The struggle for self-determination, the struggle for what a character wants his life to be…I look for characters who feel strongly enough about something not to be concerned with the prevailing odds, but to struggle against those odds. (1)
The critical reputation of Robert Aldrich, scion of the Eastern establishment and graduate of the best finishing schools in Hollywood, burst out of Europe with la politique des auteurs. As early as 1957, Aldrich became No. 7 of the “Les Grands Créateurs du Cinéma” series of director monographs published by the Belgian Club du Livre du Cinéma, which followed studies of Robert Bresson, John Huston, Jean Renoir, Vittorio De Sica, Luis Buñuel, and Marcel Carné. This was certainly heady company for a new American director, not yet forty years old. Aldrich’s relatives included politicians and bankers – the Rockefellers were both – but the first and last favor he asked from any of them was when an uncle at Chase Bank helped him get his first job as a production clerk at RKO. From there he progressed through the ranks of assistant directors and graduated to directing television in the early 1950s. Although a lifelong liberal and the co-worker of many blacklistees, Aldrich’s only brief period as persona non grata in Hollywood was because of a disagreement with Harry Cohn on the Columbia project The Garment Jungle (1957). Aldrich was active in the Directors Guild of America throughout his career and ultimately served as its president, overseeing the negotiation of a break-through contract in terms of creative rights in 1978. Ironically for a director seldom regarded as an artist by American critics, Aldrich’s union activism on behalf of directors’ prerogatives alienated studio heads and cost him work at the end of his career.
If there is a core to Aldrich’s worldview as expressed over the course of thirty feature films, it would simply be the oft-confessed proclivity for “turning things upside down.” Aldrich conforms to the traditional narrative requirements of heroes and villains, but within that he often skirts the issue of good and evil in favor of personal codes and moralities. “He didn’t divide the world up into good and evil,” Abraham Polonsky said of Aldrich, “he didn’t see it that simply. He found himself as someone who knew that his idea of himself was why he existed; and that his self-esteem and respect for himself could never be jeopardized by any compromise that involved that deep portion of himself.” (2)
Perhaps the best example of this process is Aldrich’s adaptation of Kiss Me Deadly (1955). A quest for the Grail, in the sense that social historian Mike Davis describes as “that great anti-myth usually known as noir,” (3) Kiss Me Deadly is equally what Borde and Chaumeton call a “dark and fascinating close” (4) to the noir era, whose main character is an “anti-Galahad” in search of his “great whatsit.” This tension between myth and anti-myth, between hero and anti-hero, is the key to Aldrich’s work. Hammer is a radically different character than many who preceded and followed him in Aldrich’s work, equally unlike the defiant warrior Massai in Apache (1954) and the tormented Charlie Castle in The Big Knife (1955). But all these characters inhabit the same cinematic milieu, a world where men’s greed for land, money and power challenge the individual to survive. “I guess you have a weakness for a certain kind of character,” Aldrich readily admitted; “It’s the same character in a number of pictures that keeps reappearing, characters that are bigger than life, that find their own integrity in doing what they do the way they do it, even if it causes their own deaths.” (5) Although they are culturally quite different, both Massai and Charlie Castle appealed to Aldrich because of their idealistic struggle. As supporting characters remark, Massai cannot give up his fight and Charlie cannot sustain his; both are fatally imperiled by “doing what they do the way they do it.” From Aldrich’s earliest work, cynicism and idealism combined to create violent, angst-ridden outbursts of existential despair. Little wonder that such a thematic outlook should give Aldrich a cutting edge status with European observers. As a filmmaker, Aldrich always came straight on, usually with more visual style than Ray, more raw energy than Fuller, and more social consciousness than Losey.
Aldrich’s films concentrate on the most basic situation: man attempting to survive in a hostile universe. Like most filmmakers, Aldrich uses and reuses such general devices as narrative tension between subjective and objective viewpoints and the frustration or fulfillment of the audience’s genre expectations. In order to survive, certain Aldrich heroes can be more consistently vicious, self-centered and cynical than any villain. Christina’s assessment of Hammer – “You’re the kind of person that has only one true love: you” – in Kiss Me Deadly is echoed in the admission by Zarkan in The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968): “I’m not sick, I’m in love…with me.” Others like Massai in Apache, Joe Costa in Attack! (1956), and Phil Gaines in Hustle (1975) are driven by an irreducible and essentially idealistic personal code. In following it, their behavior becomes even more extreme than either Hammer’s or Zarkan’s. Characters who are in narrative terms antagonists, like Joe Erin in Vera Cruz (1954) and Karl Wirtz in Ten Seconds to Hell (1959), reflect on and try to explain their compulsive destructiveness by telling essentially the same story: learning from and eventually murdering a father figure who had taught them to look out for number one.
In films such as these, the presence of a ruthless pragmatism in one of the two principals would normally promise a clear-cut alignment into hero and villain, into Erin versus Ben Trane, Wirtz versus Eric Koertner, black versus white. The actual result is ambiguous. Each film is less than absolute in its definition of a moral man yet is absolute in its definition of morality. In Vera Cruz and Ten Seconds to Hell, the protagonist does finally defeat the antagonist; but the triumph is more societal than personal. In The Flight of the Phoenix (1966) and Too Late the Hero (1970), the moral distinctions among the members of a group are so finely drawn that the chance or haphazard manner deciding which of them live and which die constitutes the pervasive irony of the films. As Major Reisman counsels the prisoner Wladislaw early in The Dirty Dozen (1967), innocence or guilt, reward or condemnation, are purely matters of circumstance. “You only made one mistake,” he says, pausing by the cell door and grinning back at the man sentenced to death, “you let somebody see you do it.”
In this sense, Aldrich is a rigorous determinist. His fables about bands of outsiders remain remarkably consistent across generic lines. Attack!, Ten Seconds to Hell, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, Too Late the Hero, Ulzana’s Raid (1972), The Longest Yard (1974), and Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977), adventure films, war films, and Westerns – all isolate a group of men in a specific, self-contained and threatening universe. The core plots are diverse: soldiers behind enemy lines; a bomb disposal unit in post-World War II Berlin; passengers on a plane down in the Sahara; inmates of a prison; ex-convicts in a missile silo. Yet in each situation, the characters undergo the same, inexorable moral reduction. And often both the idealists and the cynics – the social extremists – perish.
Usually, these conflicts are between men and nature and between men and other men. All three war films as well as The Flight of the Phoenix and Ulzana’s Raid have effectively no women characters at all. In The Longest Yard and The Choirboys (1977), the restricted perspective of convicts and cops respectively reduces women to objects, and unattractive ones at that. In the few films that do focus entirely on them, The Killing of Sister George (1968), What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) or Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), many of the women are deviate or psychotic. Notably, Baby Jane and Sister George are performers, personas behind which some women retreat in a male-dominated society. Even more notably, Frennessey in World for Ransom (1954) and the title character in The Legend of Lylah Clare are also performers and bisexuals. For both, Lesbianism is an alternative to the men who love them obsessively and want desperately to control their behavior. The societal assumptions which make relationships between men and women so difficult are most clearly addressed – and left unresolved – in Hustle. The man is too alienated to make a commitment; the woman is forced to separate sex from love by working as a prostitute. For Aldrich, the gender of his protagonists was less important than their struggle: a film is only “‘masculine’ in the sense that it was done by a majority of masculine players. In theory, it was supposed to be metaphorical. In practice, it wasn’t that important.” (6) Beyond Westerns and war films, Aldrich’s films have a generic breadth matched by few other filmmakers. Aldrich’s work ranges widely from the self-described “classy soap opera” Autumn Leaves (1956) to the “sex and sand epic” Sodom and Gomorrah (1963) to the “desperately important” political thriller Twilight’s Last Gleaming. In between, there are a few comedies and several noir films, as well as the occasional psychological melodrama and the neo-Gothic. There are prison pictures, cop pictures, sports pictures, and pictures about people who make pictures. The interior consistency of theme and style in Aldrich’s films resists classification according to genre. Erin and Wirtz recount their twisted, nearly identical histories in the context of an adventure Western and a return-from-the-war melodrama respectively. Zarkan is a retired film director, Hammer is a private detective: yet their self-love, their egocentric disdain for the lives and feelings of others, and their inability to rectify this attitude even when presented with second chances are traits which mark them as sibling personalities from radically different genre backgrounds.
