John Huston

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John Huston
John Huston - publicity.JPG
Huston in Chinatown (1974)
Born(1906-08-05)5 August 1906
Died28 August 1987(1987-08-28) (aged 81)
Resting place Hollywood Forever Cemetery
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
  • actor
  • visual artist
Years active1930–1987
  • Dorothy Harvey
    (m. 1925;div. 1933)
  • Lesley Black
    (m. 1937;div. 1945)
  • (m. 1946;div. 1950)
  • (m. 1950;died 1969)
  • Celeste Shane
    (m. 1972;div. 1977)
PartnerZoe Sallis
Children5, including Anjelica, Tony, Danny, and Allegra Huston
Parent(s) Walter Huston
Rhea Gore
Awards See list
Military career
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Army.svg  United States Army
Years of service194246
Rank US-O4 insignia.svg Major
Unit Insignia signal.svg Army Signal Corps
Awards Legion of Merit
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal

John Marcellus Huston ( /ˈhjuːstən/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ) HEW-stən; August 5, 1906 – August 28, 1987) was an American film director, screenwriter, actor and visual artist. He wrote the screenplays for most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are today considered classics, including The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), The Misfits (1961), Fat City (1972), The Man Who Would Be King (1975) and Prizzi's Honor (1985). During his 46-year career, Huston received 15 Academy Award nominations, winning twice. He also directed both his father, Walter Huston, and daughter, Anjelica Huston, to Oscar wins.


In his early years, Huston studied and worked as a fine art painter in Paris. He then moved to Mexico and began writing, first plays and short stories, and later working in Los Angeles as a Hollywood screenwriter, and was nominated for several Academy Awards writing for films directed by William Dieterle and Howard Hawks, among others. His directorial debut came with The Maltese Falcon, which despite its small budget became a commercial and critical hit; he would continue to be a successful, if iconoclastic, Hollywood director for the next 45 years. He explored the visual aspects of his films throughout his career, sketching each scene on paper beforehand, then carefully framing his characters during the shooting. While most directors rely on post-production editing to shape their final work, Huston instead created his films while they were being shot, with little editing needed. Some of Huston's films were adaptations of important novels, often depicting a "heroic quest," as in Moby Dick , or The Red Badge of Courage . In many films, different groups of people, while struggling toward a common goal, would become doomed, forming "destructive alliances," giving the films a dramatic and visual tension. Many of his films involved themes such as religion, meaning, truth, freedom, psychology, colonialism, and war.

While he had done some stage acting in his youth and had occasionally cast himself in bit parts in his own films, he primarily worked behind the camera until Otto Preminger cast him in 1963's The Cardinal , for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He continued to take prominent supporting roles for the next two decades, including 1974's Chinatown (directed by Roman Polanski), and he lent his booming baritone voice as a voice actor and narrator to a number of prominent films. His last two films, 1985's Prizzi's Honor, and 1987's The Dead , filmed while he was in failing health at the end of his life, were both nominated for multiple Academy Awards. He died shortly after completing his last film.

Huston has been referred to as "a titan", "a rebel", and a "renaissance man" in the Hollywood film industry. Author Ian Freer describes him as "cinema's Ernest Hemingway"—a filmmaker who was "never afraid to tackle tough issues head on." [1] He traveled widely, settling at various times in France, Mexico, and Ireland. Huston was a citizen of the U.S. by birth but renounced this to become an Irish citizen and resident in 1964. He later returned to the U.S., where he lived the rest of his life. [2] For his contributions to the American film industry, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 1960.

Early life

John Huston was born on August 5, 1906, in Nevada, Missouri. He was the only child of Rhea (née Gore) and Canadian-born Walter Huston. His father was an actor, initially in vaudeville, and later in films. His mother worked as a sports editor for various publications but stopped after John was born. Similarly, his father ended his stage acting career for steady employment as a civil engineer, although he returned to stage acting within a few years. He later became highly successful on both Broadway and then in motion pictures. He had Scottish, Scots-Irish, English and Welsh ancestry.

Huston's parents divorced in 1913 when he was six years old. For much of his childhood, he lived and studied in boarding schools. During summer vacations, he traveled separately with each of his parents  – with his father on vaudeville tours, and with his mother to horse races and other sports events. Young Huston benefited greatly from seeing his father act on stage, and he was later drawn to acting. [3]

Some critics, such as Lawrence Grobel, surmise that his relationship with his mother may have contributed to his marrying five times, and seeming to have difficulty in maintaining relationships. Grobel wrote, "When I interviewed some of the women who had loved him, they inevitably referred to his mother as the key to unlocking Huston's psyche." [4] According to actress Olivia de Havilland, "she [his mother] was the central character. I always felt that John was ridden by witches. He seemed pursued by something destructive. If it wasn't his mother, it was his idea of his mother." [4]

As a child, Huston was often ill; he was treated for an enlarged heart and kidney ailments. He recovered after an extended bedridden stay in Arizona and moved with his mother to Los Angeles, where he attended Abraham Lincoln High School. He dropped out after two years to become a professional boxer. By age 15 he was a top-ranking amateur lightweight boxer in California. He ended his brief boxing career after suffering a broken nose. [3]

He also engaged in many interests, including ballet, English and French literature, opera, horseback riding, and studying painting at the Art Students League of Los Angeles. [5] Living in Los Angeles, Huston became infatuated with the new film industry and motion pictures, as a spectator only. To Huston, "Charlie Chaplin was a god." [6]

Huston returned to New York City to live with his father, who was acting in off-Broadway productions, and had a few small roles. [7] He later remembered that while watching his father rehearse, he became fascinated with the mechanics of acting:

What I learned there, during those weeks of rehearsal, would serve me for the rest of my life. [6]

After a short period of acting on stage, and having undergone surgery, Huston travelled alone to Mexico. During two years there, among other adventures, he obtained a position as an honorary member of the Mexican cavalry. He returned to Los Angeles and married Dorothy Harvey, a girlfriend from high school. Their marriage lasted seven years (1926–1933).

Early career as writer

During his stay in Mexico, Huston wrote a play called Frankie and Johnny, based on the ballad of the same title. After selling it easily, he decided that writing would be a viable career, and he focused on it. His self-esteem was enhanced when H. L. Mencken, editor of the popular magazine American Mercury, bought two of his stories, "Fool" and "Figures of Fighting Men." During subsequent years, Huston's stories and feature articles were published in Esquire, Theatre Arts, and The New York Times. He also worked for a period on the New York Graphic. In 1931, when he was 25, he moved back to Los Angeles in hopes of writing for the blossoming film industry. The silent films had given way to "talkies", and writers were in demand. [7] His father had earlier moved there and already gained success in a number of films.

