Apr 212012
 

Samuel Fuller (August 12, 1912- October 30, 1997) had an astonishingly rich life. He became a crime reporter for a tabloid newspaper in New York City while still a high school student, became a pulp writer, moved to Hollywood to write screenplays, served in WWII and became a director after the war. After making three films for independent producer Robert Lippert, the success of the Steel Helmet (1951), the third film, won him a contract with Twentieth Century Fox. While his movies for the studio did well, especially Fixed Bayonets (1951) and House of Bamboo (1955), Fuller craved independence, so he left when his contract ran out in 1956. However, Fuller’s independent movies failed to attract a large audience, therefore his career had declined by the 1960s. Although he was discovered by a new generation of critics and directors, Fuller struggled to find work in the 1970s, but he did manage to make his dream project, The Big Red One (1980), based on his own experiences during WWII. Disillusioned with Hollywood, he spent much of the rest of his life in Paris, France.

 

Early Life

Samuel Fuller was born on August 12, 1912 in Worcester, Massachusetts to Rebecca and Benjamin Rabinovitch, immigrants from Poland and Russia respectively. His parents had changed their surname to Fuller to better fit in. Although they were both Jewish, Fuller’s mother did not want to stand out, so she persuaded his father to not follow Jewish orthodoxy. Working long hours in a factory, Fuller’s father was rarely home and he died when Fuller was eleven. Following the death of her husband, Fuller’s mother moved with her seven children to Manhattan. All of the children worked to help make ends meet, and Fuller sold newspapers after school. Falling in love with newspapers, he pretended to be fourteen-years-old, even though he was twelve-and-a-half, to get a job as a copyboy at the New York Journal, the flagship paper of Hearst’s empire. Reporting for work after school finished and staying until the newspaper office closed late in the evening, he often slept at the office. Surrounded by adults who dealt with the reality of life on a daily basis, Fuller grew up quickly. At age fourteen, he managed to become the personal copyboy of Arthur Brisbane, the editor-in-chief of the Journal, who shared his experience and knowledge with Fuller. Since Brisbane thought he was too young to be a reporter, he left the paper for the New York Evening Graphic when he was sixteen on the condition that he would become a reporter when he turned seventeen.

The New York Evening Graphic was a tabloid newspaper that emphasized sensationalism. Fuller’s first assignment was a double suicide, and the experienced reporter tasked with training him, snuck them into the crime scene, so he saw two naked dead bodies. He started smoking cigars, simply because everyone else did. Having already found his career, Fuller naturally had little interest in school, but knew that his mother felt it was important that he receive an education, so he stayed in high school, even though he worked all night. Fuller was expelled from school when his newspaper published a story under his byline without asking him that accused teachers at his school of having sex with students, which ended any chance of him attending college, to his joy and her disappointment.

A number of the older reporters appreciated Fuller’s drive, so he hung out in speakeasies with famous journalists like Gene Fowler, Damon Runyon, and Ring Lardner, even though he was still underage. His mother, a sane woman who wanted the best for her child, was understandably unhappy that he kept returning home late at night, if at all, reeking of alcohol and formaldehyde. Since he was a rebellious teenager, conflict was inevitable. Despite his passion for journalism, the job was sometimes more than Fuller could bear. The experience of witnessing electrocutions of prisoners on death row at Sing Sing proved to be too much, but his editor refused to relent and forced him to continue to cover executions.

Although he loved the bustling metropolis of New York City, Fuller wanted to see the rest of the United States, so he left home at age eighteen to travel the country as a freelance reporter. Since the nation was in the middle of the Depression, he spent much of his time in Hoovervilles. shanty towns set up by homeless people. He was young enough to be able to sleep outdoors, and friendly enough to persuade people to talk about their lives, which gave him material for articles. Fuller wrote about cowboys, cotton pickers, fishermen, railroad workers, and other people struggling to survive. Making his way by hopping freight trains and hitching rides, he saw the country firsthand. He started taking pictures to support his articles when an editor cut out a paragraph about a female member of the KKK breastfeeding her baby at a meeting while dressed in the white robes because it sounded too far-fetched. Suddenly, he realized the power of images.