Aldrich’s visualization also transcends the conventions of genre. Strong side lighting, the camera placed in an unusually high or low position, foreground clutter, and staging in depth appear as frequently in his Westerns, war pictures, neo-Gothic thrillers, even in his television work, not just where they might be expected in a ’50s film noir like Kiss Me Deadly or the richly colored frames of a Hollywood melodrama like The Legend of Lylah Clare. Transmuting and expressing in sensory terms the physical and emotional make-up of the situation, of the characters caught in these frames, remains the basic dynamic of an Aldrich picture regardless of genre. Aldrich’s camera may capture a figure crouching behind a lamp, like Charlie Castle in The Big Knife, or lurking at the edge of a pool of light, like Lily Carver in Kiss Me Deadly. Grimacing faces or dark objects will suddenly intrude into the foreground of medium long shots, disturbing previously flaccid compositions, possibly in anticipation of a violent turn in plot events. Recurring high angle medium shots peer down from behind ceiling ventilators in every type of film, World for Ransom, The Angry Hills (1959), Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and Too Late The Hero, so that the dark blades slowly rotating above the characters’ heads become an ominous shorthand for the tension whirring incessantly inside them. Conversely, the hissing sound of man’s life leaking out in Kiss Me Deadly or a postmortem burst of gunfire in Attack! become objective correlatives to the dissipation of the audience’s tension. In a subjective manner, the characters sometimes “choose” to situate themselves within the frame. For the guilt-ridden Charles Castle, the lamps about the room have a symbolic value which unconsciously draw him back to them again and again. Or characters may be placed objectively: Lily Carver at the edge of the light in Kiss Me Deadly is simultaneously in a figurative darkness appropriate to her mental state.
Even an off-beat, particular icon, such as a ceiling fan, can become a variable metaphor. In World for Ransom the slowly turning overhead blades in the room where Mike Callahan is interrogated by an underworld figure are not only a distracting influence at the frame’s center but cast multiple shadows on the surrounding walls. This de-focuses the reading of the shot away from the human figures to create a visual confusion equivalent to Callahan’s mixed emotions. In The Angry Hills, a crane down to eye level from an opening position behind a similar fan diminishes the object’s importance as a distraction and suggests an unwinding, an impending détente rather than a knotting up of plot events. In both these pictures, Aldrich adapts the photographic styles of film noir to make specific visual statements about characters and events. In Callahan’s initial movements through the somber streets, alleys, and stairwells of Singapore, angle and editing shift the wedges of light and the dim boundaries of narrow passageways as if he were traveling through a dark maze, anticipating for the audience the uncertainty of his actual, emotional condition. From early films as narratively diverse as Attack!, Autumn Leaves and The Angry Hills, Aldrich’s characteristic low light and side light cast long shadows on interior walls and floors and form rectangular blocks to give the frame a severe, constricting geometry which can symbolise the director’s moral determinism.
While Aldrich’s definition of milieu may be superficially realist – must be so, in fact, as the overall context of the films themselves is superficially realist – selection of detail is the most readily applicable method by which figurative meaning may be injected. In The Legend of Lylah Clare, the contrast between Barney Sheean’s office and Lewis Zarkan’s home, between autographed black and white photos of various stars on the walls and lustrous oil paintings of Lylah, between evenly distributed fluorescent light on flat white surfaces and candelabras glistening off the broken texture of wood paneling – all this is not merely a contrast of setting, but of sensibility as well. Both are established within a stylised conception of “producer’s office” and “director’s home” that is ambivalent, being both serious and satirical, descriptive and analytical. Subject/object split when viewing reality, genre preconceptions, and sensory input are all in play. Decor and camera angle inform character, character affects angle and decor; and the recognition of type reconciles or estranges the audience to the aptness or inaptness of these interactions.
If there is an indisputable cynicism in Aldrich’s presentation of figures like Zarkan and Sheean, it is bifocal, acting as both authorial opinion and authorial conjecture of what the world’s opinion of such men might be. If there is any vulgarity in the way they are presented, it is less a formal deficiency than an appropriate reflection of the lifestyle in which they are trapped. Ultimately, characterization and caricature, like all of Aldrich’s thematic and stylistic components, refocus on the basic question: survival.
In Hustle, Lt. Phil Gaines’ partner remarks as the two watch pornographic home movies featuring a suicide victim that her action was rash because “her survival wasn’t threatened.” Gaines’s reply is: “It depends on how you define survival.” Reflecting this personal belief, Aldrich’s judgment of Ben Trane or Eric Koertner, of Zarkan or Joe Costa is more severe than the judgment he passes on characters less idealistic or with less sense of honor. The former are foolish enough to place their faith in societal institutions, which collapse around them or betray them. They repress personal values for the vaguely postulated good of society at large; their disillusionment and sometimes fatal alienation is the price that must be paid. Not that the “mealy-mouthed” compromisers from the self-immolating Charlie Castle to the craven Captain Cooney in Attack! fare any better. Aldrich and most of his heroes are caught in a dichotomy between natural and artificial, between chaotic and ordered, between instinctual and institutionalised conduct that impels the unaware or unprepared into indecision and that can short-circuit a saving or creative act into an impotent or deadly one. The ending of Ten Seconds to Hell is a montage of the introductory close-ups of the men of the unit intercut with shots of the rebuilt city. A quick reading might be that those who died did so meaningfully, for a reconstructive purpose. The conclusion of Ten Seconds to Hell is echoed in The Dirty Dozen which uses similar shots of the commando unit at the dinner celebration before the mission that will kill most of them. The same reiteration of the “male unit” takes place in the end credits of The Choirboys.
“What really gets you is the idea that maybe you’re wrong” is the accusation aimed at Frank Towns in The Flight of the Phoenix. It could be hurled at many other Aldrich heroes as well. Trane and Koertner, Towns and Lt. DeBuin in Ulzana’s Raid survive their mistakes and misjudgments. For others, the rectification of error comes too late. For none is it easily accomplished. Being wrong is not a moral deficiency in Aldrich’s work. It neither mitigates nor insures salvation. What it does is make the “offenders” into outsiders, because, as Reisman tells Wladislaw, it is getting caught, not being wrong, that creates the violation of acceptable social conduct. When circumstances put the protagonist in an untenable situation, any solution is permitted. What separates the amoral Hammer from the self-righteous Costa are not just personal codes of conduct. Each protagonist also has an experiential notion of how society will react to his behavior, whether it will validate or condemn it. That is what separates Reisman from Wladislaw.
“Pilot error” is what Frank Towns ultimately enters into his log as the cause of the crash in Flight of the Phoenix. Most of Aldrich’s films, in their own genre contexts and particular plots, are explorations of the infrastructure of error. What each makes progressively clearer is the conditional limitations of attributing blame. A frustrated Towns takes solace in his bitter and defensive accusations of Moran: “If you hadn’t made a career of being a drunk, if you hadn’t stayed in your bunk to have that last bottle, you might have checked that engineer’s report and we might not be here.” Blaming another gives way gradually to the resignation of Fenner in The Grissom Gang (1971), McIntosh in Ulzana’s Raid, or Crewe in The Longest Yard. Some early characters like Koertner anticipate the grim assessment of McIntosh in Ulzana’s Raid: “Ain’t no sense hating the Apaches for killing, Lieutenant. That’d be like hating the desert ’cause there ain’t no water on it.” This is a conscious expression of the capricious causality at work in Aldrich’s pictures. For the reasons for the crash in the Sahara in The Flight of the Phoenix are as arbitrary, as free of pure causality, as the military assignments in Too Late the Hero or Ulzana’s Raid.
