with the vibrant left-wing theater movement and the influential Theater of Action, an experimental itinerant company who welcomed Ray into its “Shock Troupe” and its ambitious program to transform Soviet theory and agit-prop stage techniques into plays that spoke directly to the working class. Soon after Ray joined the ranks of the Federal Theater Project, where he worked closely with Joseph Losey, John Houseman and Elia Kazan. The intense experience of communal living with the companies, the raw, naturalist performance style pioneered by the radical theater and of the fiery, politically outspoken productions themselves would ignite lifelong passions. During this time Ray’s interest in rural America and American folk culture were deepened by his friendship with the pioneering folklorist Alan Lomax, with whom Ray traveled into the nation’s heartland, gathering important field recordings of American vernacular songs for the Library of Congress. Together with Lomax, Ray also co-produced a pioneering folk music radio program featuring such luminary guests as Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives and Pete Seeger.

In 1944 an invitation from Elia Kazan wooed Ray to Hollywood to work as an uncredited assistant and apprentice on Kazan’s first film, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Two years later Houseman would bring Ray to RKO just as that studio entered the tumultuous and destructive reign of Howard Hughes. Oddly enough, the timid Ray was given safe sanctuary by Hughes, who treated him as a protégé of sorts, protecting the young director from the Communist witch hunts whose fires Hughes fanned and encouraging Ray to direct the six features for the studio that would establish his career. These include Ray’s luminous film debut, They Live By Night, and his early masterpieces, On Dangerous Ground and The Lusty Men, films about lonely outsiders that each, in their own way, embody Ray’s ideal, forged by his Depression-era experiences, of art designed to give voice and dignity to the disenfranchised and marginalized. Ray spent much of the 1950s working steadily in Hollywood, directing the series of visually and emotionally soaring masterworks for which he is best remembered today – In a Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar, Rebel Without a Cause and Bigger Than Life – any of which by itself would have affixed Ray’s star high among the firmament of film history. Yet the larger budgets and responsibilities which were gradually handed Ray became increasingly onerous as he developed a serious dependence on drugs and alcohol and a reputation as unreliable and unstable. Eventually unable to find work in the States, Ray made two epic and ambitious films in Spain – King of Kings and 55 Days at Peking – before retiring from commercial filmmaking altogether. Ray spent the 1970s teaching, including a tenure at the State University of New York in Binghamton, where he was lauded as an eccentric and brilliantly original savant and where he directed a series of highly experimental films in collaboration with his students. Towards the very end of his life, as he was dying of cancer, Ray’s stubborn efforts to direct a final film were captured by Wim Wenders and transformed into the remarkable Lightning Over Water, which was released after Ray’s death.

Like many of the greatest Hollywood directors, Ray was incredibly versatile and able to work in a wide range of studio assignments and distinct genres – the Western, the police procedural, the juvenile delinquent film, the Biblical epic – without ever dulling the sharp edge of his innovative visual style nor loosening the intimate contract that he forged with his actors. Ray credited his brief apprenticeship with Frank Lloyd Wright for instilling in him “a love of the horizontal line” which would serve him well working in CinemaScope, a format he understood intuitively and was able to exploit to marvelous effect. Ray’s frequently explored themes of individuality besieged by conformity and the restless search for home are most vividly expressed through mise-en-scene, animated by his rare ability to transform interior space – the planetarium in Rebel Without a Cause, the igloo in The Savage Innocents – into an organic extension of a character’s state of mind and imbuing his films with a glistening depth of meaning and emotion. Ray’s keen attention to detail allowed him to transform objects – James Dean’s red jacket, Robert Ryan’s football trophies in On Dangerous Ground – into fascinating icons that float with resonant symbolism. With his discovery of color, Ray’s visual style took a volatile turn, embracing bold saturated hues that intensify the highly emotive, almost operatic performance style of his mid-to-late career films. With Johnny Guitar, Party Girl and Hot Blood, Ray used color and complex mise-en-scene to transform genre formulas into lurid tone poems, abstract choreographies of violence and passion. The unceasing critical adulation of Ray’s iconic and deeply influential films of the Fifties has resulted in the under-appreciation of his longer career and the frequent dismissal of important films such as Run for Cover, Wind Across the Everglades, Party Girl and King of Kings as merely eccentric genre films. This retrospective offers a corrective, a much needed opportunity to reassess the larger arc of the urgent, visionary cinema of a brave artist whose restless, self-destructive artistry created one of the great enduring legacies of the late studio era.