The death of his brother convinced Fuller to return to New York City, where he discovered that the liveliness of the Roaring Twenties had been replaced by the Great Depression. Accustomed to independence, he turned down job offers, preferring to work freelance while writing novels. His book Burn, Baby, Burn was serialized by American Weekly, and finally published as a novel in 1935. The Thirties were a turbulent decade as Fascism and Communism spread across the world while the Isolationist movement grew in the United States. Fuller had only contempt for Fascism and felt that the Communists were idealistic dreamers who ignored Stalin’s dictatorship, but he followed the political debates closely.

Having received offers from studios to write screenplays, Fuller moved to Los Angeles in 1937 to work as a screenwriter. Realizing that is was important to accept any job to break into the industry, he was initially a ghost screenwriter, hired to adapt famous novels into scripts that were formally credited to a more established screenwriter. This approach paid off when his first credited screenplay was Gangs of New York (1938). He also became friendly with directors like John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Raoul Walsh, who shared their experience and gave advice. While turning out scripts, he also wrote another novel, The Dark Page. Although gratified to have such a high-paying job, Fuller became increasingly frustrated as the directors or the studio would alter his script. Worse, several of his scripts were purchased by studios but never made into films.

WWII

Tiring of Hollywood, Fuller was debating returning to the newspaper industry with hopes of becoming an editor when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The decision to enlist did not require much effort, since he had been following the German conquest of Europe with increasing fury. He was twenty-nine-years-old, so he stood out in the recruiting office. Given his background as a reporter, he was initially assigned to the armed forces newspaper, but he refused and became an infantryman because he wanted to see the action. After a gruelling boot camp, he was assigned to the Twenty-sixth Regiment, First Division. More training in England followed, and then he took part in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa.

Fuller kept a journal, recording his daily observations and story ideas. During the march through North Africa, he saw his sergeant execute an American soldier who had slaughtered a family of Bedouins in cold blood. Colonel Robert Taylor, commanding officer of the Sixteenth Regiment, had heard about Fuller’s experience as a writer, and had him transferred to his regiment, although Fuller turned down his offer to write reports after each battle. Fuller then took part in the bloody invasion of Sicily, having been promoted to corporal. Afterwards, they were sent to England to prepare for D-Day, and Fuller freely admitted that he had become sick of combat, but still kept training in order to survive. After surviving Omaha Beach, his unit was given temporary R & R, and he came across a soldier reading his novel The Dark Page, which had been published after he had enlisted. Fuller also took part in the liberation of a concentration camp, where he filmed his company commander ordering the leading citizens of the nearby town to work in the camp, helping to bury people.

Like many veterans, Fuller suffered from “war hysteria” and had a lot of trouble adjusting to peacetime life when he returned to the United States. Needing work, he made his way to Hollywood and started writing scripts again. Soon after his arrival in Hollywood, he met aspiring actress Martha Downes, they fell in love and married after dating for a few months. He wrote numerous scripts that were bought but few were made into movies because they were too harsh, and lacked sympathetic characters.

Lippert

When the major studios were forced by the 1948 Paramount Antitrust Decision to separate their exhibition arms from their production arms, they could no longer rely on the guaranteed revenue stream where they booked their movies in their own theatres, so they dissolved their low-budget B movie units to concentrate on more profitable A movies. A side effect was that theatre owners suddenly received a much smaller flow of movies, which was especially troublesome for exhibitors who usually offered double bills of an A movie followed by a B movie. Since 70% of theatres offered double features during the 1950s, and many theatres and drive-ins changed their schedules several times a week, there was a major need for films. B movies were distributed for a flat fee, and were intended to play as second features, but if a B movie proved successful, it might be bumped up to the top bill, while an A movie that had bombed might find itself relegated to the second feature. In fact, B movies varied in quality, and the best were referred to as programmers or “in-betweeners,” because they straddled the line between A and B movies.