Huston received a script editing contract with Samuel Goldwyn Productions but, after six months of receiving no assignments, quit to work for Universal Studios, where his father was a star. At Universal, he got a job in the script department, and began by writing dialogue for a number of films in 1932, including Murders in the Rue Morgue , A House Divided, and Law and Order . The last two also starred his father, Walter Huston. A House Divided was directed by William Wyler, who gave Huston his first real "inside view" of the filmmaking process during all stages of production. Wyler and Huston became close friends and collaborators on a number of leading films. [7]

Huston gained a reputation as a "lusty, hard-drinking libertine" during his first years as a writer in Hollywood. [3] Huston described those years as a "series of misadventures and disappointments". In 1933 he was in a romantic relationship with actress Zita Johann. While driving drunk, with Johann as passenger, he hit a parked car sending Johann through the glass windshield. She suffered head trauma and Huston was charged with driving while intoxicated. His brief career as a Hollywood writer ended suddenly when he killed actress Tosca Roulien, wife of actor Raul Roulien, while driving drunk. There is a rumor that actor Clark Gable was responsible for the hit and run, but that MGM general manager Eddie Mannix paid Huston to take the blame. However it's only a rumor because Gable was on location filming a movie [8] A coroner's jury absolved Huston of blame, but the incident left him "traumatized". He moved to London and Paris, living as a "drifter." [3]

By 1937, the 31-year-old Huston returned to Hollywood intent on being a "serious writer." He married again, to Lesley Black. His first job was as scriptwriter with Warner Brothers Studio, and he formed his personal longterm goal to direct his own scripts. For the next four years, he co-wrote scripts for major films such as Jezebel, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse , Juarez , Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet, and Sergeant York (1941). [3] He was nominated for Academy Awards for his screenplays for both Ehrlich and Sergeant York. Huston wrote that Sergeant York, which was directed by Howard Hawks, has "gone down as one of Howard's best pictures, and Gary Cooper had a triumph playing the young mountaineer." [9] :77

Huston was recognized and respected as a screenwriter. He persuaded Warners to give him a chance to direct, under the condition that his next script also became a hit.

Huston wrote:

They indulged me rather. They liked my work as a writer and they wanted to keep me on. If I wanted to direct, why, they'd give me a shot at it, and if it didn't come off all that well, they wouldn't be too disappointed as it was to be a very small picture. [6]

His next script was High Sierra (1941), to be directed by Raoul Walsh. The film became the hit Huston wanted. It also made Humphrey Bogart a star with his first major role, as a gunman on the run. Warners kept their end of the bargain and gave Huston his choice of subject. [6]

Screenwriter and director

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

For his first directing assignment, Huston chose Dashiell Hammett's detective thriller, The Maltese Falcon , a film which failed at the box office in two earlier versions by Warners. However, studio head Jack L. Warner approved of Huston's treatment of Hammett's 1930 novel, and he stood by his word to let Huston choose his first subject. [6]

Huston kept the screenplay close to the novel, keeping much of Hammett's dialogue, and directing it in an uncluttered style, much like the book's narrative. He did unusual preparation for his first directing job by sketching out each shot beforehand, including camera positions, lighting, and compositional scale, for such elements as closeups. [7]

He especially benefited by selecting a superior cast, giving Humphrey Bogart the lead role. Bogart was happy to take the role, as he liked working with Huston. The supporting cast included other noted actors: Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet (his first film role), and his own father, Walter Huston. The film was given only a small B-movie budget, and received minimal publicity by Warners, as they had low expectations. [6] The entire film was made in eight weeks for only $300,000. [3]

Warners was surprised by the immediate enthusiastic response by the public and critics, who hailed the film as a "classic", with many ranking it as the "best detective melodrama ever made." [6] Herald Tribune critic Howard Barnes called it a "triumph." [6] Huston received an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay. After this film, Huston directed all of his screenplays, except for one, Three Strangers (1946). [7] In 1942, he directed two more hits, In This Our Life (1942), starring Bette Davis, and Across the Pacific , another thriller starring Humphrey Bogart.

Army years during World War II

The Battle of San Pietro (1945)

In 1942 Huston served in the United States Army during World War II, making films for the Army Signal Corps. While in uniform with the rank of captain, he directed and produced three films that some critics rank as "among the finest made about World War II: Report from the Aleutians (1943), about soldiers preparing for combat; The Battle of San Pietro (1945), the story (censored by the Army) of a failure by America's intelligence agencies that resulted in many deaths, and Let There Be Light (1946), about psychologically damaged veterans. It was censored and suppressed for 35 years, until 1981. [3]

Huston was promoted to the rank of major and received the Legion of Merit award for "courageous work under battle conditions." [3] All of his films made for the Army were "controversial", and were either not released, were censored, or banned outright, as they were considered "demoralizing" to soldiers and the public. [7] Years later, after Huston moved to Ireland, his daughter, actress Anjelica Huston, recalled that the "main movies we watched were the war documentaries." [10] :10

Huston performed an uncredited rewrite of Anthony Veiller's screenplay for The Stranger (1946), a film he was to have directed. When Huston became unavailable, the film's star, Orson Welles, directed instead; Welles had the lead role of a high-ranking Nazi fugitive who settles in New England under an assumed name. [11]

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Huston's next picture, which he wrote, directed, and briefly appeared in as an American asked to "help out a fellow American, down on his luck", was The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). It would become one of the films that established his reputation as a leading filmmaker. The film, also starring Humphrey Bogart, was the story of three drifters who band together to prospect for gold. Huston gave a supporting role to his father, Walter Huston.

Warners studio was initially uncertain what to make of the film. They had allowed Huston to film on location in Mexico, which was a "radical move" for a studio at the time. They also knew that Huston was gaining a reputation as "one of the wild men of Hollywood." In any case, studio boss Jack L. Warner initially "detested it." But whatever doubts Warners had were soon removed, as the film achieved widespread public and critical acclaim. Hollywood writer James Agee called it "one of the most beautiful and visually alive movies I have ever seen." [6] Time magazine described it as "one of the best things Hollywood has done since it learned to talk." [6] Huston won Oscars for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay; his father won for Best Supporting Actor. The film also won other awards in the U.S. and overseas.

Decades later, Film Comment magazine devoted four pages to the film in its May–June 1980 edition, with author Richard T. Jameson offering his impressions:

This film has impressed itself on the heart and mind and soul of anyone who has seen it, to the extent that filmmakers of great originality and distinctiveness like Robert Altman and Sam Peckinpah can be said to have remade it again and again ... without compromising its uniqueness. [6]

Key Largo (1948)

Also in 1948, Huston directed Key Largo , again starring Humphrey Bogart. It was the story about a disillusioned veteran who clashes with gangsters on a remote Florida key. It co-starred Lauren Bacall, Claire Trevor, Edward G. Robinson, and Lionel Barrymore. The film was an adaptation of the stage play by Maxwell Anderson. Some viewers complained that it was still overly stage-bound. But the "outstanding performances" by all the actors saved the film, and Claire Trevor won an Oscar for best supporting actress. [6] Huston was annoyed that the studio cut several scenes from the final release without his agreement. That, along with some earlier disputes, angered Huston enough that he left the studio when his contract expired. [6]

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

In 1950 he wrote and directed The Asphalt Jungle , a film which broke new ground by depicting criminals as somewhat sympathetic characters, simply doing their professional work, "an occupation like any other". [7] Huston described their work as "a left-handed form of human endeavor." [9] :177 Huston achieved that effect by giving "deep attention" to the plot, involving a large jewelry theft, by examining the minute, step-by-step details and difficulties each of the characters had of carrying it out. Some critics felt that, by this technique, Huston had achieved an almost "documentary" style. [7]

His assistant director Albert Band explains further:

I'll never forget it. We got on that set and he composed a shot in which ten elements were working all at the same time. Took half a day to do it, but it was fantastic. He knew exactly how to shoot a picture. His shots were all painted on the spot ... He had a great eye and he never lost his sense of composition. [12] :335

Film critic Andrew Sarris considered it to be "Huston's best film", and the film that made Marilyn Monroe a recognized actress. Sarris also notes the similar themes in many of Huston's films, as exemplified by this one: "His protagonists almost invariably fail at what they set out to do." [13] This theme was also expressed in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where the group foundered on their own greed.

It starred Sterling Hayden and Sam Jaffe, a personal friend of Huston. Marilyn Monroe had her first serious role in this film. Huston said, "it was, of course, where Marilyn Monroe got her start." [9] :177 Monroe said Huston was the first genius she had ever met; and he made her feel that she finally had a chance of becoming a professional actress: [12] :336

Even though my part was a minor one, I felt as if I were the most important performer in the picture—when I was before the camera. This was because everything I did was important to the director. [12] :336

The film succeeded at the box office, and Huston was again nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay and best director, along with winning the Screen Directors Guild Award. [6] This became a model for many similar movies by other filmmakers.