From Mike Callahan’s rejection by the perverse and aptly named Frennessey in World for Ransom through the fatalistic freeze-frames at the end of The Legend of Lylah Clare and The Grissom Gang to Gaines’s offhanded death in Hustle, the one constant in Aldrich’s work is that ultimately no one is untouched by the savagery of the surrounding world. For those who expose the more visceral layers of their psyche to it, the risk is intensified. It is not merely annihilation but also, what may be worse, a descent into an unfulfilled, insensate existence. If, in the final analysis, Aldrich’s sympathy resides most with individuals who are anti-authoritarian, with anti-heroes like Reisman in The Dirty Dozen or Crewe in The Longest Yard, it resides there because these are persons who survive. They survive by resolving all the conflicting impulses of nature and society, of real and ideal, of right and wrong, in and through action.
Feature films directed by Aldrich:
The Big Leaguer (1953, MGM) Producer: Matthew Rapf. Screenplay: Herbert Baker, based on a story by John McNulty and Louis Morheim. Director of Photography: William Mellor. Music: Alberto Colombo. Cast: Edward G. Robinson (John “Hans” Lobert), Vera-Ellen (Christy), Jeff Richards (Abraham Polachuk), Richard Jaeckel (Bobby Bronson), William Campbell (Julie Davis). Filmed on location in Melbourne, Florida and at MGM Studios in Culver City beginning February 16, 1953. Completed: March 4, 1953. Distribution: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Running time: 71 minutes. Released: August 19, 1953 (Los Angeles).
World For Ransom (1954, Plaza Productions/Monogram Pictures) Producers: Robert Aldrich and Bernard Tabakin. Screenplay: Lindsay Hardy and [uncredited] Hugo Butler. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc. Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Dan Duryea (Mike Callahan), Gene Lockhart (Alexis Pederas), Patric Knowles (Julian March), Reginald Denny (Major Bone), Nigel Bruce (Governor Coutts), Marian Carr (Frennessey). Filmed at the Motion Picture Center Studios in Hollywood in 11 days beginning April 13, 1953. Completed: April 26, 1953 Distribution: Allied Artists. Running time: 82 minutes. Released: January 27, 1954 (Los Angeles).
Apache (1954, Hecht-Lancaster Productions/Linden Productions) Producer: Harold Hecht. Screenplay: James R. Webb, based on the novel Bronco Apache by Paul I. Wellman. Directors of Photography: Ernest Laszlo and [uncredited] Stanley Cortez (Technicolor;1.85:1). Music: David Raksin. Cast: Burt Lancaster (Massai), Jean Peters (Nalinle), John Mclntire (Al Sieber), Charles Buchinsky [Bronson] (Hondo). Filmed on location in New Mexico and at Keywest Studios, Hollywood, in 34 days beginning October 19, 1953. Distribution: United Artists. Running time: 89 minutes. Released: June 28, 1954 (Chicago); July 21, 1954 (Los Angeles). Original Title: Bronco Apache.
Vera Cruz (1954, Hecht-Lancaster Productions/Flora Productions) Producers: James Hill, Harold Hecht. Screenplay: Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb, based on an original story by Borden Chase. Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo (Technicolor; SuperScope, 2:1). Music: Hugo Friedhofer. Cast: Gary Cooper (Ben Trane), Burt Lancaster (Joe Erin), Denise Darcel (Countess Davarre), Cesar Romero (the Marquis), Sarita Montiel (Nina), George Macready (Maximilian), Ernest Borgnine (Donnegan), Charles Buchinsky [Bronson] (Pittsburgh), Jack Lambert (Charlie), Jack Elam (Tex). Filmed on location in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Churubusco Studios, Mexico City beginning March 3, 1954. Completed: May 12, 1954. Distribution: United Artists. Running time: 94 minutes. Released: January 12, 1955 (Los Angeles).
Kiss Me Deadly (1955, Parklane Productions) Producers: Robert Aldrich, Victor Seville. Screenplay: A. I. Bezzerides, based on the novel Kiss Me Deadly by Mickey Spillane. Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo (1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Ralph Meeker (Mike Hammer), Albert Dekker (Dr. Soberin), Paul Stewart (Carl Evello), Maxine Cooper (Velda), Gaby Rodgers (Gabrielle/Lily Carver), Wesley Addy (Pat Murphy), Nick Dennis (Nick), Cloris Leachman (Christina), Marian Carr (Friday), Jack Lambert (Sugar), Jack Elam (Charlie Max). Filmed on location in Los Angeles and at the Sutherland Studios in 21 days beginning November 27, 1954. Completed: December 23, 1954. Distribution: United Artists. Running time: 105 minutes. Released: May 18, 1955 (Los Angeles).
The Big Knife (1955, Associates and Aldrich) Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: James Poe, based on the play “The Big Knife” by Clifford Odets. Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo (1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Jack Palance (Charlie Castle), Ida Lupino (Marion Castle), Wendell Corey (Smiley Coy), Jean Hagen (Connie Bliss), Rod Steiger (Stanley Hoff), Shelley Winters (Dixie Evans), Everett Sloane (Nat Danziger), Wesley Addy (Hank Teagle). Filmed at the Sutherland Studios, Los Angeles, in 15 days beginning April 25, 1955. Completed: May 14, 1955. Distribution: United Artists. Running time: 111 minutes. Released: November 25, 1955 (Los Angeles). Silver Lion Award from the 16th Venice Film Festival.
Autumn Leaves (1956, Wm. Goetz Productions) Producer: William Goetz. Screenplay: Jack Jevne, Lewis Meltzer, and Robert Blees. Director of Photography: Charles Lang, Jr. (1:85:1). Music: Hans Salter. Cast: Joan Crawford (Millicent Wetherby), Cliff Robertson (Burt Hanson), Vera Miles (Virginia), Lorne Greene (Hanson). Filmed at Columbia Studios, Los Angeles, beginning August 31, 1955. Completed: November 21, 1955. Running time: 107 minutes. Distribution: Columbia. Released: September 11, 1956 (Los Angeles).Original Title: The Way We Are. Silver Bear Award for Best Direction from the 6th Berlin Film Festival.
Attack! (1956, Associates and Aldrich) Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: James Poe, based on the play “Fragile Fox” by Norman Brooks. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Jack Palance (Lt. Costa), Eddie Albert (Capt. Cooney), Lee Marvin (Col. Bartlett), William Smithers (Lt. Woodruff), Robert Strauss (Pfc. Bernstein), Richard Jaeckel (Pfc. Snowden), Buddy Ebsen (Sgt. Tolliver). Filmed on location at the Albertson Ranch, Triunfo, California, and at RKO-Pathe and Universal Studios in 25 days beginning January 16, 1956. Completed: February 15, 1956. Distribution: United Artists. Running time: 107 minutes. Released: October 17, 1956 (Los Angeles). Original titles: The Fragile Fox; Command Attack.
The Garment Jungle (1957, Columbia) Producer: Harry Kleiner. Directors: Vincent Sherman and [uncredited] Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Harry Kleiner, based on a series of articles, “Gangsters in the Dress Business,” by Lester Velie. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (1.85:1). Music: Leith Stevens. Cast: Lee J. Cobb (Walter Mitchell), Kerwin Matthews (Alan Mitchell), Gia Scala (Theresa Renata), Richard Boone (Artie Ravidge), Valerie French (Lee Hackett), Robert Loggia (Tulio Renata), Joseph Wiseman (Kovan), Harold Stone (Tony). Filmed on location in New York and at Columbia Studios in 43 days beginning October 13, 1956. Completed: December 20, 1956. Distribution: Columbia. Running time: 88 minutes. Released: May 22, 1957 (Los Angeles). Original title: The Garment Center. NOTE: Vincent Sherman replaced Aldrich as director on December 4, 1956, 5 days before the scheduled completion of shooting and 16 days before the actual completion.