Robert Lippert owned Lippert Productions, Inc, which produced B westerns and genre films that would play on the second part of the double bill. Although his B movies were filmed quickly over three weeks and lacked stars, he hoped to progress to higher-budget movies, but he needed directors and writers who were fast and talented. Fuller fit the description, so he was hired to write and direct I Shot Jesse James. Lippert intended I Shot Jesse James to break into the programmer level, so the movie was more expensive and ran twenty minutes longer than the usual Lippert films. I Shot Jesse James (1948) was a success, which won Fuller a three-picture contract, including script approval and profit participation. The Baron of Arizona received a larger budget, which allowed Fuller to produce a ninety-minute-long costume drama, which was supposed to be Lippert’s entrance into epics. Fuller was still developing his style, so his love of history, sharp dialogue and sensationalist crime resulted in an overly complex plot that is a mashup of crime, thriller and historical drama. Even though his second movie was less popular than his first, he won the position of producer, final cut and a third of the profits for the third movie, The Steel Helmet, which was an impressive accomplishment for a new director, since usually only more experienced directors like Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford were able to negotiate profit participation. This favorable contract was intended to keep Fuller from moving to a larger studio.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of the disappointment of Baron, Fuller decided that Helmet would be a high-level B movie, rather than a low-level A movie. The Korean War had started recently but information was lacking, so Fuller relied on notes he had made during his WWII service. In fact, his war diary had recorded events he had witnessed with ideas on how to film those events as scenes in a movie. Having experienced combat firsthand, Fuller made a war movie where war is simply endless fatigue punctuated by death and terror. Aware of the many injustices in American society, he did not present the soldiers as fighting for an idealized version of American democracy, just men trying to survive. The film was a massive hit, and his share of the profits made him relatively wealthy. Fuller bought a large house with twenty acres of land near Beverly Hills, which satisfied his wife’s expensive tastes.

20th Century Fox

Courted by several major studios, Fuller finally chose 20th Century Fox in order to obtain better resources and higher budgets, as well as the opportunity to work with stars, instead of unknowns and character actors. An additional factor was that he bonded immediately with studio head Darryl F. Zanuck. Fuller had to give up a degree of independence, as well as profit participation and final cut, but he realized that Zanuck respected good writing and had offered a contract with a great deal of flexibility where Fuller had half of every year free to explore his own projects, while he had the right to reject films assigned by Fox.

Realizing that the other studios would try to imitate Steel Helmet, Zanuck convinced Fuller to beat them by making Fixed Bayonets, another film on Korea. Zanuck played an active role in the writing and editing process at Fox, so Fuller’s films were structurally more coherent than his Lippert films. Zanuck refused to make Fuller’s dream project Park Row unless Fuller allowed an A-list actor like Gregory Peck to star, not Gene Evans, and turned it into a musical filmed in color, not a little black-and-white period piece. Determined to make the movie, Park Row was financed with Fuller’s profits from Helmet, so there were no restraints on his vision, therefore he built an elaborate, expensive set. Driven by a love of journalism, Fuller crammed too much into the film, which lacked the backing of a studio or distributor and had no major stars, so it failed to break even, and Fuller lost his savings.

However, his career bounced back with the huge success of Pickup on South Street, although it was attacked by both conservative critics and left-wing critics. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was so offended by the film that he met with Fuller and Zanuck in Los Angeles to pressure Zanuck to reshoot scenes of FBI agents bribing a stoolie for money, but Zanuck refused. Fuller wanted to follow up with one of the two Western scripts (Run of the Arrow and Woman with a Whip) he had written, but Zanuck declined to produce them. Instead, Fuller’s last two films in his contract for Fox were part of the trend in Hollywood for epic adventure movies filmed overseas with large casts. As a result, Fuller was given much longer shooting schedules and budgets, including sixty days and $ 1.87 million for Hell or High Water. Although he was not enthusiastic, Fuller did the movie to repay Zanuck for his support, and spent a couple of days observing how a submarine operated. He filmed it as an exciting adventure movie, not a political thriller, and the approach proved popular. The commercial success of the film proved that Fuller had become an A-list director, so he won the honor of shooting the first Hollywood movie in Japan, House of Bamboo. Fuller embraced the opportunity, and took full advantage of the exotic location to fill the film with beautiful exterior shots of the Japanese landscape. Fuller was justly proud of casting a Japanese woman as a lead, rather than filming a white star in makeup, unlike many Hollywood movies. Unfortunately, it failed to find an audience, and barely broke even.

Despite a successful career, Fuller still had trouble dealing with his experiences during the war, so he used the sleepless nights to write a screenplay about the war in an attempt to exorcise the demons. The script was called The Big Red One, but it would take much longer than he thought to get it made. The 1950s were a bad period for Fuller’s personal life. His two brothers and his mother died, his wife could not have children, and their lavish lifestyle consumed all of his earnings. The knowledge that he could not have a child was especially difficult, and was a key factor in the end of his marriage. Fuller’s mother died in 1959, and he realized that he was not happy in his marriage, so he divorced his wife, leaving her the house and most of his money in order to ensure that she would be comfortable for the rest of her life.

