Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

White Hunter Black Heart, 1990

A thinly fictionalized account of a legendary movie director, whose desire to hunt down an elephant turns into a grim situation with his movie crew in Africa.
The blurb states: "For a film of "excitement, wit and intelligence" (Rex Reed) the hunt ends here. As both star and director of WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART, Clint Eastwood plays one of his most colourful roles and crafts one of the most acclaimed movies of his 45-year career.
He plays John Wilson, a brilliant driven film director (loosely based on legendary John Huston) determined to turn his new project in Africa into personal adventure hunting a wild elephant. Jeff Fahey, Marisa Berenson and George Dzundza co-star in this rugged, robust movie from the novel by co-screenwriter Peter Viertel, who accompanied Huston to Africa in 1950 to work on THE AFRICAN QUEEN. Filmed on location in Zimbabwe and London, WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART is a bold trek into the heart of adventure". 
Well they would say that I suppose, but there is no "loosely based" about it. Clint's character is meant to be Huston, and the film they are making is THE AFRICAN QUEEN, with Marisa Berenson a convincing Hepburn character (Bogie and Bacall - also on the location - are not as developed here). 
We were discussing THE AFRICAN QUEEN over at IMDB, which got me interested in this, which I had missed at the time, as indeed I had most of Eastwood's films, I just do not find him or his films interesting (apart from the early stuff like PLAY MISTY FOR ME or DIRTY HARRY). Viertel was a fascinating guy too, writer and Hollywood marverick, who married Deborah Kerr, and knew Huston, Hemingway etc. well, as per his fascinating memoir. (His mother Salka was an intimate of Garbo's). There is a strong British contingent here, with Timothy Spall, Alun Armstrong and Richard Warwick, and Fahey is a pleasing presence. Eastwood gets Huston's speech patterns and mannerisms off pat, so its a fascinating look at movie-making, but really anyone not familar with THE AFRICAN QUEEN or who these people were, would be totally at sea. The climax with the elephants is well handled too. Having seen Berenson recently on the stage, see label, it was interesting to see her again here and she too (like Blanchett) sketches a passable Kate. Hepburn's slim  memoir of making the film is a fascinating read too with great photographs. 
Huston returned to Africa in 1957 for another elephant saga, THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN, about saving elephants, not shooting them. 

1 comment:

  1. I loved this film though I have only seen it once but then I am a big Eastwood fan; I think he is one of the great directors but obviously not great enough for an old codger like you. I think the analogy with THE AFRICAN QUEEN did it for me as it's one of my favourite films. I also bought THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN about a year ago and enjoyed it a lot too. Our favourite mag chose Trevor as their best actor of the year for it.