The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

Huston's next film, The Red Badge of Courage (1951), was of a completely different subject: war and its effect on soldiers. While in the army during World War II, he became interested in Stephen Crane's classic American Civil War novel of the same title. For the starring role, Huston chose World War II hero Audie Murphy to play the young Union soldier who deserts his company out of fear, but later returns to fight alongside them. MGM was concerned that the movie seemed too antiwar for the postwar period. Without Huston's input, they cut down the running time of the film from eighty-eight minutes to sixty-nine, added narration, and deleted what Huston felt was a crucial scene. [7]

The movie did poorly at the box office. Huston suggests that it was possibly because it "brought war very close to home." [14] Huston recalls that at the preview showing, before the film was halfway through, "damn near a third of the audience got up and walked out of the theater." [14] Despite the "butchering" and weak public response, film historian Michael Barson describes the movie as "a minor masterpiece." [15]

At the same time, the film was also the cause of a growing feud between MGM founder Louis B. Mayer and Producer Dore Schary to the point where Huston felt like stepping down to avoid growing the conflict. However, Mayer encouraged Huston to stay on telling him to fight for the picture regardless of what he thought of it.

The African Queen (1951)

Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen (1951) The African Queen, Bogart.jpg
Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen (1951)

Before The Red Badge of Courage opened in theaters, Huston was already in Africa shooting The African Queen (1951), a story based on C. S. Forester's popular novel. It starred Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in a combination of romance, comedy and adventure. Barson calls it "one of the most popular Hollywood movies of all time." [15] The film's producer, Sam Spiegel, urged Huston to change the ending to allow the protagonists to survive, instead of dying. Huston agreed, and the ending was rewritten. It became Huston's most successful film financially, and "it remains one of his finest works." [7] Huston was nominated for two Academy Awards—Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Bogart, meanwhile, won his only Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Charlie Allnut.

Hepburn wrote about her experiences shooting the film in her memoir, The Making of the African Queen: Or How I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and almost lost my mind. [16] Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the film White Hunter, Black Heart , based on Peter Viertel's novel of the same name, which tells a fictional version of the making of the film. [17]

House Committee on Un-American Activities period

In 1952 Huston moved to Ireland as a result of his "disgust" at the "witch-hunt" and the "moral rot" he felt was created by investigation and hearings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA), which had affected many of his friends in the movie industry. Huston had, with friends including director William Wyler and screenwriter Philip Dunne, established the "Committee for the First Amendment", as a response to the ongoing government investigations into communists within the film industry. The HCUA was calling numerous filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors to testify about any past affiliations. [15]

He later described, in general, the types of people who were alleged communists:

The people who did get caught up in it were, for the most part, well-intentioned boobs from a poor background. A number of them had come from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and out in Hollywood, they sort of felt guilty for living the good life. Their social conscience was more acute than the next fellow's. [18]

Moby Dick (1956)

Huston took producing, writing, and directing credits for his next two films: Moulin Rouge (1952); and Beat the Devil (1953). Moby Dick (1956), however, was written by Ray Bradbury, although Huston had his name added to the screenplay credit after the completion of the project. Although Huston had personally hired Bradbury to adapt Herman Melville's novel into a screenplay, Bradbury and Huston did not get along during pre-production. Bradbury later dramatized their relationship in the short story "Banshee". When this was adapted as an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater, Peter O'Toole played the role based on John Huston. [19] Bradbury wrote more poems, essays, and stories on his time in Ireland, but was reluctant to write a book because he did not want to gossip about Huston. It was not until after he read Katharine Hepburn's memoir, The Making of the African Queen, that he decided that he could write "a book which is fair, which presents the Huston that I loved along with the one that I began to fear on occasion." He published Green Shadows, White Whale , a novel about his time in Ireland with Huston, almost 40 years after he wrote the screenplay for Moby Dick. [20]

Huston had been planning to film Herman Melville's Moby-Dick for the previous ten years, and originally thought the starring role of Captain Ahab would be an excellent part for his father, Walter Huston. After his father died in 1950, Huston chose Gregory Peck to play the role. The movie was filmed over a three-year period on location in Ireland, where Huston was living. The fishing village of New Bedford, Massachusetts was recreated along the waterfront; the sailing ship in the film was fully constructed to be seaworthy; and three 100-foot whales were built out of steel, wood, and plastic. In the film, Huston's voice was dubbed for the voice of actor Joseph Tomelty and a Pequod lookout. But the film failed at the box office. Critics such as David Robinson suggested that the movie lacked the "mysticism of the book" and thereby "loses its significance." [6]

The Misfits (1961)

Marilyn Monroe (center), Clark Gable (right), filming in 1961 for The Misfits Marilyn Monroe Misfits.jpg
Marilyn Monroe (center), Clark Gable (right), filming in 1961 for The Misfits

Of Huston's next five films, only The Misfits (1961), gained critical approval. [1] Critics have since noted the "retrospective atmosphere of doom" which is associated with the film. Clark Gable, the star, died of a heart attack a few weeks after the filming was completed; Marilyn Monroe never finished another film, and died a year later after being suspended during the filming of Something's Got to Give ; and costars Montgomery Clift (1966) and Thelma Ritter (1969) also died over the next decade. But two of the Misfits stars, Eli Wallach and Kevin McCarthy, lived another 50 years. During the filming, Monroe was sometimes taking prescribed drugs, which led to her arriving late on the set. Monroe also sometimes forgot her lines. Monroe's personal problems eventually led to the breakup of her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller, the scriptwriter, "virtually on set." [6] Miller dramatized the making of The Misfits in his final play, Finishing the Picture , where Huston is represented as the director. [21] Huston later commented about this period in Monroe's career: "Marilyn was on her way out. Not only of the picture, but of life." [14]

Freud: the Secret Passion (1962)

He followed The Misfits with Freud: The Secret Passion , a film quite different from most of his others. Besides directing, he also narrates portions of the story. Film historian Stuart M. Kaminsky notes that Huston presents Sigmund Freud, played by Montgomery Clift, "as a kind of savior and messiah", with an "almost Biblical detachment." As the film begins, Huston describes Freud as a "kind of hero or God on a quest for mankind": [22]

This is the story of Freud's descent into a region as black as hell, man's unconscious, and how he let in the light.

Huston explains how he became interested in psychotherapy, the subject of the film:

I first got into that through an experience in a hospital during the war, where I made a documentary about patients suffering from battle neuroses. I was in the army and made the picture Let There Be Light. That experience started my interest in psychotherapy, and to this day Freud looms as the single huge figure in that field. [14]

Huston's Night of the Iguana set on Mismaloya Beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico El-set-mismaloya.jpg
Huston's Night of the Iguana set on Mismaloya Beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The Night of the Iguana (1964)

For his next film, Huston again traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, after meeting an architect, Guillermo Wulff, who owned property and businesses in the town. The filming of The Night of the Iguana took place in a beach cove called Mismaloya, about thirty minutes south of town. Huston adapted the stage play by Tennessee Williams. The film stars Richard Burton and Ava Gardner, and was nominated for several Academy Awards. The production attracted intense worldwide media attention, due to Burton bringing his celebrity mistress, actress Elizabeth Taylor (who was still married to singer Eddie Fisher at the time) to Puerto Vallarta. Huston liked the town where filming took place so much that he bought a house near there, as did Burton and Taylor. Guillermo Wulff and Huston became friends and always spent time together while Huston was in town, more frequently at Wulff's El Dorado Restaurant on Los Muertos Beach.