Special thanks: Susan Ray; Mark McElhatten, Sikelia Productions; Rob and Mary Joan Leith. Preservation of Born to Be Bad by the George Eastman House with funding from Film Foundation. King of Kings courtesy of Sikelia Productions. Susan Ray will introduce the opening night screening of Bigger Than Life.


Introduction by Susan Ray Friday Night
Friday July 9 at 7pm
Monday July 12 at 7pm

Bigger Than Life

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With James Mason, Barbara Rush, Walter Matthau
US 1956, 35mm, color, 95 min.
Print from Criterion USA

One of Ray’s best and long-overlooked films, Bigger Than Life brilliantly distorts the American dream through the feverish eyes of an overworked schoolteacher drawn to a miracle drug with dangerous side effects. James Mason brings a smoldering intensity to his portrayal of a modest man suddenly transformed by a manic, medically-induced hunger for success and for all the trappings of the “good life”– money, status, power – that seem within his grasp, although for a terrible price. A cautionary tale about overweening ambition and modern science, Bigger Than Life is both harshly satiric and tremendously sincere in its revelation of dark forces crouched in the shadows of the middle-class American nuclear family. Ray chronicles the gradual unhinging of a stable, though strained, life through a dynamic mise-en-scene that renders Mason’s suburban home progressively claustrophobic and emasculating. Sharp details punctuate the film, like with glossy travel posters of distant places Mason will never visit. The emotional intensity of Bigger Than Life is skillfully matched by Ray’s use of expressionistic lighting and garishly clashing colors to mirror Mason’s increasingly delirious mind.

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Friday July 9 at 9pm

Knock on Any Door

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With John Derek, Humphrey Bogart, Allene Roberts
US 1949, 35mm, b/w, 100 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

The first of two features Ray made for Santana, Humphrey Bogart’s short-lived independent production company, Knock on Any Door is an angry exposé of poverty and crime set in 1930s Chicago, a setting that drew upon Ray’s Midwestern youth and Depression-era political activism. In his first leading role, John Derek is among the earliest of Ray’s troubled rebels whose frightening motto “Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse” is an eerie portent of James Dean’s short life. Although Knock on Any Door veers dangerously close to the sentimental social consciousness dramas whose clichés Ray would deftly subvert in Rebel Without a Cause, Ray’s unerring eye for composition along with his ability to convey characters’ emotions through setting is again on display here, with fences, jail cells and barred windows heightening the sense of entrapment felt by the film’s juvenile delinquent protagonist.

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Saturday July 10 at 7pm

They Live By Night

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Farley Granger, Cathy O’Donnell, Howard Da Silva
US 1948, 35mm, b/w, 95 min.
Print from Warner Bros.

A heartrending story of the lonely life of exiled innocence restlessly searching for home, Ray’s extraordinary film debut reveals the major themes and dark romanticism that would recur across his remarkable career. A clear-eyed tragedy of a sensitive, emotional boy and wise-beyond-her-years girl who find in each other a fleeting solace from a cruel, uncaring world, They Live By Night travels deep into the dark, cold night of the American heartland whose desolation would exert a permanent hold on Ray’s imagination. A hybrid crime thriller and love story – whose bifurcation reflects the conflicting worlds between which its protagonists are caught – They Live By Night features deeply moving, resonant performances from Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell and an immediacy and rawness of emotion that lends an air of desperate poignancy to the doomed lovers.

Tuesday in November

Directed by Nicholas Ray and John Berry.
US 1945, 35mm, b/w, 16 min.
Print from NARA

This commission by the Office of War Information, officially Ray’s first film, offers a fascinating expression of his deep involvement in the progressive Left movement inspired by the New Deal. A spirited rallying call for democratic citizenship that follows a “typical” election day in small-town California, Tuesday in November boasts a screenplay by Howard Koch and music by Virgil Thompson.

