Neil Sinyard on George Stevens

Sunday 25th 3:30pm, Studio

If you were asked to make a list of the greatest ever film directors, would George Stevens even be in your thoughts? Yet with films such as Giant, Shane, The Diary of Anne Frank and A Place in the Sun to his credit, Stevens must surely rank as one of the best.

Neil Sinyard will tell more of his story, from working on Laurel and Hardy films to the impact of World War II on his film making.

George Stevens was a hero to his cinematic peers and one of the greatest movie makers of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In a career spanning fifty years until his death in 1975, he brought distinction to every kind of picture, whether it be an Astaire and Rogers' musical (Swing Time), a Tracy and Hepburn romantic comedy (Woman of the Year) or Cary Grant at his most adventurously rumbustious Gunga Din) or poignantly vulnerable (Penny Serenade). He learned his craft as cameraman on Laurel and Hardy shorts and his early career was notable for delectable comedies that prioritised character over slapstick. Yet by the early 1940s, the shadow of war began to hang over even ostensibly escapist fare such as Woman of the Year and The More the Merrier: and his actual wartime experience, which included being part of the Allied forces that liberated Dachau, changed his sensibility. Comedy receded; and his films became more serious and contemplative about human destiny. The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) movingly commemorated the war dead, but his greatest post-war achievement was to be his trilogy of films, A Place in the Sun, Shane and Giant, which constitute an epic reassessment of the American Dream.

In this talk, which will be illustrated with film extracts, Neil will explore some recurrent preoccupations and characteristics of Stevens's work: the yearnings of the social outsider; his hatred of class prejudice and racial intolerance; a commanding visual style where his signature slow dissolve is used to unite and inspire thoughts and ideas as well as signal transitions of time and place. Particular attention will be paid to the two films shown in the Festival, arguing that Woman of the Year has a progressive political agenda that completely undercuts criticism of its seemingly conservative sexual politics; and that Shane, for all its deserved reputation as one of the greatest westerns ever made, contains a subtle study of marriage and relationships that typifies this exceptional director at his finest.

Neil's illustrated talk is complemented by screenings of Woman of the Year and Shane.

Woman of the Year
<a href="/festival/film/1157">Shane</a>
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Staying in Keswick for the Festival?

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Supported by Film Hub North, led by Showroom Workstation. Proud to be part of the BFI Film Audience Network

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All programme and film details are correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.