John Huston Documentary Double Bill: 'San Pietro' & 'Let There Be Light'

San Pietro by John Huston

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' John Huston Lecture on Documentary Film will acknowledge John Huston himself with a special screening of his controversial World War II documentary classics San Pietro (a.k.a. The Battle of San Pietro) (above, 1944) and Let There Be Light (1946), on Tuesday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. Tony Huston, John's son, will introduce the films.

John HustonAs per the Academy's press release, “these documentaries' historical significance and current relevance will be among the topics covered in a post-screening panel discussion with Dr. Charles Wolfe, professor of film and media studies, UC Santa Barbara; Dr. Betsy McLane, documentary historian and author; and Richard E. Robbins, producer-director of Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which was a 2007 Oscar nominee for Documentary Feature.”

The release adds that John Huston began shooting documentaries as a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1942. His first assignment was to record combat conditions on Adak Island, which led to the “straightforward and uncontroversial” Report from the Aleutians.

San Pietro by John HustonSan Pietro was produced and directed by Huston for the U.S. War Department. But the problem was that it was deemed too violent and realistic – in other words, too anti-war. Not a good thing. San Pietro was held from release until 1945, when General George Marshall's endorsement led to the removal of its “classified” status. (Even so, San Pietro suffered severe cuts before reaching U.S. screens.) The print screened at the Academy will be the complete original version.

Let There Be Light by John Huston

The War Department also banned Let There Be Light (above), “a naked portrait of the psychological problems suffered by returning veterans,” with voice-over narration provided by Walter Huston (John's father). The ban was finally lifted in December 1980, and the film was released the following year. At that time, the New York Times' Vincent Canby called it “a good, slickly made documentary,” though he failed to see what the Army's fuss was all about. (Richard Corliss' more passionate Time review can be found here.)

Tickets to the Academy's John Huston Lecture on Documentary Film may be purchased online at, in person at the Academy box office or by mail. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved. The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

Photos: Courtesy Academy Film Archive

Budd Schulberg & David Chase

In April, the Writers Guild Foundation will salute David Chase, creator of the The Sopranos, and Budd Schulberg, Academy Award and WGA Award winner for On the Waterfront, and the son of Paramount honcho B.P. Schulberg.

The On the Waterfront screening will also feature a q&a with Schulberg, who will turning 94 this Thursday, March 27.

What Makes Sammy Run?, which in large part revolves around the formation of the Writers Guild, is one of the best if not the best Hollywood novel ever written. I find it hard to picture the young Budd Schulberg (he was in his 20s when he wrote Sammy), with his pro-union, left-leaning sensibilities developing into a "friendly witness" by naming alleged Communist sympathizers for the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s. But that's what happened.

(More on Schulberg on this Darmouth University page.)

The information below is from the WGA press release. (Note: Schulberg won his Oscar for On the WaterfrontA Face in the Crowd received no Academy Award nominations.)

Tuesday April 22nd, 7:30 pm

A rare public appearance by the man behind the ground-breaking show. Hear David Chase, award-winning creator of The Sopranos (and veteran of such shows as Northern ExposureThe Rockford FilesAlmost Grown, and Ill Fly Away) in his first Los Angeles appearance since the shows much-talked-about final episode, discuss his career and craft, as well as the creation and making of the multi-season HBO hit that changed the face of television. Moderator to be announced.

Screening of On the Waterfront (1954) and Q & A with Schulberg
Thursday April 24th, 7:00 pm

A unique opportunity to hear from living legend Budd Schulberg, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of On the Waterfront and A Face in the Crowd, and author of the classic show business novel-cum-expose, What Makes Sammy Run? Watch a screening of On the Waterfront (which won 8 Oscars in the Academy Awards for 1954) and listen to Schulberg share insights and anecdotes from his more than seven-decade career one that saw him writing for both the big and small screens and working with the leading directors and biggest stars in Hollywood. Moderator is F.X. Feeney.

Wine and dessert reception to follow both events. Both events held at the Writers Guild Theater at 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

TICKETS: or call 323 782 4692 with your credit card

Ticket Prices: General public, $20; WGA, $15; full-time students with valid ID, $10.

The Writers Guild Foundation is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to preserve and promote the work of writers for film and television.

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1 Comment to John Huston Documentary Double Bill: 'San Pietro' & 'Let There Be Light'

  1. Ronald E Brown

    “The War Department also banned Let There Be Light”.
    As a Vietnam veteran, I did not begin to receive acknowledgement treatment for my psychological injuries until 27 years after the was [for me] had ended.
    Early in my treatment, I stumbled onto this film (made two years before I was born), on cable TV, and realized that: “Here is yet another area that the VA has been lying to us …”, during the 70's and most of the 80's, we were denied treatment for Combat PTSD by the VA for “Insuficient [New] Evidence”,until such time that (according to an important psychiatric nurse) our numbers could no longer be ignored …
    This, very important film, informed me of the lie because it demonstrates the treatment procedures practiced then and denied to following generations of “Walking wounded”.
    The treatment of US military veterans is a NATIONAL DISGRACE.
    I'm passing this information on to my psychiatrist, therapists, and other veteran's for their edification: I thank whatever God's may be …