The Bible: In the Beginning (1966)

Producer Dino De Laurentis traveled to Ireland to ask Huston to direct The Bible: In the Beginning . Although De Laurentis had ambitions for a broader story, he realized that the subject could not be adequately covered and limited the story to less than the first half of the Book of Genesis. Huston enjoyed directing the film, as it gave him a chance to indulge his love of animals. Besides directing he also played the role of Noah and the voice of God. The Bible earned rentals of $15 million in North America, [23] making it the second highest-grossing film of 1966. However, because of its bloated budget of $18 million (which made it the most expensive movie of Huston's career [6] ), 20th Century Fox ended up losing $1.5 million. [24] [25]

Huston enjoyed describing details about the filming:

Every morning before beginning work, I visited the animals. One of the elephants, Candy, loved to be scratched on the belly behind her foreleg. I'd scratch her and she would lean farther and farther toward me until there was some danger of her toppling over on me. One time I started to walk away from her, and she reached out and took my wrist with her trunk and pulled me back to her side. It was a command: "Don't stop!" I used it in the picture. Noah scratches the elephant's belly and walks away, and the elephant pulls him back to her time after time. [9] :317

Involvement with the Irish film industry

I think the politicians who supported building the studio can take consolation in the fact that it's brought a lot of money to Ireland. We're spending more than a million dollars in Ireland and we wouldn't be here if it weren't for Ardmore.

John Huston, in an interview on RTÉ [26]

While working on Casino Royale (1967), Huston took interest in the Irish film industry, which had historically struggled to attain domestic or international success. There were rumours that he would buy Ireland's premiere film location, Ardmore Studios in Bray, County Wicklow. In 1967, Huston gave Taoiseach Jack Lynch a tour of Ardmore and asked to form a committee to help foster a productive Irish film industry. Huston served on the resulting committee with Irish filmmakers and journalists. [26]

Lynch also ultimately agreed to offer tax breaks to foreign production companies if they shot on location in Ireland, and signed the Film Act of 1970. [27]

Huston was interviewed in Irish journalist Peter Lennon's Rocky Road to Dublin (1967), where he argued that it was more important for Irish filmmakers to make films in Ireland than for foreign production companies to make international films. [28]

In 1969, he shot Sinful Davey in Ireland using a mixed Irish and British cast.

Fat City (1972)

After several films that were not well received, Huston returned to critical acclaim with Fat City . Based on Leonard Gardner's 1969 novel of the same name, it was about an aging, washed-up alcoholic boxer in Stockton, California trying to get his name back on the map, while having a new relationship with a world-weary alcoholic. It also featured an amateur boxer trying to find success in boxing. The film was nominated for several awards. It starred Stacy Keach, a young Jeff Bridges, and Susan Tyrrell; she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Roger Ebert stated Fat City was one of Huston's best films, giving it four out of four stars. [29]

The Man Who Would Be King (1975)

Perhaps Huston's most highly regarded film of the 1970s, The Man Who Would Be King was both a critical and commercial success. Huston had been planning to make this film since the '50s, originally with his friends Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. Eventually, the lead roles went to Sean Connery and Michael Caine. The movie was filmed on location in North Africa. The film was praised for its use of old-fashioned escapism and entertainment. Steven Spielberg has cited the film as one of the inspirations for his film Raiders of the Lost Ark .

Wise Blood (1979)

After filming The Man Who Would Be King, Huston took his longest break between directing films. He returned with an offbeat and somewhat controversial film based on the novel Wise Blood . Here, Huston showed his skills as a storyteller, and boldness when it came to difficult subjects such as religion.

Under the Volcano (1984)

Huston's last film set in Mexico stars Albert Finney as an alcoholic ambassador during the beginnings of World War II. Adapted from the 1947 novel by Malcolm Lowry, the film was highly praised by critics, most notably for Finney's portrayal of a desperate and depressed alcoholic. The film was a success on the independent circuit.

The Dead (1987)

John Huston's final film is an adaptation of the classic short story by James Joyce. This may have been one of Huston's most personal films, due to his citizenship in Ireland and his passion for classic literature. Huston directed most of the film from a wheelchair, as he needed an oxygen tank to breathe during the last few months of his life. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and was praised by critics. Roger Ebert eventually placed it in his Great Movies list; a section of movies he claimed to be some of the best ever made. Huston died nearly four months before the film's release date. In the 1996 RTÉ documentary John Huston: An t-Éireannach, Anjelica Huston said that "it was very important for my father to make that film." She contends that Huston did not think that it was going to be his last film, but that it was his love letter to Ireland and the Irish. [26]

As an actor

Earlier in his career, he had played bit parts in his own films, such as the unnamed rich American in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Towards the end of his career, Huston began to play more prominent roles in films by other directors. In 1963, director Otto Preminger asked if he would portray a Boston prelate in The Cardinal , and, writes author Philip Kemp, he "virtually stole the picture." [6] He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role. He had a little participation (as did many others) in 1967's Casino Royale as actor and director. He acted in Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974) as the film's master villain, and as President Teddy Roosevelt's secretary of state John Hay in The Wind and the Lion . Huston enjoyed acting and denied that he took it all that seriously. "It's a cinch," he once said, "and they pay you damn near as much as you make directing." [6]

Huston said he did not regard himself very highly as an actor, saying he was proud only of his performance in Chinatown. But he had also greatly enjoyed acting in Winter Kills . [30] He also played the Lawgiver in Battle for the Planet of the Apes .

Huston is famous to a generation of fans of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth stories as the voice of the wizard Gandalf in the Rankin/Bass animated adaptations of The Hobbit (1977) and The Return of the King (1980).

Huston played the lead in Orson Welles's last completed film, The Other Side of the Wind . In it he played an aging filmmaker named Jake Hannaford who was having great problems getting financing for his latest uncompleted film. Much of his portrayal was filmed in the spring of 1974 in Carefree, Arizona, at Southwestern Studio and a nearby mansion. But due to political and financial complications, The Other Side of the Wind was not released until the fall of 2018.

Movie themes

I miss the order that old Hollywood had. It was much easier then to get a picture made than it is today. It's become a cliché that the studio people were picture makers then, but there is a large element of truth in it. They were people who wanted to make pictures, and they knew how to make them. They weren't accountants and bookkeepers, tax consultants and efficiency experts who don't know how to make pictures, or wheeler-dealers; that element just seems to have taken over today—promoters who just want to get a part of the action rather than people who want to make good movies.

—John Huston, Playboy interview, 1985 [31]

Huston's films were insightful about human nature and human predicaments. They also sometimes included scenes or brief dialogue passages that were remarkably prescient concerning environmental issues that came to public awareness in the future, in the period starting about 1970; examples include The Misfits and The Night of the Iguana (1964). Huston spent long evenings carousing in the Nevada casinos after filming, surrounded by reporters and beautiful women, gambling, drinking, and smoking cigars.

According to Kaminsky, Huston's stories were often about "failed quests" by a group of different people. The group would persist in the face of poor odds, doomed at the outset by the circumstances created by an impossible situation. [22] However, some members of the doomed group usually survive, those who are "cool" and "intelligent", or someone who "will sacrifice everything for self-understanding and independence". Those types of characters are exemplified by Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, and Montgomery Clift in Freud.

