Thursday, January 2, 2020

Henry King Ranked

Henry King on the set of Jesse James with Nancy Kelly and Tyrone Power
In 2019, I put together a tribute to Henry King in Bologna where Il Cinema Ritrovato featured 12 films by this gentle giant of American cinema. The reception was overwhelming and the enthusiasm contagious. Rounding up that year with King, I'm posting the programme notes written for that retrospective here on this blog along with this ranking of the King's filmography. Feel free to add yours in the Comments section below.

Soul and Craft: A Portrait of Henry King

Henry King on the set of The Gunfighter (1950). (C) 20th Century Fox

Henry King’s world can be likened to the basement of Paradise, if ever there was one. His films are often idyllic, yet they are set in a less comfortable corner of Paradise, one which falls short of perfection, and even accommodates darkness. The lower aspects of a higher plain fascinated King, and that’s where the real stories unfolds. Telling graceful tales of Americana in an almost Chekhovian style became King’s signature. If small town USA was taken for Paradise, King’s gaze was directed at the fall of this idealised world, at what happens when a dream ends. The dreamers become drifters and King remained faithful to the actors who portrayed them. Tyrone Power, King’s own discovery, appeared in eleven films directed by his mentor; Gregory Peck in six.