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Arthur Penn

New Edition

Robin Wood with Richard Lippe Edited by Barry Keith Grant

Publication Year: 2014

Arthur Penn—director of The Miracle Worker, Bonnie and Clyde, Alice’s Restaurant, and Little Big Man—was at the height of his career when Robin Wood’s analysis of the American director was originally published in 1969. Although Wood then considered Penn’s career only through Little Big Man, Arthur Penn remains the most insightful discussion of the director yet published. In this new edition, editor Barry Keith Grant presents the full text of the original monograph along with additional material, showcasing Wood’s groundbreaking and engaging analysis of the director. Of all the directors that Wood profiled, Penn is the only one with whom he developed a personal relationship. In fact, Penn welcomed Wood on the set of Little Big Man (1969), where he interviewed the director during production of the film and again years later when Penn visited Wood at home. Both interviews are included in this expanded edition of Arthur Penn, as are five other pieces written over a period of sixteen years, including the extended discussion of The Chase that was the second chapter of Wood’s later important book Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan. The volume also includes a complete filmography and a foreword by Barry Keith Grant. The fourth classic monograph by Wood to be republished by Wayne State University Press, this volume will be welcomed by film scholars and readers interested in American cinematic and cultural history.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page, Quote, Frontispiece

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pp. vii-viii

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Keith Grant

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pp. ix-xii

The influential film critic Robin Wood had planned to revisit and revise his important early auteurist monographs for Wayne State University Press, as he had with his foundational Hitchcock’s Films, originally published in 1969 and later revised as Hitchcock’s Films Revisited twenty years later, by which time film criticism and Wood’s own perspective had changed...

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Richard Lippe

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pp. xii-xx

Between 1965 and 1971, Robin Wood wrote monographs on Alfred Hitchcock, Arthur Penn, Howard Hawks, Ingmar Bergman, Satyajit Ray, and, in collaboration with Ian Cameron and Michael Walker, respectively, Michelangelo Antonioni and Claude Chabrol. Each of the monographs was a groundbreaking contribution to English-language film criticism...

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pp. xxi-xxii

Arthur Penn was originally published in the United States in 1969 by Praeger Publishers. © 1969 by Movie Magazine Ltd. “Arthur Penn in Canada” appeared originally in Movie, no. 18 (Winter 1970–71): 26–36. “Avec la même sérénité” was published in Positif, no. 126 (April 1971): 1–8, and is reprinted with the permission of that journal. “Inevitable Violence”...

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pp. 1-10

What immediately strikes one in the films of Arthur Penn may appear at first glance a superficial feature, but it leads right to the essence of his art: an intense awareness of, and emphasis on, physical expression. Physical sensation (often but not necessarily violent) is perhaps more consistently vivid in his films than in those of any other director. Again and...

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The Left Handed Gun

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pp. 11-21

Itself an excellent and self-sufficient film, The Left Handed Gun offers a remarkably complete thematic exposition of Penn’s work to date. Returning to it from his later films, one finds certain scenes somewhat labored and self-conscious (notably, the seduction of Celsa and the closing sequences after Billy’s escape from jail); even here, the use of heavily...

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The Miracle Worker

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pp. 22-30

Of all Penn’s films, The Miracle Worker is the most direct, the least ambiguous, in emotional effect, and this has led many people, quite understandably, to regard it as a comparatively simple, minor work and not inquire into it too deeply. (On the lowest level, there is an inbuilt intellectual tendency to distrust a film that makes one cry so much.) This directness...

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Mickey One

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pp. 31-38

Any anxieties one has about Penn are centered on Mickey On. It is not merely that the film is a failure—any artist is entitled to one failure out of five, or indeed to four out of five. One’s anxieties arise partly from the particular nature of the failure, and partly from the fact that of all Penn’s five films to date, Mickey One was the only one made from...

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The Chase

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pp. 39-54

Penn’s first indisputable (one would have thought) masterpiece has in fact, in England at least, had somewhat meager recognition, both from critics and the general public. The director’s intelligence informs every sequence: not merely a cerebral intelligence, but an intelligence in which emotion and intuitive perception have their essential roles, and...