Although Bamboo was the last film on Fuller’s Fox contract, the studio initially planned to renew his contract, but Fuller took a six-month leave of absence. During those six months, Fuller set up his own production company, Globe Enterprises, and began preparing for Run of the Arrow, which would be distributed by RKO. The six months had not ended when Fox informed Fuller in August 1956 that the studio would not renew his contract. While all of the studios were downsizing in the 1950s, a key factor was recognition of Fuller’s growing desire to return to independent features and more control of his films. Moreover, Zanuck left the studio that same summer to start his own production company. Fuller had proven his ability to handle large-scale studio projects, but had decided to return to independent film-making despite the greater risk and much smaller budgets.

Globe

Fuller owned 50% of Globe and had total control of the production of movies. Contracts were signed with RKO, 20th Century Fox and Columbia for financing and distribution. Acknowledging the intense competition from the television, the studios focused on big-screen epics, while low-budget producers relied on exploitation to lure the youth market into theaters. Fuller responded with original scripts but still cranked up the level of sex and violence. Since his financing came from the distributors, Fuller did not have complete independence. If his movies did not make money, he would not be paid and it would become much harder to secure financing for his next film. At the same time, studios’ shift to epics made it difficult for in-betweeners to stand out in the market. The only way to compete with the studios was to either make comparable films or tap into the changing culture with exploitation films.

Fuller started his career as an independent with Run of the Arrow (1957), a Technicolor Western with excellent production values and a strong marketing campaign from the distributor. When it failed at the box office, he agreed to make two films, China Gate (1957) and Forty Guns (1957), for Fox’s Regal Division, which produced high-quality B movies. Despite a further loss of independence, Fuller did get profit participation, so it was a fair deal. China Gate also did not find an audience, despite an expensive publicity campaign by Fox. As a result, his next film, Forty Guns, was relegated by Fox to the bottom half of the bill when it was released, and the movie did as expected, receiving good reviews but not earning enough to convince Fox to bankroll anymore Regal films. Fuller ended his relationship with Fox, realizing that his next film had to be a B movie with a B movie budget.

In late 1958, Fuller signed a four-picture production deal with Columbia Pictures, which was relying more on independent features after the death of its founder Harry Cohn. Although Columbia was switching from low-budget films to blockbusters, Fuller’s films had relatively small budgets and utilized sensationalist subject matter to stand out. The Crimson Kimono (1959) dealt with two of Fuller’s favorite themes, relationships between different races and trust. Although the film focused more on the love-triangle and the conflict between friends, Columbia’s publicity campaign stressed the interracial relationship. Unfortunately, the release was not handled well and many critics found the film had too much stagy dialogue, but it still did well enough that Columbia financed Underworld, U.S.A. (1961). Gangster movies were in vogue again after the success of Al Capone (1959), but Fuller had intended for his movie to be a darker, more realistic portrayal of the underworld with a more sensationalist approach, especially since it took place in the present, not safely viewed from a distance of thirty years. To obtain certification, Fuller had to tone down the story by strengthening the role of the police and downplaying the impact of prostitution. Despite these efforts, the film was not a success, and Columbia did not finance another film. In fact, none of the studios were interested in producing medium-budget films, and Fuller’s track record was not good enough to win an assignment to the increasingly common epic movies. Globe had not made any money on the recent movies and Fuller’s personal savings had been wiped out by his divorce, so he was forced to rely on free lance work.

Fuller had come close to persuading Warner Brothers to finance The Big Red One, but they wanted John Wayne to star. Fuller knew that his dark vision of the fight for survival, both physical and mental, would be turned into a patriotic adventure film, and refused, which caused Warner Bros to drop the project.

Freelance

As a freelance director, Fuller no longer initiated projects, but had to rely on producers finding the financing and then hiring him. However, his first project, Merrill’s Marauders (1962) had a large budget, since it was arranged by Milton Sperling, an independent producer and the son-in-law of Harry Warner. Fuller was able to shoot on location and film battle scenes with hundreds of extras supplied by the Philippine army. Furthermore, Sperling ensured that Fuller reined in his creativity and produced a straightforward, easily understood script. However, Fuller kept the men’s exhaustion and fixation on survival and finally ending the mission, which like most of his war films, never does end. The film was profitable but there were no new offers, so he ended up making two B-movies, Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964), that proved to be the most sensationalist of his career. Since all sources of movie financing had dried up, Fuller directed five episodes of the television western Iron Horse, as well as produced numerous screenplays, several of which became films.