The Angry Hills (1959) Producer: Raymond Stross. Screenplay: A. I. Bezzerides, based on the novel The Angry Hills by Leon Uris, adapted for the screen by Uris. Director of Photography: Stephen Dade (CinemaScope). Music: Richard Bennett. Cast: Robert Mitchum (Mike Morrison), Elisabeth Mueller (Lisa Kyriakides), Stanley Baker (Conrad Heisler), Gia Scala (Eleftheria), Theodore Bikel (Tassos), Sebastian Cabot (Chesney). Filmed on location in Greece beginning June 14, 1958. Completed: December 10, 1958. Distribution: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Running time: 105 minutes. Released: July 29, 1959.
Ten Seconds to Hell (1959, Seven Arts–Hammer) Producer: Michael Carreras. Screenplay: Robert Aldrich and Teddi Sherman, based on the novel The Phoenix by Laurence Bachmann. Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo (1.85:1). Music: Kenneth V. Jones. Cast: Jack Palance (Koertner), Jeff Chandler (Wirtz), Martine Carol (Margot), Robert Cornthwaite (Loeffler), Dave Willock (Tillig), Wesley Addy (Sulke). Filmed on location in Berlin and at UFA Studios in 32 days beginning February 17, 1958. Completed: May 10, 1958. Distribution: United Artists. Running time: 93 minutes. Released: September 16, 1959. Alternate Title in Great Britain: The Phoenix
The Last Sunset (1961, Brynaprod S.A.) Producers: Eugene Frenke and Edward Lewis. Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo, based on the novel Sundown at Crazy Horse by Howard Rigsby. Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo (Eastman Color; 1.85:1). Music: Ernest Gold. Cast: Kirk Douglas (Brendon O’Malley), Rock Hudson (Dana Stribling), Dorothy Malone (Belle Breckenridge), Carol Lynley (Missy Breckenridge), Joseph Cotten (John Breckenridge), Neville Brand (Frank Hobbs), Jack Elam (Ed Hobbs). Filmed on location near Mexico City and Agua Caliente, Mexico, and at Universal Studios beginning May 11, 1960. Completed: July 29, 1960. Distribution: Universal-International. Running time: 112 minutes. Released: June 8, 1961 (Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Hollywood). Original titles: Sundown at Crazy Horse; The Day of the Gun; The Hot Eye of Heaven.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, Associates and Aldrich–Seven Arts) Producer: Robert Aldrich, Kenneth Hyman. Screenplay: Lukas Heller, based on the novel Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? by Henry Farrell, adapted by [uncredited] Harry Essex. Director of Photography: Ernest Haller (1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Bette Davis (Jane Hudson), Joan Crawford (Blanche Hudson), Victor Buono (Edwin Flagg), Marjorie Bennett (Delia Flagg), Maidie Norman (Elvira Stitt), Anna Lee (Mrs. Bates), Barbara Merrill (Liza Bates), Dave Willock (Ray Hudson), Ann Barton (Cora Hudson). Filmed on location in Los Angeles and at Warner Bros. and the Producer’s Studios beginning July 9, 1962. Completed: September 12, 1962. Distribution: Warner Bros. Running time: 132 minutes. Released: October 31, 1962 (New York); November 7, 1962 (Los Angeles). One Academy Award for Norma Koch for Best Black-and-White Costume Design; four nominations for Best Actress, Bette Davis; Best Supporting Actor, Victor Buono; Best Black-and White Cinematography; and Best Achievement in Sound.
Sodom and Gomorrah (1963, Titanus/Embassy, Joseph E. Levine/SN Pathé/SGC) Producer: Goffredo Lombardo. Screenplay: Hugo Butler, assisted by Giorgio Prosperi. Directors of Photography: Silvano Ippoliti, Mario Montuori, Cyril Knowles (EastmanColor processed by DeLuxe; 1.85:1). Music: Miklós Rózsa. Cast: Stewart Granger (Lot), Pier Angeli (Ildith), Stanley Baker (Astaroth), Rossana Podesta (Sheeah), Anouk Aimee (Queen Bera). Filmed on location in Morocco and in Rome in 124 days over 11 months beginning January 23, 1961. Completed: June 9, 1961 (Principal Photography); December 14, 1961 (Supplemental Photography). Distribution: 20th Century-Fox (U.S.); Titanus (Europe). Running time: 154 minutes. Released: January 23, 1963 (Los Angeles). Original Title: The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah [This title is used on the laser disc and video release.]
4 for Texas (1963, The SAM Company for Frank Sinatra, Essex Productions; Dean Martin, Claude Productions; and Associates and Aldrich). Producers: Robert Aldrich and Howard W. Koch. Screenplay: Teddi Sherman and Robert Aldrich, from an original story by Aldrich. Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo (Technicolor; 1.85:1). Music: Nelson Riddle. Cast: Frank Sinatra (Zack Thomas), Dean Martin (Joe Jarrett), Anita Ekberg (Elya Carlson), Ursula Andress (Maxine Richter), Charles Bronson (Matson), Victor Buono (Harvey Burden). Filmed on location near Mojave, California, and at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, in 48 days beginning May 27, 1963. Completed: August 2, 1963. Distribution: Warner Bros. Running time: 124 minutes. Released: December 25, 1963 (Los Angeles). Original Titles: Two for Texas; Four for Texas.
Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964, Associates and Aldrich) Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Henry Farrell and Lukas Heller, from an original story by Henry Farrell. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Bette Davis (Charlotte Hollis), Olivia de Havilland (Miriam Deering), Joseph Cotten (Dr. Drew Bayliss), Agnes Moorehead (Velma Cruther), Cecil Kellaway (Harry Willis), Victor Buono (Big Sam Hollis), Mary Astor (Jewel Mayhew). Filmed on location near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in Los Angeles. Production began June 1, 1964 and was suspended from July 2 to July 21 and from July 29 to September 9 because of a lawsuit and restraining order against Bette Davis and the illness of Joan Crawford, who originally portrayed Miriam Deering before being replaced by Olivia de Havilland. Completed: November 22, 1964. Distribution: 20th Century-Fox. Running time: 133 minutes. Released: December 24, 1964 (Los Angeles). Original title: What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte? Seven Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, Agnes Moorehead; Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction and Set Decoration, Black-and-White; Best Costume Design, Black-and-White; Best Film Editing; Best Music Score; and Best Song.
The Flight of the Phoenix (1966, Associates and Aldrich) Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Lukas Heller, based on the novel The Flight of the Phoenix by Elleston Trevor. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (DeLuxe Color; 1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: James Stewart (Frank Towns), Richard Attenborough (Lew Moran), Peter Finch (Captain Harris), Hardy Kruger (Heinrich Dorfmann), Ernest Borgnine (Trucker Cobb), lan Bannen (Crow), Ronald Fraser (Sgt. Watson), Christian Marquand (Dr. Renaud), Dan Duryea (Standish), George Kennedy (Bellamy). Filmed on location near Yuma, Arizona, and Pilot Knob, California, and at 20th Century-Fox Studios, Los Angeles, beginning April 26, 1965. Completed: August 13, 1965. Distribution: 20th Century-Fox. Running time: 148 minutes. Released: January 20, 1966 (London) [First shown in Los Angeles for one week only beginning December 15, 1965 to qualify for Academy Award consideration.] Two Academy Award Nominations for Best Supporting Actor, Ian Bannen and Best Editing.