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Saturday July 10 at 9:15pm

Bitter Victory

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Richard Burton, Curt Jurgens, Ruth Roman
US 1957, 35mm, b/w, 103 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

Ray’s unerring talent for adapting himself to popular genres without compromising his singular artistic vision is crystallized in this harrowing war film, which abstracts WWII to the backdrop for a fraught drama between two soldiers, nominally on the same side but pitted against each other for their survival. Shooting in the starkest of black and white, Ray captures the barrenness of the vast, unrelentingly harsh desert that strips away the veneer of civilized behavior between the rivals. In extraordinary performances, Curt Jurgens unmasks the cowardice of his murderously jealous Major while Richard Burton, as a jaded soldier with a death wish, offers a frighteningly convincing portrayal of an agonized and conflicted mind. Aided by Ray’s inspired direction and Gavin Lampert’s taut screenplay, they create a searingly honest portrayal of two men engaged in a psychological duel.

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Sunday July 11 at 8:30pm

The True Story of Jesse James

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Hope Lange
US 1957, 35mm, color, 93 min.
Print from Fox

Ray’s bold retelling of this American myth repositions Jesse James as an angst-ridden teenager pushed by the moral fallout of the Civil War into an irremediable life of crime. Echoing the lost youth of Rebel Without a Cause, Jesse lashes out at an unfair world in confusion and pain after he is savagely beaten by Union soldiers for refusing to betray his rebel brother. Unlike James Dean’s Jim Stark, however, Jesse embraces his demons. Ray utilizes a dizzying flashback structure to chronicle the transformation from tormented young man to the self-destructive, violent and fame-obsessed fugitive he would become, ingeniously opening the film with the swirling chaos of a botched robbery revisited later in the film from a radically different perspective that gives new, unstable meaning to the same event.

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Friday July 16 at 7pm
Saturday August 7 at 7pm

Rebel Without a Cause

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo
US 1955, 35mm, color, 111 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Anchored by the iconic performances of James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, Ray’s best-known work is perhaps the richest expression of the recurrent theme that is the quintessence of Ray’s cinema – the creation of a surrogate family as a means to understanding the self. Shooting for the first time in CinemaScope, Ray exploits the widescreen format’s capability to link characters visually within the frame, creating a complex mise-en-scene in which virtually every shot vibrates with an intensity of feeling and color, most famously in Dean’s red jacket, a symbol of his emotional volatility and a visual link to Joan Crawford’s costume in 1954’s Johnny Guitar. Now inextricably tied to the cult of James Dean and the rise of youth culture in the U.S., Rebel, when disentangled from those associations, stands on its own as a deeply felt expression of adolescent angst.

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Friday July 16 at 9:15pm

Run for Cover

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With James Cagney, Viveca Lindfors, John Derek
US 1954, 35mm, color, 92 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Ray reworked the western genre several times throughout his career, and with this film, made directly following Johnny Guitar, he adapts a classic Western plot – a stranger rides into town and, through a combination of skill and intelligence, brings law and order to the uncivilized outpost – by putting his own recognizably eccentric spin on the formula. Ray pits two strangers against the trigger-happy citizens of the town, using the symbolic father/son relationship that emerges between the two men as the fraught central conflict of the film. While James Cagney’s world-weary sheriff hopes to tame the citizenry, John Derek’s headstrong young deputy chafes against the real and perceived slights he suffers at the hands of the townsfolk, and at the lessons offered by Cagney’s gruff mentor.

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Saturday July 17 at 7pm

Party Girl

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse, Lee J. Cobb
US 1958, 35mm, color, 99 min.
Print from Warner Bros.

In his last Hollywood studio production, Ray once again effortlessly combines seemingly incompatible genres into a captivating synthesis of his lasting thematic preoccupations. A Technicolor crime drama, Party Girl offers a glossy and extravagant vision of Depression-era gangsterdom, enlivened by two dance numbers performed by a smoldering Cyd Charisse. The story of two unlikely outsiders pitted against a hostile world, Party Girl centers on the strange love affair which blossoms between Charisse’s self-loathing chorus girl and Robert Taylor’s crooked lawyer, hinting at the restorative powers of love. Ripe with sexual undercurrents and symbols, Party Girl features a remarkable turn by Lee J. Cobb as an overheated mob boss, a violent false father spewing Freudian fire and brimstone. Ray’s always-impressive use of color is brilliantly amplified, lending his gangster film a saturated hyper-reality equal to his operatic Westerns.