The late sixties and early seventies should have been a glory period for Fuller. Huge epics were no longer popular and young directors had made bold, inexpensive films that took advantage of the end of the Production Code, since the introduction of an age-oriented ratings system had enabled the creation of New Hollywood. Furthermore, the rising generation of film-makers and critics considered Fuller to be a brilliant director, and several directors cast Fuller in bit parts in their movies. Despite the seeming favorable nature of the situation, Fuller failed to put projects together. Part of the problem was that he was unable to write stories that fit young people’s viewpoint. What Fuller considered sensationalist in the 1950s was staid and boring by the end of the 1960s.

Fuller met his wife, actress Christa Lang, while working on a screenplay in Paris. The movie fell through and he returned to the United States. Although he had been well-received in Paris, back home he soon discovered that his career was in decline. Worse, he had not received his share of the profits from Shock Corridor and Naked Kiss. Offers to direct TV shows arrived, but he worried that he would then become stuck in TV, so he stuck it out waiting for film offers. He and Christa married on July 25, 1967, and she became a stabilizing influence on his life. While his career was not thriving, he did find enough work to keep the couple afloat and even bought a comfortable home. The movies Shark (1969) and Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1972) were disasters that did not pay well, but he sold several scripts.

Forced to deal with badly-financed or disreputable producers, Fuller experienced a string of cancelled projects or films that bore little relation to his original cut but still had his name as director. The repeated failures understandably made him severely depressed, and he believed that his career was over. Moreover, several tragedies in his personal circle of friends and acquaintances did not help matters. He had befriended Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, who hoped to become a director, so he was hurt by the troubled singer’s fatal overdose in Paris in 1971. In addition, he and his wife were friends with Sharon Tate, and been invited to Tate’s party the night that everyone at Tate’s home was killed by Charles Manson, but had been too tired to go. Despite the setbacks, Fuller continued to write and his wife Christa coped by immersing herself in French literature at university. It was an odd period. A number of film festivals had organized retrospectives of his films, and he was well-regarded by critics, especially in Europe, but he could not get films made. His life took a turn for the better when his wife gave birth to their daughter Samantha on January 28, 1975.

Later Years

Fuller had been trying to make The Big Red One since the mid-1950s. Warner Bros had bought the rights to the screenplay in 1957, but eventually balked at the expense of filming several large-scale battles in widely different regions. Frustrated, Fuller published it as a novel in the mid-1970s, and it sold relatively well. The screenplay essentially followed the same path that Fuller had taken as a soldier in the First Infantry Division during WWII. Lorimar finally financed the movie in 1977, and it was filmed in Israel, which had the required diversity of locations. Although he had been working on the script for more than twenty years, the final rewriting process was a traumatic experience. Reliving WWII caused him to have nightmares night after night. Unfortunately, Fuller’s original cut of four-and-a-half hours was edited down to two hours without Fuller’s involvement. The streamlined version focused only on the lives of the squad and their fixation with survival, shedding the roles of the senior officers and the squad’s interaction with rest of the division. The film had an expensive publicity campaign and garnered excellent reviews, but WWII films had fallen out of fashion, and it did not even come close to breaking even. Lorimar went bankrupt soon after the film’s release.

The failure of such a personal film was naturally painful for Fuller, and it was followed by controversy over White Dog (1982), a movie for Paramount about a white German shepherd that had been trained to attack black people, and the attempts of an African-American dog trainer to deprogram the dog. Believing that the controversy was unjustified and angered that Paramount had not backed him, Fuller abandoned Hollywood and moved to Paris with his family in 1983. Although he did not direct any films, he still made a good living as an actor and he regularly attended a number of film festivals. Fuller’s health declined in his early eighties, and he had operations to deal with an aneurism and an abscess in his lungs, the latter which required a pacemaker, thus ending his lifelong habit of smoking cigars. However, he remained active, participating in documentaries on his career, writing children’s books with his wife, and playing small roles in movies. A stroke in the fall of 1994 ended any work prospects, although he recovered enough to return to his home in Los Angeles the following year. He had just finished his autobiography when he died on October 30, 1997.