The Dirty Dozen (1967, MKH Productions) Producer: Kenneth Hyman. Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller, based on the novel The Dirty Dozen by E. M. Nathanson. Director of Photography: Edward Scaife (Metrocolor; Metroscope, 1.75:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Lee Marvin (Major Reisman), Ernest Borgnine (Gen. Worden), Charles Bronson (Joseph Wladislaw), Richard Jaeckel (Sgt. Bowren), John Cassavettes (Victor Franko), Jim Brown (Robert Jefferson), George Kennedy (Maj. Max Ambruster), Trini Lopez (Jiminez), Ralph Meeker (Capt. Stuart Kinder), Robert Ryan (Col. Everett Dasher Breed), Telly Savalas (Archer Maggott), Donald Sutherland (Vernon Pinkley), Clint Walker (Samson Posey). Filmed on location near Chenies, England, and at M.G.M. Studios, London, in sixteen weeks beginning April 25, 1966. Completed: October 13, 1966. Distribution: Metro-Goidwyn-Mayer. Running time: 149 minutes. Released: June 28, 1967 (Hollywood ParamountTheater). Director of the Year Award from the National Association of Theater Owners. One Academy Award to John Poyner for Best Sound Effects; three nominations for Best Supporting Actor, John Cassavetes; Best Editing; and Best Sound.
The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968, Associates and Aldrich) Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Hugo Butler and Jean Rouverol, based on a teleplay by Robert Thom and Edward DeBlasio. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Metrocolor; 1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Kim Novak (Lylah Clare/Elsa Brinkmann/Elsa Campbell), Peter Finch (Lewis Zarkan/Louis Flack), Ernest Borgnine (Barney Sheean), Milton Selzer (Bart Langner), Rosella Falk (Rosella), Gabriele Tinti (Paolo). Filmed on location in Los Angeles and at M.G.M. Studios in Culver City in 60 days beginning July 12, 1967. Completed: November 16, 1967. Distribution: Metro-Goidwyn-Mayer. Running time: 130 minutes. Released: August 21, 1968 (Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Hollywood).
The Killing of Sister George (1968, Associates and Aldrich/Palomar Pictures International) Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Lukas Heller, based on the play “The Killing of Sister George” by Frank Marcus. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Metrocolor; 1.85:1). Music: Gerald Fried. Cast: Beryl Reid (June Buckridge/”Sister George”), Susannah York (Alice “Childie” McNaught), Coral Browne (Mercy Croft), Ronald Fraser (Leo Lockhart), Patricia Medina (Betty Thaxter). Filmed on location in London and at the Aldrich Studios, Los Angeles, in 66 days beginning June 10, 1968. Completed: October 10, 1968. Distribution: ABC Palomar International. Running time: 138 minutes. Released: December 12, 1968 (Fox Theater, Hollywood). MPAA Rating: X.
Too Late the Hero (1970, Associates and Aldrich/ABC Palomar) Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Robert Aldrich and Lukas Heller, from an original story by Robert Aldrich and Robert Sherman. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Metrocolor; Metroscope, 1.75:1). Music: Gerald Fried. Cast: Michael Caine (Pvt. Tosh Hearne), Cliff Robertson (Lt. jg. Sam Lawson), Henry Fonda (Capt. John G. Nolan), lan Bannen (Pvt. Thornton), Harry Andrews (Lt. Col. Thompson), Denholm Elliott (Capt. Hornsby), Ronald Fraser (Pvt. Campbell). Filmed on location near Subic Bay in the Philippines and at the Aldrich Studios, Los Angeles, in 92 days beginning January 15, 1969. Completed: June 27, 1969. Distribution: Cinerama Releasing Corporation. Running time: 133 minutes. Released: May 20, 1970 (Egyptian Theater, Hollywood). MPAA rating: GP [Certificate X in Great Britain]. Alternate Title for television, Suicide Run.
The Greatest Mother of ‘Em All (1969, Associates and Aldrich/Promotional short for a proposed feature) Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: A. I. Bezzerides and Leon Griffiths. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (EastmanColor; 1.85:1). Cast: Peter Finch (Sean Howard), Ann Sothern (Dolly Murdock), Alexandra Hay (Tricia Murdock), Kate Woodville (Eva Frazer), Barry Russo (Gene Frazer). Filmed at the Aldrich Studios, Los Angeles, beginning July 28, 1969. Completed: August 8, 1969. Running time: 20 minutes. Alternate Title: The Big Love.
The Grissom Gang (1971, Associates and Aldrich–ABC Pictures) Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Leon Griffiths, based on the novel No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Metrocolor; 1.85:1). Music: Gerald Fried. Cast: Kim Darby (Barbara Blandish), Scott Wilson (Slim Grissom), Tony Musante (Eddie Hagen), Robert Lansing (Dave Fenner), Irene Dailey (Ma Grissom), Connie Stevens (Anna Borg). Filmed on location near Sutter Creek and Modesto, California, and at the Aldrich Studios, Los Angeles, in 64 days beginning July 6, 1970. Completed: November 13, 1970. Distribution: Cinerama Releasing Corporation. Running time: 128 minutes. Released: May 28, 1971 (Pix Theater, Hollywood). MPAA Rating: R [Certificate X in Great Britain].
Ulzana’s Raid (1972, De Haven/Associates and Aldrich) Producer: Carter de Haven. Screenplay: Alan Sharp. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Technicolor; 1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Burt Lancaster (McIntosh), Bruce Davidson (Lt. Garnett DeBuin), Richard Jaeckel (the sergeant), Jorge Luke (Ke-ni-tay), Joaquin Martinez (Ulzana), Lloyd Bochner (Captain Gates). Filmed on location near Nogales, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada, in 48 days beginning January 18, 1972. Completed: March 11, 1972. Distribution: Universal. Running Time: 103 minutes. Released: October 18, 1972 (Chicago); November 22, 1972 (Los Angeles). MPAA Rating: R [Certificate X in Great Britain].
The Emperor of the North Pole (1973, Inter-Hemisphere Productions) Producer: Stanley Hough and Kenneth Hyman. Screenplay: Christopher Knopf. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (DeLuxe Color; Panavision, 1:85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Lee Marvin (A No. 1), Ernest Borgnine (Shack), Keith Carradine (Cigaret), Charles Tyner (Cracker), Malcolm Atterbury (Hogger), Simon Oakland (policeman) Elisha Cook (Gray Cat). Filmed on location near Cottage Grove, Oregon, and at 20th Century-Fox Studios in 74 days beginning July 11, 1972. Completed: October 5, 1972. Distribution: 20th Century-Fox. Running time: 118 minutes [126 minutes before general release]. Released: May 23, 1973 (New York); June 29, 1973 (Los Angeles). MPAA Rating: PG. Alternate title: Emperor of the North.
The Longest Yard (1974) Producer: Albert S. Ruddy. Screenplay: Tracy Kennan Wynn, from a story by Albert S. Ruddy. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Technicolor; 1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Burt Reynolds (Paul Crewe), Eddie Albert (Warden Hazen), Ed Lauter (Captain Knauer), Harry Caesar (Granville), Ray Nitschke (Bogdanski), Michael Conrad (Nate Scarboro), James Hampton (Caretaker). Filmed on location in and around Georgia State Prison, Reidsville, Georgia; Beverly Hills, California; and at Paramount Studios in 62 days beginning October 4, 1973. Completed: December 18, 1973. Paramount (U.S.); CIC-American (Great Britain). Running time: 121 minutes (U.S.); 122 minutes (Great Britain). Released: August 21, 1974 (Loew’s State, Orpheum, New York City). MPAA Rating: R [Certificate X in Great Britain]. Alternate Title in Great Britain: The Mean Machine.