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Saturday July 17 at 9pm

Hot Blood

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Jane Russell, Cornel Wilde, Luther Adler
US 1956, 35mm, color, 85 min.
Print from Warner Bros.

Although inspired by careful research conducted by his first wife, the journalist Jean Evans, Ray’s rarely screened exploration of gypsy culture is more fever dream than documentary, replete with saturated colors and hallucinatory dance sequences. The story of a community pushed to the far outskirts of society and a hero who attempts to assimilate into the “straight” world, Hot Blood bends its ethnographic impulse around Ray’s deep empathy for outsider culture, creating a unique cultural document that revels in day to day details of gypsy life while simultaneously rendering them strange and exotic.

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Friday July 23 at 7pm
Monday July 26 at 7pm

Johnny Guitar

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge
US 1954, 35mm, color, 110 min.
Print from Paramount Pictures

Ray’s second color film marks an important turning point in his career toward the blatantly stylized, melodramatic style that would become his trademark and calling card. A terrifically hardened, masculine Joan Crawford balances a chip on her shoulder pads as saloonkeeper Vienna, locked in a passionate battle of wills with Mercedes McCambridge’s malicious, rageful cattle baron. Ray’s vision of the barely-civilized West reads as a graphic allegory for the Communist witch hunts that were winnowing careers in Hollywood, with a blood-thirsty lynch mob standing in for McCarthy and his cohorts. With its primal emotions, pointedly unrealistic sets, brilliant dialogue by Philip Yordan, electric use of color and unconcealed sexual tension, Johnny Guitar is, together with Fritz Lang’s Rancho Notorious, one of Hollywood’s strangest Westerns, and a delirious high point in Ray’s idiosyncratic career. Presented in conjunction with the Boston LGBT Film Festival.

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Friday July 23 at 9:15pm

Born to Be Bad

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Joan Fontaine, Robert Ryan, Zachary Scott
US 1950, 35mm, b/w, 94 min.

From its opening scenes, which clearly display Ray’s masterful use of interior space to reveal the emotional state of the characters who inhabit them, Born to Be Bad upends our expectations by depicting one of cinema’s perennial “good girls” as the ultimate villain and, more importantly, pitting her against a morally vacuous society that just might deserve whatever she can dish out. As the scheming seductress who manipulates her way to the top of San Francisco’s social scene, Ray brilliantly subverts Joan Fontaine’s screen persona as a “nice” girl, revealing the cold-hearted calculation and deviousness behind her simpering smiles. Nicholas Musuraca’s glossy black and white cinematography artfully depicts their glittering world as shallow and empty.

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Saturday July 24 at 7pm

The Lusty Men

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Susan Hayward, Robert Mitchum, Arthur Kennedy
US 1952, 35mm, b/w, 113 min.

One of Ray’s most melancholy films, The Lusty Men is a wonderful showcase for the graceful, nonchalant stoicism that was Robert Mitchum’s endearing trademark. Hardboiled novelist Horace McCoy’s finest screenplay tells the story of a down on his luck cowboy whose windswept wanderlust is almost tamed by the brassy charms of another man’s wife, a vision of hearth-warm yet sexually inviting domesticity embodied by Susan Hayward. A rare lyrical poeticism animates The Lusty Men, whose depiction of the ragtag lives of rodeo folk is an ode to the heartbreaking dignity of marginalized people in search of the ever-elusive American dream. Dramatic tension springs from the juxtaposition of Hayward and Mitchum’s shared longing for security against Arthur Kennedy’s brash upstart husband, who is lured by the flashy emptiness of the rodeo and its illusion of freedom. Ray’s use of documentary footage in the rodeo scenes injects a visceral immediacy to the Wild West spectacle and recalls his own fascination with Americana.

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Saturday July 24 at 9:15pm

Flying Leathernecks

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Don Taylor
US 1951, 35mm, color, 102 min.
Print from Warner Bros.