The Big Red One was restored by critic Richard Schickel and editor Bryan McKenzie, unfortunately it appeared only after Fuller’s death.

Fuller’s films stood out because he started directing in 1949 after the studio system had begun to decline in 1948, following the Paramount antitrust decision, which enabled the rise of independent production companies. Working as a reporter for the New York Evening Graphic, which focused on standing up for the common man and lurid stories of sex and violence, taught Fuller the value of exaggeration to attract the audience’s attention. Having seen the underbelly of society, his films pulled back the curtain to show the bitter reality of society, while his characters measured success in terms of survival. Although Fuller’s career enjoyed few successes after leaving 20th Century Fox, the fact that he actually had a career that stretched into the early 1980s is testament to his ability, drive and passion for directing.

Historical Movies:

I Shot Jesse James (1949)

Starring Preston Foster and Barbara Britton
After Bob Ford shoots his friend Jesse James in the back for a reward he struggles to live with his guilt. (full review)

The Baron of Arizona (1950)

Starring Vincent Price and Ellen Drew
A swindler spends years forging documents and land grants to prove that he and his wife are the rightful owner of entire state of Arizona.

The Steel Helmet (1951)

Starring Gene Evans and James Edwards
A small group of American soldiers struggles to hold an isolated temple during the early days of the Korean War. (full review)

Fixed Bayonets (1951)

Starring Richard Baseheart and Gene Evans
Faced with a sudden, overwhelming Chinese offensive during the early stages of the Korean War, an American platoon is ordered to serve as rearguard for a retreating division. (full review)

Park Row (1952)

Starring Gene Evans and Mary Welch
A crusading journalist establishes his own newspaper in the 1880s but a powerful competitor tries to bankrupt him.

House of Bamboo (1955)

Starring Robert Ryan and Robert Stack
A U.S. Army investigator infiltrates an a crime ring run by former American soldiers in Tokyo, Japan several years after WWII.

Run of the Arrow (1957)

Starring Rod Steiger and Sara Montiel
Following General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, which ended the American Civil War, a Confederate soldier refuses to become an American, and travels to the Western frontier, where he marries a Sioux woman and joins her tribe.

China Gate (1957)

Starring Gene Barry and Angie Dickinson
Near the end of the Vietnamese revolution against France, a group of mercenaries are hired to destroy an arms depot on the Chinese border, and cooperate with an Eurasian smuggler who hopes to send her bastard son to the United States.

Forty Guns (1957)

Starring Barry Sullivan and Barbara Stanwyck
Relying on her personal army of forty cowboys, a rancher rules an Arizona county but finds herself falling in love with the new marshal who is determined to restore order to the county.

Verboten! (1959)

Starring James Best and Susan Cummings
A young American soldier is stationed in Germany shortly after WWII as part of the Marshall Plan and falls in love with a German woman but also unwittingly becomes involved with the Werewolves, young Nazi guerrillas.

Merrill’s Marauders (1962)

Starring Jeff Chandler and Ty Hardin
Brigadier General Frank Merrill leads 3,000 American volunteers in a gruelling campaign in Japan-controlled Burma during WWII.

The Big Red One (1980)

Starring Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill
A sergeant and the core members of his squad strive to survive WWII, surrounded by death and growing increasingly hardened to the constant flow of replacements, as they make their way across North Africa, Italy and Europe.

Further Reading:

The Films of Samuel Fuller: If You Die, I’ll Kill You!-Lisa Dombrowski, Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2008.

As the title suggests, the book focuses on Fuller’s work as a director, ignoring his huge amount of written work in novels, scripts and newspapers. Dombrowski has produced a solid examination of Fuller’s career as a director, performing an in-depth analysis of each film, while placing the film in both the context of Fuller’s career and state of the movie industry at the time. The emphasis on discussions of camera angles limits the readership of the book to film historians and serious students of film, but it is a very good book, and the author deserves gratitude for producing a detailed study of an unjustly over-looked director.

 

Samuel Fuller was a reporter in New York City at the height of the Roaring Twenties, traveled the nation during the Depression, served in WWII, became a director after the war, and fought censors during the Red Scare, so he has a lot of stories to tell. A skilled storyteller, the combination of brutal honesty and sharp observations make his memoirs a fascinating read.

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