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Bonnie and Clyde

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pp. 55-71

Besides being the culmination of Penn’s work to date, a film of marked and consistent individuality in which every shot bears the director’s signature, Bonnie and Clyde is also the culmination to date of the long and honorable tradition of the gangster film. The influence of the New Wave has, clearly, played a part in determining its precise nature. Nevertheless...

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Alice’s Restaurant

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pp. 72-93

“Everyone”—people say to me—“is making films about hippies now”: as if Arthur Penn were being merely fashionable, or trying to “keep up,” or trying to cash in on a popular interest. Which only goes to show how important it is to see an artist’s latest work in the context of his whole...

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Shooting Little Big Man

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pp. 94-108

Arthur Penn’s seventh film, due for release in the winter of 1970, is Little Big Man, from a novel by Thomas Berger.5 The screenplay is by Calder Willingham, the cameraman is Harry Stradling Jr., and the stars are Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Richard Boone, and Martin Balsam. The film is in Panavision, a big production financed by CBS, and will...

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Problems of Editing

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pp. 109-117

The Elizabethan-Jacobean drama presents innumerable problems of authorship, ranging from the minuscule to the enormous. The possibilities of collaboration, revision by other writers, and excisions from and additions to the texts by producers, actors, etc., are responsible for many critical and scholarly headaches and temptations (it becomes so easy...

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Arthur Penn in Canada

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pp. 118-153

This interview was conducted on three successive mornings in November 1969 during car journeys to shooting locations for Little Big Man. Text approved by Arthur Penn. RW: Hitchcock said that for him the film is complete with the finalizing of the shooting script. Welles said that for him the essential creative act...

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With the Same Serenity: Little Big Man (with Aline Wood)

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pp. 154-164

About a third of the way into Little Big Man, Jack Crabb marries a Swedish woman, Olga, and the young newlyweds get their picture taken in front of the store they have just purchased together. Inside the camera’s viewfinder we see an image of the happy couple, inverted and frozen. Jack is proudly pointing up at the store’s sign above the awning....

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Inevitable Violence

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pp. 165-168

Of the older generation of filmmakers, John Ford has been most consistent in elaborating an image of America. It is not a static image: to follow his films from Young Mr. LincolnM (1939) to Cheyenne Autumn (1964) is to trace a steady progress into disillusionment, a growing awareness (implied rather than explicit) of the widening gulf between the idealized...

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Rustling Up: Robin Wood on The Missouri Breaks

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pp. 169-174

The Missouri Breaks raises with particular vividness the problems of discussing authorship in the American commercial cinema. It is directed by Arthur Penn, who has a habit of taking over apparently heterogenous projects, often at a late stage in the elaboration of the script (The Chase, Bonnie and Clyde), and converting them, with only a minimum of structural...

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Arthur Penn

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pp. 175-180

Arthur Penn’s is a cinema built on tensions and paradoxes. A gentle, sensitive, civilized man, he has made films notorious for their violence. His general orientation is toward author-director’s cinema, the European art-movie, and he admits to idolizing Ingmar Bergman; yet his films are intensely American in subject matter and usually rooted in the traditions...

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The Chase: Flashback, 1965

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pp. 181-201

This essay constitutes a flashback in two senses. The minor sense: I wrote a chapter on The Chase in a little book on Arthur Penn published about fifteen years ago, in the days of my critical innocence (or culpable ignorance, as you will)—innocence, above all, of concepts of ideology, and of any clearly defined political position. The major sense:...

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An Interview with Arthur Penn (Richard Lippe and Robin Wood)

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pp. 202-236

I first met and interviewed Arthur Penn in 1970, during the making of Little Big Man; the interview was first published in Movie 18 [and is included in this volume]. At that time, Penn’s career seemed to have developed an irresistible impetus that would secure him a prominent place in the American cinema of the next decades: The Chase, Bonnie and Clyde, and...


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pp. 237-238


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pp. 239-254


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pp. 255-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780814339275
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814333587

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 57
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series