Another type of quest often seen in Huston's films involves a pair of potential lovers trying to face a hostile world. [22] Flint adds, however, that he "bucked Hollywood's penchant for happy endings", and many of his stories ended with "love unsatisfied". [3]

Film historian James Goodwin adds that in virtually all of his films, there is some type of "heroic quest – even if it involves questionable motives or destructive alliances". In addition, the quest "is preferable to the spiritless, amoral routines of life". [7] As a result, his best films, according to Flint, "have lean, fast-paced scripts and vibrant plots and characterizations, and many of them deal ironically with vanity, avarice and unfulfilled quests". [3]

In the opinion of critics Tony Tracy and Roddy Flynn, "... what fundamentally fascinated Huston was not movies per se – that is, form – but the human condition ... and literature offered a road map for exploring that condition." In many of his films, therefore, he tried to express his interest by developing themes involving some of the "grand narratives" of the twentieth century, such as "faith, meaning, truth, freedom, psychology, colonialism, war and capitalism". [10] :3

To Jameson, all of Huston's films are adaptations, and he believes that through his films there was a "cohesive world-view, not only thematically but also stylistically; there is the Huston look". [6] The "Huston look" was also noted by screenwriter James Agee, who adds that this "look proceeds from Huston's sense of what is natural to the eye and his delicate, simple feeling for space relationships." [6] In any case, notes Flint, Huston took "uncommon care to preserve the writer's styles and values ... and sought repeatedly to transpose the interior essence of literature to film with dramatic and visual tension", as he did in Red Badge of Courage,Moby Dick, and Under the Volcano. [3]

Religion is also a theme that runs through many of Huston's films. In The Night of the Iguana, Kaminsky notes how Richard Burton, while preaching a sermon to his congregation, seems "lost, confused, his speech is gibberish", and leads his congregation to turn away from him. In other films, adds Kaminsky, religion is seen as "part of the fantasy world", that the actors must overcome to survive physically or emotionally. "These religious zealots counsel a move away from the pleasure of the world and human love, a world that Huston believes in," concludes Kaminsky. [22] Such religious themes were also seen in The Bible, and Wise Blood, for example.

To Barson, however, Huston was among the "least consistent" filmmakers, although he concludes that he was one of the "most interesting directors of the past sixty years". [15] Throughout his long career, many of his films did poorly and were criticized as a result. To a writer in 1972 he commented, "Criticism isn't a new experience for me. Pictures that are now thought of as, forgive the term, classics, weren't all that well thought of at the time they came out." [32] After an interview a few years before he died, the reporter writes that "Huston said he missed the major studio era when people savored making movies, not just money." [3]

According to Roger Ebert, in his review of Fat City , "His fascination with underdogs and losers. The characters in Huston movies hardly ever set out to achieve what they're aiming for. Sam Spade, in The Maltese Falcon, Huston's first film, ends up minus one partner and one woman he thought he could trust. Everyone is a loser in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and the gold blows back into the dust and is lost in it. Ahab, in Moby Dick. Marlon Brando's career Army officer in Reflections in a Golden Eye, even Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen – they all fall short of their plans. The African Queen does have a happy ending, but it feels tacked-on and ridiculous, and the Queen destroys itself in destroying the German steamer. So this [Fat City] is a theme we find in Huston's work, but rarely does he fit it to characters and a time and place so well as in Fat City. Maybe that's because Huston knows the territory: he was a professional boxer himself for a while, and not a very good one." [33]

Directing techniques

John has meant a great deal in my life. Nobody would have heard of me if it hadn't been for him. Working with John ten years later is very good. He's a different kind of director than the people I've been working with. He's an artist with a camera—he sees it like a painter.

Marilyn Monroe [12] :495

George Stevens, Jr. notes that while many directors rely on post-production editing to shape their final work, Huston instead created his films while they were being shot: "I don't even know the editor of my films most of the time," Huston said. [14] Actor Michael Caine also observed the same technique: "Most directors don't know what they want so they shoot everything they can think of — they use the camera like a machine gun. John uses it like a sniper." [14] Danny Huston confirmed as much when he recalled what Huston said to him as the then-youngster was fooling around with a Kodak Super 8: "and I was shooting all these various things. He said, 'Stop it, stop doing that.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'When you go from left to right and right to left, what do you do?' So I looked from left to right and right to left. I said, 'I give up. What do I do?' He said, 'You blink. That's a cut.'" [34]

Film writer Peter Flint pointed out other benefits to Huston's style: "He shot economically, eschewing the many protective shots favored by timid directors, and edited cerebrally so that financial backers would have trouble trying to cut scenes." Huston shot most of his films on location, working "intensely" six days a week, and "on Sundays, played equally intense poker with the cast and crew." [3]

When asked how he envisions his films while directing and what his goals are, Huston replied:

To me the ideal film — which I've never succeeded in making — would be as though the reel were behind one's eyes and you were projecting it yourself, seeing what you wish to see. This has a great deal in common with thought processes ... That's why I think the camera is an eye as well as a mind. Everything we do with the camera has physiological and mental significance.

According to Kaminsky, much of Huston's vision probably came from his early experience as a painter on the streets of Paris. While there, he studied art and worked at it for a year and a half. Huston continued painting as a hobby for most of his life. Kaminsky also notes that most of Huston's films "reflected this prime interest in the image, the moving portrait and the use of color." [22] Huston explored the use of "stylistic framing", especially well-planned close-ups, in much of his directing. In his first film, The Maltese Falcon, for instance, Huston sketched out all of his scenes beforehand, "like canvases of paintings". [22] Anjelica Huston recalled that even for his subsequent films, he sketched storyboards "constantly... it was a form of study, and my father was a painter, a very good one... there was an extremely developed sensory quality about my father, he didn't miss a trick." [10] :20

Personal life and death

To producer George Stevens, Jr., Huston symbolized "intellect, charm and physical grace" within the film industry. He adds, "He was the most charismatic of the directors I knew, speaking with a soothing, melodic voice that was often mimicked, but was unique to him." [14]

While driving drunk on Sunset Boulevard on September 25, 1933, Huston struck and killed a pedestrian, a Brazilian dancer named Tosca Roulien, wife of Raul Roulien. The resulting media frenzy forced Huston to retreat temporarily from public performance and instead work as a screenwriter. A subsequent inquest absolved Huston of any blame for the accident. Prior to this accident - also while driving drunk - Huston crashed into a parked car injuring his passenger Zita Johann. Johann suffered head trauma as she was thrown through the windshield. Huston was charged with driving while intoxicated. [35]

Huston loved the outdoors, especially hunting while living in Ireland. Among his life's adventures before becoming a Hollywood filmmaker, he had been an amateur boxer, reporter, short-story writer, portrait artist in Paris, a cavalry rider in Mexico, and a documentary filmmaker during World War II. Besides sports and adventure, he enjoyed hard liquor and relationships with women. Stevens describes him as someone who "lived life to its fullest". [14] Barson even suggests that Huston's "flamboyant life" as a rebel would possibly make for "an even more engaging tale than most of his movies". [15]

His daughter, Anjelica Huston, noted that he did not like Hollywood, and "especially despised Beverly Hills ... he thought it was just fake from the ground up. He didn't like any of that; he was not intrigued or attracted by it." She noted that, in contrast, "he liked to be in the wild places; he liked animals as much as he liked people." [10] :20

It has been suggested that John Huston was an atheist, but his religious beliefs are hard to determine. He claimed that he had no orthodox religion. [9] :234 His daughter, Anjelica, was raised Roman Catholic. [36]

Huston married five times. His wives were:

  1. Dorothy Harvey (1906–1982) — This youthful marriage ended after seven years (October 17, 1926 – January 10, 1933). [37]
  2. Lesley Black  — (m. 1937; div. 1945) — During his marriage to Black he embarked on an affair with a married New York socialite, Marietta FitzGerald. While her lawyer husband was helping the war effort, the pair were once rumoured to have made love so vigorously they broke a friend's bed. [38]
  3. Evelyn Keyes  (1916–2008) – (m. 1946; div. 1950) – They adopted a son Pablo, who John discovered orphaned in Mexico.
  4. Enrica Soma  (1929–1969) – (m. 1950; died 1969) - Huston & Soma were married until she died at age 39 in a car accident. They had two children: Walter Antony "Tony" Huston (b. 1950), screenwriter and attorney, father of actor Jack Huston; and a daughter, actress Anjelica Huston (b. 1951). During the marriage, Huston fathered a son, Danny Huston (b. 1962), with author Zoe Sallis. Danny became an actor. Soma also had a child from an extramarital affair during their marriage. Her daughter, Allegra Huston (b. 1964), is the child of John Julius Norwich. After Soma died at the age of 39, Huston treated the girl as one of his own children.
  5. Celeste Shane – (m. 1972; div. 1977) – In his autobiography, An Open Book, Huston refers to her as a "crocodile", and says that if he had his life to do over, he would not have married a fifth time.