Under contract to Howard Hughes at RKO, Ray was assigned to direct a film celebrating the glories of aviation and the U.S. Air Force, a directive he fulfilled by seamlessly blending staged flying sequences with documentary footage of WWII aerial combat from the military archives. In his first Technicolor film, Ray demonstrates a striking mastery of the technology, favoring a subtle, muted color scheme to complement the film’s somber tone. Starring Ray’s friend and frequent collaborator Robert Ryan as a WWII-era Marine flyer who clashes with his superior officer, played by an ornery John Wayne, The Flying Leathernecks hints at the critique of machismo bravura offered by his later films, with its close-up look at the difficult decisions faced by superior officers when they must send their men off to battle.

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Sunday July 25 at 7pm

King of Kings

Directed by Nicolas Ray.
With Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Ryan, Hurd Hatfield
US 1961, 35mm, color, 168 min.
Print from the George Eastman House

Ray brilliantly downplays the epic nature of this Biblical tale, approaching the life of Jesus – played with an understated naturalism by Jeffrey Hunter – with a personal touch that offers a stark contrast to the more bloated, reverential Biblical epics of the era. A major influence on Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ, King avoids presenting Jesus’ actions as a series of empty spectacles, bringing a much-needed sense of realism and simplicity to the story and incorporating a metaphorical use of natural elements and color schemes that complements the allegorical nature of his source material while recalling the religious motifs in Ray’s 1950s masterworks, especially Rebel Without a Cause and Bigger Than Life.

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Friday July 30 at 7pm
Monday August 2 at 7pm

On Dangerous Ground

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Robert Ryan, Ida Lupino, Ward Bond
US 1951, 35mm, b/w, 81 min.
Print from Warner Bros.

A gripping thriller that suggests a melding of D.W. Griffith’s most elemental chase films with Alfred Hitchcock’s late crime films - a link made clear by Bernard Herrmann’s evocative score - On Dangerous Ground is one of Ray’s most complex and rewarding early films. Robert Ryan gives an electrifying, haunted performance as a violent city cop corroded by self-loathing and sent upstate to lead the chase for a child killer as punishment for brutally roughing up a suspect. The city scenes, shot in shadowy, atmospheric black and white, are filled with desperate characters (including a cameo by screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides) in dark alleys and cheap hotels, contrasting with the bright whiteness and natural elements of the country and making explicit Ryan’s physical and spiritual journey away from corruption and towards the healing embrace of the natural world, where, through his relationship with Ida Lupino’s blind sister of the suspect, he may regain his humanity.

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Friday July 30 at 9pm

The Savage Innocents

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Anthony Quinn, Yoko Tani, Peter O’Toole
France/Italy/UK 1959, 35mm, color, 110 min.
Print from Park Circus

Ray’s lifelong interest in isolated cultures – gypsies in Hot Blood, the Deep South in Wind in the Everglades – informs every frame of this fascinating late film about an Inuit hunter, robustly played by Anthony Quinn, who runs afoul of the laws imposed upon his Arctic homeland by the white settlers. Assigned to bring him to justice is a naïve lawman, played by Peter O’Toole in an early screen appearance, who is pulled dangerously deep into the Arctic winter. A return to Ray’s perennial theme of a search for home, The Savage Innocents was shot in CinemaScope on location in Northern Canada, using the immense emptiness of the landscape to emphasize the harshness of the environment and the ultimately insurmountable difference between the two distant cultures.

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Saturday July 31 at 7pm

Wind Across the Everglades

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Christopher Plummer, Burl Ives, Gypsy Rose Lee
US 1958, 35mm, color, 93 min.
Print from Warner Bros.

Shot entirely on location in the Everglades in southern Florida, Ray incorporated extraordinary wildlife footage into this ecologically-tinged drama. Written and produced by Budd Schulberg, Wind pits a zealous game warden against a band of ruthless poachers, led by the murderous Cottonmouth – played by Ray’s old friend from his radio days, Burl Ives – who kill birds for their valuable plumes. The film has a before-its-time environmentalism, with nature depicted as a powerful force with a primal ability to exact revenge when not treated with respect. Ray’s fascination with marginal cultures lends a sympathetic tenor to the gang of poachers, who hide out in the Everglades and, abiding their own set of communal laws, enact a raw brand of “natural” justice.

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Saturday July 31 at 9pm

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Directed by David Helpern Jr.
US 1974, 16mm, color, 58 min.