Hustle (1975, RoBurt Productions/Paramount in association with Churchill Service Company) Producer: Robert Aldrich and Burt Reynolds. Screenplay: Steve Shagan. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Eastmancolor; 1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Burt Reynolds (Lt. Phil Gaines), Catherine Deneuve (Nicole Britton), Ben Johnson (Marty Hollinger), Paul Winfield (Sgt. Louis Belgrave), Eileen Brennan (Paula Hollinger), Eddie Albert (Leo Sellers), Ernest Borgnine (Santoro), Jack Carter (Herbie Dalitz). Filmed on location in Los Angeles, Pasadena and Marina del Rey, California in 47 days beginning November 20, 1974. Completed: January 31, 1975. Distribution: Paramount (U.S.), CIC-American (Great Britain). Running time: 120 minutes (U.S.); 118 minutes (Great Britain). Released: December 25, 1975 (multiple run, Los Angeles). MPAA Rating: R [Certificate X in Great Britain]. Original titles: All the Other Angels; City of the Angels; Home Free.
Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977, Lorimar Productions in association with Bavaria Atelier presenting a Geria GmbH Production) Producer: Merv Adelson. Screenplay: Ronald M. Cohen and Edward Huebsch and [uncredited] Tom Mankiewicz, based on the novel Viper Three by Walter Wager. Director of Photography: Robert Hauser (Technicolor; 1.85:1). Music: Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: Burt Lancaster (Lawrence Dell), Richard Widmark (General Martin MacKenzie), Charles Durning (President David T. Stevens), Melvyn Douglas (Zachariah Guthrie), Paul Winfield (Powell), Burt Young (Garvas), Joseph Cotten (Arthur Renfrew). Filmed on location near Munich, West Germany in 65 days beginning February 16, 1976. Completed: May 14, 1976. Distribution: Allied Artists. Running time: 143 minutes. Released: February 9, 1977 (multiple run, Los Angeles). MPAA rating: R. Original titles: Viper Three; Silo III.
The Choirboys (1977, Lorimar–P.A.C. Cinematografica) Producers: Merv Adelson and Lee Rich. Screenplay: Christopher Knopf and Joseph Wambaugh [uncredited], based on the novel by Wambaugh. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Metrocolor [processing]/Technicolor [prints]; 1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Charles Durning (“Spermwhale” Whalen), Louis Gosset, Jr. (Calvin Motts), Perry King (Baxter Slate), Burt Young (Sgt. Dominic Scuzzi), Randy Quaid (“Whaddayamean” Dean Proust), James Woods (Harold Bloomguard). Filmed on location in Los Angeles and at M.G.M. Studios, Culver City in 55 days beginning March 28, 1977. Completed: June 20, 1977. Distribution: Universal. Running time: 119 Minutes. Released: December 23, 1977 (Los Angeles). MPAA Rating: R [Certificate X in Great Britain].
The Frisco Kid (1979, Warner Bros.) Producers: Mace Neufeld and Howard W. Koch, Jr. Screenplay: Michael Elias, Frank Shaw. Director of Photography: Robert B. Hauser (Technicolor; 1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Gene Wilder (Rabbi Avram Belinski), Harrison Ford (Tommy Lillard). Filmed on location in Rio Rico, Arizona; Greeley, Colorado; and Jenner, California and at the Burbank Studios [Warner Bros.] in 59 days beginning October 30, 1978. Completed: January 20, 1979. Distribution: Warner Bros. Running Time: 122 minutes. Release date: July 6, 1979 (New York). MPAA Rating: PG. Original title: No Knife.
…All the Marbles (1981, MGM/The Aldrich Company) Producer: William Aldrich. Screenplay: Mel Frohman. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Metrocolor; 1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast Peter Falk (Harry), Vicki Frederick (Iris), Laurene Landon (Molly), Burt Young (Eddie Cisco), Tracy Reed (Diane), Ursuline Bryant-King (June), Claudette Nevins (Solly), Richard Jaeckel (Reno referee). Filmed on location in Youngstown, Ohio; Las Vegas, Nevada; and MGM Studios, Culver City beginning November 14, 1980. Completed: February 24, 1981. Distribution: MGM/UA. Running Time: 112 minutes. Released: October 16, 1981 in Los Angeles. MPAA Rating: R. Alternate Titles: …And All the Marbles; later released as The California Dolls.
Feature films produced by Aldrich:
The Ride Back (1957, Associates and Aldrich) Directors: Allen H. Miner and [uncredited] Oscar Rudolph. Producers: William Conrad and Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Anthony Ellis. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (1.85:1). Music: Frank DeVol. Cast: Anthony Quinn (Kallen), William Conrad (Hamish), Lita Milan (Elena). Filmed on location in Northern Mexico beginning September 21, 1956. Completed: October 12, 1956. Distribution: United Artists. Running time: 79 minutes. Released: May 1, 1957. Alternate Title: The Way Back. NOTE: Oscar Rudolph directed 10 days of added scenes, retakes, and stunts after replacing Allen Miner.
What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969, Associates and Aldrich–ABC-Palomar) Directors: Lee H. Katzin and [uncredited] Bernard Girard. Producer: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Theodore Apstein, based on the novel The Forbidden Garden by Ursula Curtiss. Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc (Metrocolor; 1.85:1). Music: Gerald Fried. Cast: Geraldine Page (Mrs. Marrable), Ruth Gordon (Mrs. Dimmock), Rosemary Forsyth (Harriet Vaughn), Robert Fuller (Mike Darrah). Filmed on location near Tuscon, Arizona, and at the Aldrich Studios, Los Angeles, beginning October 23, 1968. Completed: January 5, 1969. Distribution: Cinerama Releasing Corporation. Running time: 101 minutes. Released: August 20, 1969. MPAA Rating: M. NOTE: Bernard Girard resigned as director after four weeks of filming in November, 1968 because of a production dispute. Lee Katzin completed the picture.
Feature film Original Story by Aldrich:
The Gamma People (1955) Director: John Gilling.
Productions as Second Assistant Director (all for R.K.O. studios):
Joan of Paris (1942) Directed by Robert Stevenson.
The Big Street (1942) Directed by Irving Reis.
The Falcon Takes Over (1942) Directed by Irving Reis.
Bombardier (1943) Directed by Richard Wallace.
Behind the Rising Sun (1943) Directed by Edward Dmytryk.
A Lady Takes a Chance (1943) Directed by William A. Seiter.
Adventures of a Rookie (1943) Directed by Leslie Goodwins.
Rookies in Burma (1944) Directed by Leslie Goodwins.
Gangway for Tomorrow (1944) Directed by John H. Auer.
Productions as First Assistant Director:
The Southerner (1945, United Artists) Directed by Jean Renoir.
The Story of G.I. Joe (1946, United Artists) Directed by William Wellman.
Pardon My Past (1946, Columbia) Directed by Leslie Fenton.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946, Paramount) Directed by Lewis Milestone.
The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami (1947, United Artists) Directed by Albert Lewin.
Body and Soul (1947, United Artists) Directed by Robert Rossen.
Arch of Triumph (1948, United Artists) Directed by Lewis Milestone.
So This Is New York (1948, United Artists) Directed by Richard Fleischer.
No Minor Vices (1948, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) Directed by Lewis Milestone.
Force of Evil (1949, Warner Bros.) Directed by Abraham Polonsky.
Caught (1949, MGM/Enterprise) On Added Scenes Directed by John Berry [uncredited; Aldrich was also uncredited]
The Red Pony (1949, Republic) Directed by Lewis Milestone.
A Kiss for Corliss (1949, United Artists) Directed by Richard Wallace.
The White Tower (1950, R.K.O.) Directed by Ted Tetzlaff.
The Prowler (1951, Universal) Directed by Joseph Losey.
M (1951, Columbia) Directed by Joseph Losey.
Of Men and Music (1951, 20th Century-Fox) Directed by Irving Reis.
New Mexico (1951, United Artists) Directed by Irving Reis.
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952, Warner Bros.) Directed by Charles Lamont.
Limelight (1952, United Artists) Directed by Charles Chaplin.
As Production Supervisor:
When I Grow Up (1951, Eagle-Lion) Directed by Michael Kanin. Produced by Sam Spiegel.