His friends included George Hodel, Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway. Humphrey Bogart was one of his best friends, and Huston delivered the eulogy at his funeral.

Grave of John Huston and his mother, Rhea, at Hollywood Forever Huston-grave.jpg
Grave of John Huston and his mother, Rhea, at Hollywood Forever

Huston visited Ireland in 1951 and stayed at Luggala, County Wicklow, the home of Garech Browne, a member of the Guinness family. He visited Ireland several times afterwards and on one of these visits, he purchased and restored a Georgian home, St Clerans, of Craughwell, County Galway. Between 1960 and 1971 he served as Master of Fox Hounds (MFH) of the County Galway Hunt, whose kennels are at Craughwell. He renounced his U.S. citizenship and became an Irish citizen in 1964. [39] [40] His daughter Anjelica attended school in Ireland at Kylemore Abbey for a number of years. A film school is now dedicated to him on the NUI Galway campus.

Huston was an accomplished painter who wrote in his autobiography, "Nothing has played a more important role in my life". As a young man, he studied at the Smith School of Art in Los Angeles but dropped out within a few months. He later studied at the Art Students League of New York. He painted throughout his life and had studios in each of his homes. He had owned a wide collection of art, including a notable collection of Pre-Columbian art. [41]

A heavy smoker, Huston was diagnosed with emphysema in 1978. By the last year of his life he could not breathe for more than twenty minutes without needing oxygen. [42] He died on August 28, 1987, in his rented home in Middletown, Rhode Island, from pneumonia as a complication of lung disease, aged 81. [43] [44] Huston is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood with his mother.


The moving image collection of John Huston is held at the Academy Film Archive. The film material at the Academy Film Archive is complemented by production files, photographs, and personal correspondence found in the John Huston papers, 1932–1981, at the academy's Margaret Herrick Library. [45] The film archive preserved several of John Huston's home movies in 2001. [46]


YearTitleFunctioned asStarringNotes
1941 The Maltese Falcon YesYesNo Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet
1942 In This Our Life YesNoNo Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, George Brent, Dennis Morgan, Charles Coburn
Across the Pacific YesNoNoHumphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Kam Tong, Victor Sen Yung Replaced for the last two weeks of filming by Vincent Sherman
1948 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre YesYesNoHumphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett, Barton MacLane
Key Largo YesYesNoHumphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor Co-writer with Richard Brooks
1949 We Were Strangers YesYesYes Jennifer Jones, John Garfield, Pedro Armendáriz, Gilbert Roland, Ramon Novarro Co-writer with Peter Viertel
1950 The Asphalt Jungle YesYesYes Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe Co-writer with Ben Maddow
1951 The Red Badge of Courage YesYesNo Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, Douglas Dick, Andy Devine, Royal Dano Co-writer with Albert Band
The African Queen YesYesYesHumphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel Co-writer with James Agee
1952 Moulin Rouge YesYesYes José Ferrer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Colette Marchand, Suzanne Flon, Katherine Kath Co-writer with Anthony Veiller
1953 Beat the Devil YesYesNo Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre Co-writer with Truman Capote
1956 Moby Dick YesYesNo Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Leo Genn, James Robertson Justice, Harry Andrews Co-writer with Ray Bradbury
1957 Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison YesYesYes Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum Co-writer with John Lee Mahin
1958 The Barbarian and the Geisha YesNoNo John Wayne, Eiko Ando, Sam Jaffe, So Yamamura
The Roots of Heaven YesNoNo Errol Flynn, Juliette Gréco, Trevor Howard, Eddie Albert, Orson Welles
1960 The Unforgiven YesNoNo Burt Lancaster, Audrey Hepburn, Audie Murphy, John Saxon, Charles Bickford
1961 The Misfits YesNoYes Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach
1962 Freud: The Secret Passion YesNoNoMontgomery Clift, Susannah York, Larry Parks, Susan Kohner, David McCallum
1963 The List of Adrian Messenger YesNoNo George C. Scott, Kirk Douglas, Dana Wynter, Clive Brook, Gladys Cooper
1964 The Night of the Iguana YesYesNo Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Sue Lyon, Grayson Hall Co-writer with Anthony Veiller
1966 The Bible: In the Beginning... YesNoNo Richard Harris, Stephen Boyd, George C. Scott, Ava Gardner, Peter O'Toole
1967 Reflections in a Golden Eye YesNoYes Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Brian Keith, Julie Harris, Robert Forster
Casino Royale YesNoNo Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Joanna Pettet, Orson Welles Co-director with Ken Hughes, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish & Val Guest
1969 Sinful Davey YesNoYes John Hurt, Pamela Franklin, Nigel Davenport, Ronald Fraser, Robert Morley
A Walk with Love and Death YesNoYes Anjelica Huston, Assi Dayan, Anthony Higgins, John Hallam, Robert Lang
1970 The Kremlin Letter YesYesYes Patrick O'Neal, Richard Boone, Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Orson Welles Co-writer with Gladys Hill
1972 Fat City YesNoYes Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark, Nicholas Colasanto
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean YesNoNo Paul Newman, Jacqueline Bisset, Tab Hunter, Stacy Keach, Roddy McDowall
1973 The Mackintosh Man YesNoYesPaul Newman, Dominique Sanda, James Mason, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen
1975 The Man Who Would Be King YesYesNo Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Saeed Jaffrey, Shakira Caine Co-writer with Gladys Hill
1976 Independence YesNoNo Eli Wallach, William Atherton, Pat Hingle, Anne Jackson, Ken Howard Short film
1979 Wise Blood YesNoNo Brad Dourif, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Dan Shor, Amy Wright
1980 Phobia YesNoNo Paul Michael Glaser, Susan Hogan, John Colicos, Patricia Collins, Alexandra Stewart
1981 Escape to Victory YesNoNo Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Max von Sydow, Pelé, Bobby Moore
Let There Be Light YesNoNoDocumentary, uncredited; completed 1946-48
1982 Annie YesNoNo Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry, Aileen Quinn
1984 Under the Volcano YesNoNoAlbert Finney, Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Andrews, Ignacio López Tarso, Katy Jurado
1985 Prizzi's Honor YesNoNo Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, Anjelica Huston, Robert Loggia, William Hickey
1987 The Dead YesNoNoAnjelica Huston, Donal McCann, Helena Carroll, Dan O'Herlihy, Colm Meaney