This affectionate documentary, whose title borrows a line from Johnny Guitar, one that Ray often used himself, combines interview footage with Ray’s collaborators and admirers – John Houseman, Natalie Wood, Francois Truffaut – with clips from some of his most famous films. Made when Ray had abandoned commercial filmmaking and accepted a post as a teacher at the State University of New York at Binghamton, this documentary includes fascinating footage of Ray making a film with his students – the experimental, as-yet-unreleased We Can’t Go Home Again.

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Sunday August 1 at 7pm

55 Days at Peking

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Charlton Heston, David Niven, Ava Gardner
US 1963, 35mm, color, 154 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

An action epic, Ray’s last commercial film bands together a disparate group of foreigners attempting to survive the Boxer rebellion in China. Ray, who was hospitalized during the shoot (filming was completed by second-unit director Andrew Marton), employs his signature use of color and sophisticated understanding of widescreen composition to create a visually arresting film, with dynamic action sequences balanced by subtle and sensitive character development, particularly Charlton Heston’s emotionally reserved Marine. Ray makes a rare cameo in the film as an American minister.

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Friday August 6 at 7pm
Monday August 9 at 7pm

In a Lonely Place

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy
US 1950, 35mm, b/w, 94 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

Ray’s second collaboration with Humphrey Bogart is a jet-black film noir whose richly autobiographical undertones and cynical portrait of Hollywood channel what was a deeply troubled period in both Bogart and Ray’s lives, with Bogart recently forced to publicly recant his outspoken opposition to the Communist witch hunts and Ray watching the disintegration of his marriage to actress Gloria Grahame. Bogart’s brilliant but heavy-drinking screenwriter looks good for the murder of a hatcheck girl until his neighbor, played, in her finest performance, by Grahame, offers herself up as his alibi. But she can’t save him from himself, and his destructive actions threaten to destroy their love affair. A palpable sense of loss and loneliness pervades this incredible film, with Grahame and Bogart gazing at each other’s apartments across an empty courtyard in a building closely modeled after the one Ray lived in when he first arrived in Los Angeles.

The High Green Wall

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Joseph Cotton, Thomas Gomez, Maurice Marsac
US 1954, b/w, digi beta, 30 min.

Made for the General Electric Theater television series and based on a short story by Evelyn Waugh, The High Green Wall stars Joseph Cotton as an Amazon explorer who loses his way and becomes a prisoner to Thomas Gomez’s village leader. Exacting a wicked revenge on the legacy of colonialism, the village chief forces the explorer to spend the remainder of his life reading Dickens to him under threat of death. Using the isolated setting and small cast to great effect, Ray injects Waugh’s fable with earthy human touches.

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Free Screening!
Saturday August 7 at 9pm

Lightning Over Water

Directed by Nicholas Ray and Wim Wenders.
Germany/Sweden 1980, digital video, color, 91 min.

Made while Ray was dying of cancer, Wenders’ penetrating tribute film, co-directed by Ray, ultimately reveals itself to be as complex as its subject, combining elements of the home movie, documentary, essay and fiction film in an effort to pay homage to Ray and the ideas that have been the focus of his life and career – the cinema, father-son relationships, the quest of the isolated individual to carve out a space for themselves in the world. With its jarring and unsettling images of a visibly stricken Ray, the film, which concludes with Ray’s wake aboard a ship in the East River, is a melancholy and heartbreaking farewell to one of the great American directors.

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Sunday August 8 at 7pm

A Woman's Secret

Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Maureen O’Hara, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Grahame
US 1949, 35mm, b/w, 85 min.
Print from Warner Bros.

Ray met his future wife Gloria Grahame during the making of this early film (they would subsequently split during the production of In a Lonely Place), in which she plays an ungrateful protégé to Maureen O’Hara’s sophisticated mentor. Set in the world of professional musicians, the film, written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, employs a flashback structure similar to his most famous screenplay, for Citizen Kane, focusing its central mystery around the shooting of Grahame’s character. In only his second film, Ray’s signature use of staircases and overhead shots to represent conflict is already evident, as is his incredible talent with actors, particularly the wonderful Jay C. Flippen in a memorable supporting role as a wise, world-weary police officer.

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