Eugène Lourié Homage: Jean Renoir 'The River,' Sci-Fier 'Crack in the World'

Adrienne Corri The River Jean Renoir
Adrienne Corri (Mrs. Alexander in A Clockwork Orange) in Jean Renoir's The River

The Art Directors Guild (ADG) Film Society and the American Cinematheque (AC) will honor Production Designer Eugène Lourié with a double feature: Andrew Marton's Crack in the World (1965), starring Dana Andrews and Janette Scott, and Jean Renoir's classic The River (1951), with Nora Swinburne and Esmond Knight. The screenings will be held on Sunday, June 27, at 5:30 pm. at the Egyptian Theatre.

A panel discussion will be held between screenings with panelists Bernard Glasser, producer of Crack in the World as well as Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line and Return of the Fly; William Creber, Production Designer of Planet of the Apes, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno and The Greatest Story Ever Told; and film historian Michael Hyatt, who restored The Day of the Triffids and was part of the team that restored Sweet Smell of Success and My Fair Lady. Production Designer John Muto will moderate.

The rarely screened Crack in the World is described as “a science fiction film remarkable for its eerily prophetic ecological message.” Lourié designed both the film's sets and visual effects.

Based on a novel by Rumer Godden, The River is one of Jean Renoir's greatest works. This coming-of-age tale about two English girls in India was nominated for two BAFTA awards, and was the first film to be shot on location in India using three-strip Technicolor.

The River screening will feature a print restored by The Academy Film Archive in cooperation with The British Film Institute and Janus Films. Restoration funding provided by The Film Foundation and The Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Below is more information about Eugène Lourié, from the ADG's press release:

Born in Russia in 1903, Eugène Lourié moved to France to pursue art direction in the French Film Industry at a very young age. The former scenery painter and extra began his career as a Production Designer in 1930, designing sets for The Parisian Theatre. Upon moving to the USA in 1941, Lourié worked on films such as This Land is Mine (1943); The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and The River (1951). He is best known for his collaborations with Jean Renoir and specifically the art direction for La Grande Illusion (1937), as well as Battle of the Bulge (1965) and Charlie Chaplin's Limelight (1952).

Additionally, Eugène Lourié did notable work for Max Ophüls, Robert Siodmak and Samuel Fuller, and in 1970 his work on Krakatoa: East of Java was nominated for an Academy Award. Lourié was also a special effects specialist as well as a theatrical set designer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. He spent a half-century in Hollywood and in 1985 shared this experience in his book, My Work in Films.

Representing the ADG is president Thomas A. Walsh. Working with him are the American Cinematheque's Gwen Deglise and Grant Moninger. General admission: $11. American Cinematheque members: $7. Students/Seniors with valid ID: $9. All screenings start at 5:30 p.m.

The Egyptian Theatre is located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard. This is the second of this year's screening series highlighting the work of renowned Production Designers and their creative colleagues. The screening series is sponsored by Variety.

24-hour information is available at 323-466-FILM (3456). Tickets can also be purchased at www.Fandango.com by searching the zip code 90028 to find the Egyptian Theatre.

Photo: United Artists

Billie Dove

Billie Dove: Last Years of Silent Movie Star at Motion Picture Country House

In TheWrap, writer and television producer Irma Kalish writes about Billie Dove's last years at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, inland from Malibu.

The article is a great read. Billie Dove, though not the “Queen of Silent Movies” as claimed in Kalish's piece, was a popular star in the 1920s. Not one of her fifty or so movies could be called a classic, but Dove did appear in a number of well-regarded and/or box office-friendly vehicles.

Among her films of that era were All the Brothers Were Valiant (1922), with Lon Chaney; The Black Pirate (1926), an early two-strip Technicolor adventure starring Douglas Fairbanks; Kid Boots (1926), in which she supports Eddie Cantor and Clara Bow; and American Beauty (1927), in the title role.

No wonder Howard Hughes was fascinated with her. According to Hollywood lore, Hughes paid Dove's husband, director Irvin Willat, to divorce the actress so she'd be free to hang out with the multimillionaire.

Every once in a while, a Billie Dove movie pops up on Turner Classic Movies. In Blondie of the Follies (1932), she supports Marion Davies. Blondie isn't the greatest of movies, but Davies has a very funny scene in which she imitates Greta Garbo, while Dove has what may well be one of her most memorable on-screen moments: mouthing “son of a bitch” to a bunch of kids.

Billie Dove died on Dec. 31, 1997, at the Motion Picture Country House. She was 94. Below is a snippet from Kalish's article:

“She must have been in her early 90s then, but her voice was steady and her mind was focused. The charm was evident. We spoke at length, comparing notes on the movie business then and now. I confess that her end of the conversation far outshone mine. Those early years of Hollywood cinema are known as the Golden Silents, and here was 'The American Beauty' (as she was nicknamed) sharing some of her 14-carat memories.”

The Motion Picture Country Fund has proposed closing down its Long-Term Care facilities, which once housed the likes of Billie Dove. “My dearest hope then – the hope of many, many others – is that the doors of Long-Term Care will remain open…” writes Kalish.

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