As screenwriter only

1930 The Storm William Wyler Co-writer with Charles Logue, Langdon McCormick, Tom Reed & Wells Root
1931 A House Divided Co-writer with John B. Clymer, Olive Edens & Dale Van Every
1932 Murders in the Rue Morgue Robert Florey Co-writer with Tom Reed & Dale Van Every
Law and Order Edward L. Cahn Co-writer with Tom Reed & Richard Schayer
1935 Death Drives Through Co-writer with Katherine Strueby & Gordon Wellesley
It Happened in Paris Robert Wyler Co-writer with Katherine Strueby & H. F. Maltby
1938 The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse Anatole Litvak Co-writer with John Wexley
Jezebel William WylerCo-writer with Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel & Robert Buckner
1939 Juarez William Dieterle Co-writer with Aeneas MacKenzie & Wolfgang Reinhardt
1940 Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet Co-writer with Norman Burnstine & Heinz Herald
1941 High Sierra Raoul Walsh Co-writer with W. R. Burnett
Sergeant York Howard Hawks Co-writer with Abem Finkel, Harry Chandler & Howard Koch
1946 The Killers Robert Siodmak Uncredited rewrites
Three Strangers Jean Negulesco Co-writer with Howard Koch
The Stranger Orson Welles Uncredited rewrites [11]
1988 Mr. North Danny Huston Co-writer with Janet Roach & James Costigan

As an actor

1948 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Man in White SuitUncredited
1949 We Were Strangers Señor Muñoz
1956 Moby Dick Ship's Lookout
1962 Freud: The Secret Passion Narrator (voice)
The List of Adrian Messenger Lord Ashton
1963 The Cardinal Cardinal Lawrence Glennon
1966 The Bible: In the Beginning Noah / God / Narrator (voice)
The Legend of Marilyn Monroe Narrator (voice)
1967 Casino Royale M
1968 Candy Dr. Arnold Dunlap
1969 De Sade The Abbe
A Walk with Love and Death Robert the Elder
1970 The Kremlin Letter Admiral
Myra Breckinridge Buck Loner
1971 The Bridge in the Jungle Sleigh
The Deserter General Miles
Man in the Wilderness Captain Henry
1972 The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean Grizzly Adams
1973 Battle for the Planet of the Apes The Lawgiver
1974 Chinatown Noah Cross
1975 Breakout Harris Wagner
The Wind and the Lion Secretary of State John Hay
1976 Sherlock Holmes in New York Professor Moriarty
1977 The Rhinemann Exchange Ambassador Henderson GranvilleTV miniseries
Tentacles Ned Turner
The Hobbit Gandalf (voice)
Angela Hogan
1978 The Greatest Battle Sean O'Hara
The Bermuda Triangle Edward Marvin
The Word Nathan RandallTV miniseries
1979 The Visitor Jerzy Colsowicz
Winter Kills Pa Kegan
Wise Blood Grandfather
Jaguar Lives! Ralph Richards
1980 The Return of the King Gandalf (voice)TV movie
Head On Clarke Hill
1982 Cannery Row Narrator (voice)
Annie Actor on RadioUncredited
1983 Lovesick Larry Geller, M.D.
A Minor MiracleFather Cardenas
1984 Epic Narrator (voice)US version only
1985 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Carlos / Narrator (voice)TV series; Episode: "Pilot"
The Black Cauldron Narrator (voice)
1986 Momo Meister Hora
1987Mister Corbett's Ghost The Collector TV movie
2018 The Other Side of the Wind Jake HannafordFilmed between 1974 and 1975

Awards and honors

Statue of Huston, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico JohnHustoninPV.jpg
Statue of Huston, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Huston received 15 Oscar nominations in the course of his career and is the oldest person ever to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar when, at 79 years old, he was nominated for Prizzi's Honor (1985). He won two Oscars, for directing and writing the screenplay for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre . Huston also won a Golden Globe for that film. He received the Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1983, [47] and the Career Achievement Award from the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures in 1984. [48]

He also has the unique distinction of directing both his father Walter and his daughter Anjelica in Oscar-winning performances (in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Prizzi's Honor , respectively), making the Hustons the first family to have three generations of Academy Award winners. He also directed her in Sinful Davey in 1969. [49]

In addition, he also directed 13 other actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Sydney Greenstreet, Claire Trevor, Sam Jaffe, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, José Ferrer, Colette Marchand, Deborah Kerr, Grayson Hall, Susan Tyrrell, Albert Finney, Jack Nicholson and William Hickey.

In 1960, Huston was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to motion pictures.

In 1965, Huston received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the Writers Guild of America.

In 1981, his film Escape to Victory was nominated for the Golden Prize at the 12th Moscow International Film Festival. [50]

A statue of Huston, sitting in his director's chair, stands in Plaza John Huston in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. [51] [52]

Major association awards

Academy Awards

1941 Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet Best Writing, Original Screenplay Nominated
1942 The Maltese Falcon Best Writing, Screenplay Nominated
Sergeant York Best Writing, Original Screenplay Nominated
1949 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Best Director Won
Best Writing, Screenplay Won
1951 The Asphalt Jungle Best Director Nominated
Best Writing, Screenplay Nominated
1952 The African Queen Best Director Nominated
Best Writing, Screenplay Nominated
1953 Moulin Rouge Best Director Nominated
1958 Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Nominated
1964 The Cardinal Best Supporting Actor Nominated
1976 The Man Who Would Be King Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material Nominated
1986 Prizzi's Honor Best Director Nominated

Golden Globes

1949 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Best Director Won
1951 The Asphalt Jungle Best Director Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
1963 Freud Best Director Nominated
1964 The Cardinal Best Supporting Actor Won
1965 The Night of the Iguana Best Director Nominated
1975 Chinatown Best Supporting Actor Nominated
1986 Prizzi's Honor Best Director Won

BAFTA Awards

1975 Chinatown Best Supporting Actor Nominated
1980 BAFTA Fellowship Won

Independent Spirit Awards

1988 The Dead Best Director Won

Critics awards

1948 New York Film Critics Circle The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Best Director Won
National Board of Review Best Screenplay Won
1950 New York Film Critics Circle The Asphalt Jungle Best Director Nominated
National Board of Review Best Director Won
1952 New York Film Critics Circle The African Queen Best Director Nominated
1956Moby Dick Best Director Won
Best Screenplay Nominated
National Board of Review Best Director Won
1974Kansas City Film Critics CircleChinatownBest Supporting ActorWon
1979 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Career Achievement AwardWon
1984 National Board of Review Career Achievement AwardWon
1985 New York Film Critics Circle Prizzi's Honor Best Director Won
1986 Boston Society of Film Critics Best Director Won
National Society of Film Critics Best Director Won
1987 New York Film Critics Circle The Dead Best Director Nominated
1988 National Society of Film Critics Best Director Nominated
1989 French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Best Foreign FilmWon
London Film Critics' Circle Director of the Year Won

Film festivals

1948 Venice Film Festival The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Grand International Award Nominated
1950The Asphalt Jungle Golden Lion Nominated
1953Moulin Rouge Golden Lion Nominated
Silver Lion Won
1963 Berlin International Film Festival Freud Golden Bear Nominated
1979 Chicago International Film Festival Wise BloodGold HugoNominated
San Sebastián International Film Festival Golden Shell Nominated
1981 Moscow International Film Festival VictoryGolden PrizeNominated
1984 Cannes Film Festival Under the Volcano Palme d’Or Nominated
1985 Venice Film Festival Prizzi's Honor Golden Lion Nominated
Golden CiakWon
Special Lion for the Overall WorkWon
1987 Tokyo International Film Festival The DeadTokyo Grand PrixNominated
Special Achievement AwardWon

Guild awards

1949 Writers Guild of America The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Best Written American Drama Nominated
Best Written Western Won
Key Largo Best Written American Drama Nominated
1951 Directors Guild of America The Asphalt Jungle Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated
Writers Guild of America The Robert Meltzer AwardNominated
Best Written American Drama Nominated
1953Moulin Rouge Best Written Drama Nominated
1957 Directors Guild of America Moby Dick Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated
1958Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated
Writers Guild of America Best Written Drama Nominated
1962 Directors Guild of America The Misfits Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated
1963Freud Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated
1964 Writers Guild of America Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement Won
1965 Directors Guild of America The Night of the Iguana Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated
Writers Guild of America Best Written Drama Nominated
1976The Man Who Would Be King Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Nominated
1983 Directors Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award – Feature Film Won
1986Prizzi's Honor Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated

Other awards

1957 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Moby DickBest Foreign FilmWon
1966 Accademia del Cinema Italiano The Bible Best Foreign Director Won
1979 The Recording Academy The Hobbit Best Recording for Children Nominated
1981 Society of Camera Operators Governors' AwardWon
1983 Golden Raspberry Award Foundation Annie Worst Director Nominated
American Film Institute Life Achievement Award Won
1986 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Prizzi's HonorBest Foreign DirectorNominated
Accademia del Cinema Italiano Best Foreign Director Nominated
1988 Cahiers du Cinéma The Dead Annual Top 10 Lists 3rd Place
Accademia del Cinema Italiano Best Foreign Director Nominated
Best Foreign Film Nominated
1989 Bodil Awards The Dead Bodil Award for Best Non-European Film Won

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Humphrey DeForest Bogart, nicknamed Bogie, was an American film and stage actor. His performances in Classical Hollywood cinema films made him an American cultural icon. In 1999, the American Film Institute selected Bogart as the greatest male star of classic American cinema.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Al Pacino</span> American actor (born 1940)

Alfredo James Pacino is an American actor. Considered one of the most influential actors of the 20th century, he has received numerous accolades: including an Academy Award, two Tony Awards, and two Primetime Emmy Awards, making him one of the few performers to have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting. He has also been honored with the AFI Life Achievement Award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and the National Medal of Arts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Billy Wilder</span> Austrian filmmaker (1906–2002)

Billy Wilder was an Austrian-American filmmaker. His career in Hollywood spanned five decades, and he is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Classic Hollywood cinema. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director eight times, winning twice, and for a screenplay Academy Award 13 times, winning three times.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Wyler</span> German-born American film director, producer and screenwriter (1902–1981)

William Wyler was a Swiss-German-American film director and producer who won the Academy Award for Best Director three times, those being for Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Ben-Hur (1959), all of which also won for Best Picture. In total, he holds a record twelve nominations for the Academy Award for Best Director.

<i>Prizzis Honor</i> 1985 film by John Huston

Prizzi's Honor is a 1985 American black comedy crime film directed by John Huston, starring Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner as two highly-skilled mob assassins who, after falling in love, are hired to kill each other. The screenplay co-written by Richard Condon is based on his 1982 novel of the same name. The film's supporting cast includes Anjelica Huston, Robert Loggia, John Randolph, CCH Pounder, Lawrence Tierney, and William Hickey. Stanley Tucci appears in a minor role in his film debut. It was the last of John Huston's films to be released during his lifetime.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Walter Huston</span> Canadian actor and singer

Walter Thomas Huston was a Canadian actor and singer. Huston won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, directed by his son John Huston. He is the patriarch of the four generations of the Huston acting family, including his son John, grandchildren Anjelica Huston, Danny Huston, Allegra Huston, and great-grandchild Jack Huston. The family has produced three generations of Academy Award winners: Walter, his son John, and granddaughter Anjelica.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anjelica Huston</span> American actress

Anjelica Huston is an American actress. She is the daughter of director John Huston and granddaughter of actor Walter Huston. After reluctantly making her big screen debut in her father's A Walk with Love and Death (1969), Huston moved from London to New York City, where she worked as a model throughout the 1970s. She decided to actively pursue acting in the early 1980s, and, subsequently, had her breakthrough with her performance in Prizzi's Honor (1985), also directed by her father, for which she became the third generation of her family to receive an Academy Award, when she won Best Supporting Actress, joining both John and Walter Huston in this recognition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lauren Bacall</span> American actress (1924–2014)

Lauren Bacall was an American actress. She was named the 20th-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema by the American Film Institute and received an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2009 in recognition of her contribution to the Golden Age of motion pictures. She was known initially for her alluring, sultry presence and her distinctive, husky voice. Bacall was one of the last surviving major stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.

<i>The Dead</i> (1987 film) 1987 film by John Huston

The Dead is a 1987 drama film directed by John Huston, written by his son Tony Huston, and starring his daughter Anjelica Huston. It is an adaptation of the short story of the same name by James Joyce, which was first published in 1914 as the last story in Dubliners. An international co-production between the United Kingdom, the United States, and West Germany, the film was Huston's last as director, and it was released several months after his death.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Brooks</span> American screenwriter, film director and producer (1912–1992)

Richard Brooks was an American screenwriter, film director, novelist and film producer. Nominated for eight Oscars in his career, he was best known for Blackboard Jungle (1955), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Elmer Gantry, In Cold Blood (1967) and Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977).

<i>Moby Dick</i> (1956 film) 1956 film by John Huston

Moby Dick is a 1956 color film adaptation of Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick. It was directed by John Huston with a screenplay by Huston and Ray Bradbury. The film starred Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, and Leo Genn.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Danny Huston</span> American actor, director and writer

Daniel Sallis Huston is an Italian-born American actor and film director. A member of the Huston family of filmmakers, he is the son of director John Huston and the half-brother of actress Anjelica Huston.

<i>The Maltese Falcon</i> (1941 film) 1941 film by John Huston

The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 American film noir written and directed by John Huston in his directorial debut, based on the 1930 novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett and indebted to the 1931 movie of the same name. It stars Humphrey Bogart as private investigator Sam Spade and Mary Astor as his femme fatale client. Gladys George, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet co-star, with the last appearing in his film debut. The story follows a San Francisco private detective and his dealings with three unscrupulous adventurers, all of whom are competing to obtain a jewel-encrusted falcon statuette.

The 21st Academy Awards were held on March 24, 1949, honoring the films of 1948. The ceremony was moved from the Shrine Auditorium to the Academy's own theater, primarily because the major Hollywood studios had withdrawn their financial support in order to address rumors that they had been trying to influence voters. This year marked the first time a non-Hollywood production won Best Picture, and the first time an individual (Olivier) directed himself in an Oscar-winning performance.

<i>The Treasure of the Sierra Madre</i> (film) 1948 film

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a 1948 American Western film written and directed by John Huston. It is an adaptation of B. Traven's 1927 novel of the same name, set in 1925, and follows two downtrodden men who join forces with a grizzled old prospector (Walter Huston, the director's father), in searching for gold in Mexico.

<i>A Walk with Love and Death</i> 1969 film directed by John Huston

A Walk with Love and Death is a 1969 American adventure drama historical romance war film directed by John Huston and starring Anjelica Huston and Assi Dayan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jack Nicholson</span> American actor and filmmaker (born 1937)

John Joseph Nicholson is an American retired actor and filmmaker. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time. In many of his films, he played rebels against the social structure. He received numerous accolades throughout his career which spanned over five decades, including three Academy Awards.

<i>The Addams Family</i> (1991 film) 1991 film by Barry Sonnenfeld

The Addams Family is a 1991 American supernatural black comedy film based on the characters from the cartoon created by cartoonist Charles Addams and the 1964 TV series produced by David Levy. Directed by former cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld in his screen directing debut, the film stars Anjelica Huston, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Morticia Addams, Raul Julia as Gomez Addams, and Christopher Lloyd as Fester Addams. The film focuses on a bizarre, macabre, aristocratic family who reconnect with what they believe to be a long-lost relative, Gomez's brother Fester Addams.

Enrica Georgia Soma was an American socialite, model, and prima ballerina. She was also the wife of director John Huston and mother of their three children.

Walter Anthony Huston is an American actor, writer, and assistant director.


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