As Assistant to the Producer:
Ten Tall Men (1951, Columbia) Directed by William Goldbeck. Produced by Harold Hecht.
The First Time (1952, Columbia) Directed by Frank Tashlin. Produced by Harold Hecht.
Television work as Director:
The Doctor (The Visitor in syndication, Procter & Gamble for NBC-TV). A total of forty-four episodes aired from August 12, 1952 through June 28, 1953. Aldrich directed seventeen episodes, three from his own scripts, of this half-hour, filmed anthology format series in which the title character introduced dramas based on medical problems. It was produced in New York on three-day-per-episode shooting schedules. Producer: Marion Parsonnet. Cast: Warner Anderson (the Doctor).
China Smith (The Affairs of China Smith) (Bernard Prockter Productions for Syndication). This was a half-hour, filmed adventure series. Six episodes were filmed in Mexico, but pressure from American unions, particularly the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, persuaded the producer to return to the U.S. Other episodes were shot in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Aldrich directed four episodes which were shot on a three shows per six-day week schedule.
The Schlitz Playhouse (Playhouse of the Stars, Meridian Pictures for CBS-TV). This series began as a live hour anthology but switched to a half-hour filmed format beginning June, 1952 with production at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios. Series Executive Producer: William Self. Aldrich directed one episode:
The Pussyfootin’ Rocks Producer: Edward Lewis. Teleplay: Luther Davis. Director of Photography: Manuel Gomez Urquiza. Music: Johnny Mercer. Cast: Joan Blondell (Calamity Jane), Buddy Edsen, Kathleen Freeman (The Ripplehissian Gang), Irene Dunne (Host). Air Date: November 21, 1953. Running Time: 22 minutes.
Four Star Playhouse (Four Star Productions/Official Films for CBS-TV). [Note: re-issued as NBC's Best In Mystery and Singer Playhouse.] This series was a half-hour filmed anthology alternating between four stars (Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, David Niven, and Ida Lupino) with production at RKO-Pathe Studios. Series Executive Producer: Don W. Sharpe. Associate Producer: Warren Lewis. Aldrich directed five episodes, three with Dick Powell; two with Charles Boyer:
The Squeeze Producer: Dick Powell. Teleplay: Blake Edwards. Director of Photography: George E. Diskant. Cast: Dick Powell (Willy Dante), Joan Camden (Susan), Regis Toomey (Lt. Waldo), Richard Jaeckel. Air Date: October 1, 1953. Running Time: 22 minutes.
The Witness Producer: Dick Powell. Teleplay: Seeleg Lester, Merwin Gerard. Director of Photography: George Diskant. Cast: Dick Powell (Mike Donegan), James Millican (D.A.), Charles Buchinsky [Bronson] (Frank Dana), Marian Carr (Alice Blair Dana), Strother Martin (Ted Blair), Nick Dennis (Nick). Air Date: October 22, 1953. Running Time: 22 minutes.
The Hard Way Producer: Dick Powell. Teleplay: Blake Edwards. Director of Photography: George Diskant. Cast: Dick Powell (Willy Dante), Robert Osterloh (Stan the Stickman), Regis Toomey (Lt. Waldo), Elizabeth Fraser (Janice Howl), Jack Elam (Vick). Air Date: November 19, 1953. Running Time: 22 minutes.
The Gift Producer: Charles Boyer. Teleplay: John and Gwen Bagni. Story: Amory Hare. Director of Photography: George Diskant. Cast: Charles Boyer (Carl Baxter), Maureen O’Sullivan (Minna Baxter), George Lennox (Dan Tobin). Air Date: December 24, 1953. Running Time: 22 minutes.
The Bad Streak Producer: Charles Boyer. Teleplay: John and Gwen Bagni. Director of Photography: George Diskant. Cast: Charles Boyer (Barry Reneck), Virginia Grey (Angela), Robert R. Arthur (David). Air Date: January 14, 1954. Running Time: 22 minutes.
Hotel de Paree (The Sundance Kid, CBS-TV) Series Executive Producer: William Self. Producer: Julian Claman. Teleplay: Sam Rolfe. Director of Photography: Joe Biroc. Music: Dimitri Tiomkin. Cast: Earl Holliman (the Sundance Kid), Judi Meredith (Monique Devereax), Jeanette Nolan (Tante Annette Devereaux), Strother Martin (Aaron Donager), Theodore Bikel (Carmoody), Jack Elam (Flute). Air Date: October 2, 1959. Running Time: 22 minutes. NOTE: Aldrich directed the pilot episode which was shot in April, 1959.
Adventures in Paradise (20th Century-Fox for ABC-TV) Concept developed by Martin Manulis and James A. Michener. Series Executive Producer: Martin Manulis. NOTE: Aldrich directed the pilot (The Black Pearl, production no. 3501) on a ten-day schedule in May, 1959, which was aired as the second episode of the series. He also directed a series episode (no. 3504) on a seven-day schedule.
The Black Pearl Producer: Richard Goldstone. Teleplay: James A. Michener, Thelma Schnee. Director of Photography: Maury Gertsman. Cast: Gardner McKay (Adam Troy), Patricia Medina (Mme. Celeste Soulange), Anthony Steel (Charles Remley), Kurt Kasznar (Wagner), Lon Chaney, Jr. (One Arm), Abraham Sofaer (Timaui). Air Date: October 12, 1959. Running Time: 47 minutes.
Safari at Sea Producer: Richard Goldstone. Teleplay: James A. Michener, Bill Barrett. Cast: Gardner McKay (Adam Troy), John Ericson (Jeff Hazen), Diana Lynn (Nicole Hazen). Air Date: November 16, 1959. Running Time: 47 minutes
OTHER HONOURS AND AWARDS
1967: Retrospective of Aldrich’s work at the San Francisco Film Festival.
1973: Silver Medal awarded by Cinémathèque Française in conjunction with a retrospective of Aldrich’s work.
1978: Retrospective of Aldrich’s work at the National Film Theater, London, sponsored by the British Film Institute.
1984: The Directors Guild of America creates the annual Robert B. Aldrich Award for extraordinary service to the Guild and its membership.
1984: “All of Aldrich,” a complete retrospective of Aldrich’s feature work as director at the University of California, Los Angeles, co-sponsored by the Directors Guild of America and the U.C.L.A. Film Archives.
1994: A retrospective of Aldrich’s work at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York.
1994: A retrospective of Aldrich’s work at the 14th Annual Film Festival of Amiens and the Cinémathèque Française, Paris.
Arnold, Edwin T. and Miller, Eugene L, The Films and Career of Robert Aldrich. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 1986
Combs, Richard, ed., Robert Aldrich. London: British Film Institute, 1978
Higham, Charles, The Celluloid Muse: Hollywood Directors Speak. London: Angus and Robertson Ltd., 1969. Pages 21-40 [Interview; Filmography]
Mahéo, Michel, Robert Aldrich. Paris: Rivages, 1987
Micha, René, Robert Aldrich. Brussels: Club du Livre de Cinéma, 1957
Piton, Jean-Pierre, Robert Aldrich. Paris: Edilig, 1985
Sherman, Eric, ed., Directing the Film: Film Directors on Their Art. Boston: Little, Brown, 1976
Silver, Alain and Ursini, James, What Ever Happened to Robert Aldrich? His Life and Films. New York: Limelight, 1995
______, “Kiss Me Deadly: Evidence of A Style.” Reprinted in Silver, Alain and Ursini, James, editors, Film Noir Reader. New York: Limelight, 1996.
Silver, Alain and Ward, Elizabeth, Robert Aldrich, a guide to references and resources. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1979
Aldrich, Robert, “American Report.” Cahiers du Cinéma, Nos. 150-151 (December, 1964), pages 24-25 [Response to five questions from Cahiers about current projects and working problems]
_____, “Can You Ask a Business To Lose Money?” New York Herald Tribune, August 25, 1965, page 31 [Questions lack of alternative funding sources for unusual films]
_____,”The Care and Feeding of Baby Jane.” New York Times, November 4, 1962 [On preproduction and shooting problems with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?]
