“Most of my pictures, I'm sorry to say, are about nothing. Because I'm a whore. I work for money. It's the American way."
“The situation of working at a major studio is so hopeless that if you don't make a game of it, you'd go crazy. I just try to do something better than they want me to do."
”I once told Godard that he had something I wanted - freedom. He said: 'You have something I want - money'."
Don Siegel was, as Patrick Goldstein’s tribute in the Los Angeles Times suggested, a director working in relative obscurity in the Hollywood system for the majority of his career whose thematic concerns—solitary men living by their own codes of behavior, suspicious, even contemptuous, of a system overflowing in red tape and cynical bureaucrats out to pad their pockets and cushion their reputations— would seem as out of date to most moviegoers as his rock-solid craftsmanship and brilliantly, subtly propulsive editing would to most modern, hyperventilated action filmmakers. His profile was raised considerably by his collaboration over five films (Coogan’s Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara, Dirty Harry, The Beguiled and Escape from Alcatraz) with Clint Eastwood, but he would never, as Eastwood would upon becoming a director himself, be showered with awards or praise for his masterful style. But those whose tastes run toward hard-boiled noir (both black-and white and Technicolor varieties) and protagonists of ambiguous morality have routinely found what they were looking for and more in Siegel’s oeuvre ever since the man gave up his career as a studio editor at Warner Brothers to become a director.
That oeuvre is the focus of a film series beginning at UCLA Film and Television Archive tonight and running through August 7, a three week-long retrospective look at the career of a director whose fans include the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Sam Peckinpah, Michael Mann, Quentin Tarantino and, of course, Eastwood, who dedicated his Oscar-winning Unforgiven to Siegel and Sergio Leone. Tonight’s Academy Salute to Don Siegel, hosted by writer-director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), will feature Clint Eastwood introducing and discussing Siegel’s classic science fiction film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and other programs throughout the series will feature several sequences cut by Siegel during his tenure at Warner Brothers, and the features Riot in Cell Block 11, Baby Face Nelson, Night Unto Night, Hell is for Heroes and Madigan, and some of my personal favorites like Escape from Alcatraz, Dirty Harry, The Killers
and Robert Mitchum and the luscious Jane Greer straight Out of the Past and into the riveting noir gem The Big Steal.
(For a look at the complete schedule, as well as ticket prices and how to get to the James Bridges Theater on the UCLA Campus, click HERE.)
UPDATE 7/21/2005: Scott Foundas has a well-observed
article on Don Siegel and the UCLA Film and Television Archive tribute in today's L.A. Weekly, as well as a collection of remembrances of the director from some of those who worked with him and knew him well.