_____, “Mes Deboires en Europe.” Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 107 (May, 1960), pages 2-6 [Translation of Films and Filming pieces on the difficulties of studio work in the United States and freelance work overseas]
____, “Director’s Formula for a Happy Cast.” Los Angeles Times, February 7, 1966, pages 13, 29 [On The Dirty Dozen and working with actors]
_____, “Filmmaking in an Era of New Liberality.” Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1968 [On The Killing of Sister George]
_____, “The High Price of Independence.” Films and Filming, Volume 4, No. 9 (June, 1958), pages 7, 35 [On the difficulties of studio work in the United States and freelance work overseas]
_____, “Hollywood…Still an Empty Tomb.” Cinema, Volume 1, No. 6 (May-June, 1965), pages 4-6, 28 [Discussion of the "Hollywood" movie and the emphasis on commercial success]
_____, “Impressions of Russia.” Action, Volume 6, No. 4 (July-August, 1971), pages 7-10 [On a visit to Russia through a program organised by the Directors Guild]
_____, “Learning from My Mistakes.” Films and Filming, Volume 6, No. 9 (June, 1960), pages 2-6 [On production problems with Ten Seconds to Hell and The Angry Hills]
_____, “Sex and Violence Justified.” America, No. 92 (May, 1955) [Discussion of controversial elements in Kiss Me Deadly]
_____, “TV Techniques In Feature Filmmaking.” TV Review, No. 2739 (March 31, 1960), pages 3, 10 [How to shoot features quickly]
_____,”What Ever Happened to American Movies?” Sight and Sound, Volume XXXIII, No. 1 (Winter, 1963-64), pages 21-22 [On his plans to cross-collateralise commercial ventures with less popular "art" films]
_____, “Why I Bought My Own Studio.” Action, Volume 4, No. 1 (January-February, 1969), pages 7-10 [Economic reasons for buying his own facility]
Aldrich, Robert and Bertolucci, Bernardo, “Dialogue.” Action, Volume 9, No. 2 (March-April, 1974), pages 23-25 [Transcript of a conversation on censorship]
Bitsch, Charles and Tavernier, Bertrand, “La Fonction de Producer.” Cahiers du Cinéma, Nos. 150-151 (December, 1964), pages 78-84 [Interview about Aldrich's experiences in Europe]
Byron, Stuart, “`I Can’t Get Jimmy Carter to See My Movie,’ Robert Aldrich Talks.” Film Comment, Volume 13, No. 2, (March-April, 1977), pages 46-52 [Interview]
Cameron, Ian and Shivas, Mark, “Interview and Filmography.” Movie, No. 8. pages 8-11
Combs, Richard, “Worlds Apart: Aldrich Since The Dirty Dozen.” Sight and Sound, Volume 45, No. 2 (Spring, 1976), pages 112-115
_____. “Aldrich’s Twilight.” Sight and Sound, Volume 46, No. 3 (Summer, 1977), pages 186-187
Eyquem, Oliver, “Bio-filmographie de Robert Aldrich.” Positif, No. 182 (June, 1976), pages 18-24
Greenburg Joel, “Interview with Robert Aldrich.” Sight and Sound, Volume 37, No. 1 (Winter, 1968-69), pages 8-13
Higham, Charles, “Robert Aldrich.”Action, Volume 9, No. 6 (November-December, 1974), pages 16-21 [Interview]
Jarvie Ian, “Hysteria and Authoritarianism in the Films of Robert Aldrich,” Film Culture, No. 22 (Summer, 1961), pages 95-111
Mayersberg, Paul, “Robert Aldrich,” Movie, No. 8 (April, 1963), pages 4-5 [Interview and article]
Odets, Clifford, “In Praise of a Maturing Industry.” New York Times, November 6, 1955 [Discusses The Big Knife and Aldrich]
Reid, John Howard, ed., “George Addison interviews Robert Aldrich.” Film Index (Australia), No. 6
Ringel, Harry, “Robert Aldrich: the Director as Phoenix.” Take One, (September, 1974) [Career article]
_____, “Up to Date with Robert Aldrich.” Sight and Sound, Volume 43, No. 3 (Summer, 1974), pages 166-169 [Interview]
Robinson, George, “Three by Aldrich.” The Velvet Light Trap, No. 11 (Winter, 1974), pages 46-49 [Analysis of Attack!, The Big Knife, Kiss Me Deadly.]
Sauvage, Pierre, “Aldrich Interview.” Movie, No. 23 (Winter, 1976-1977), pages 50-64 [Interview]
Silver, Alain, “Mr. Film Noir Stays at the Table.” Film Comment, Volume 8, No. 1 (Spring, 1972), pages 14-23 [Interview and Bio-filmography]
Telotte, J.P., “Talk and Trouble, Kiss Me Deadly‘s Deadly Discourse.” Journal of Popular Film, No.2, 1985, pages 69-79
Truffaut, François, “Interview with Robert Aldrich.” Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 64 (November, 1956), pages 2-11
_____, “Interview with Robert Aldrich.” Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 82 (April, 1958), pages 4-10
Windaler, Robert, “Interview with Robert Aldrich.” New York Times, September 3, 1967
Articles in Senses of Cinema
Apache by Mark Freeman
Attack! by Richard Armstrong
Compiled by Michelle Carey
Screening the Past: Issue 10
Special issue dedicated to Aldrich. Fourteen scholarly essays exploring his career, his works and his style through socio-cultural, theoretical and comparative processes.
The Films of Robert Aldrich by Michael Grost
Technical and thematic analyses of Kiss Me Deadly and World For Ransom. A must for cinema studies students.
Cinema de Quartier
French language online magazine featuring biography, listing of awards received and selected filmography. Far from thorough however worth a look for a few curious facts.
Kiss Me Deadly (Review) by Tim Dirks
Scene by scene plot outline and review. Features a great picture of the original 1955 poster.
Kiss Me Deadly: Evidence of a Style
Alain Silver’s fascinating, in-depth and shot-by-shot analysis looking at key stylistic and technical elements of this landmark film.
So What’s With the Ending of Kiss Me Deadly?
Online article (in Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture) by Alain Silver. Features some wonderful stills as well as the ending of Kiss Me Deadly as an animated GIF. This piece springboarded much discussion that eventually lead to the restoration of the film.
The Kiss Me Mangled Mystery: Refurbishing a Film Noir
How the original ending of Kiss Me Deadly was found by Glenn Erickson (following conversations with Alain Silver) and restored in conjunction with MGM/UA archivist John Kirk.
Kiss Me Deadly: DVD Savant finds a lost conclusion to a classic Film Noir
The Los Angeles County Art Museum screened the premiere of the restored print in 1997. This article covers the event and has graphics of both the original poster and the video reissue.
The Unofficial Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer Site
Tribute to the character with brief review of Kiss Me Deadly.
Review: The Dirty Dozen
Good overview of film by James Berardinelli.
An essay that examines the confluence of social, political, and economic events that allowed the financing and production of such an ambivalent anti-war film in Eisenhower America.
Click here to search for Robert Aldrich DVDs, videos and books at
- Aldrich quoted in David Sterritt, “Films.” Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, California Living Magazine, May 30, 1976, p. 4.
- Abraham Polonsky speaking at the Directors Guild of America memorial for Aldrich, December 7, 1983.
- Mike Davis, City of Quartz. New York: Vintage, 1992, p. 37.
- Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton, Panorama du Film Noir Américain, Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1983, p. 277.
- Pierre Sauvage, “Aldrich Interview.” Movie, Winter, 1976-1977, p. 55.
- Harry Ringel, “Up to Date with Robert Aldrich.” Sight and Sound, Summer, 1974, p. 167.