The Pacific Film Archive often runs series celebrating a director, an actor, or even a novelist. But a screenwriter? Never. And the same goes for the Stanford, the Roxie, the Rafael, and the Castro (which has run series celebrating composers and cinematographers).
That’s ridiculous. The screenwriter shapes a film’s story, often conceives it, and puts words in the actors’ mouths. On both the live stage and television, the writer is king (or queen). But on film, they’re the forgotten artist.
But this Friday, that will change…sort of. The PFA launches a new series, Fallen Idols: Graham Greene On Screen. In Juliet Clark’s introduction to the series, she describes Greene as a “British novelist.” She makes a passing mention to his screen work as “lending his pen to some of the finest and darkest achievements of Anglo-American suspense filmmaking.”
The Third Man
I’ve never read any of his novels, but I’ve seen two films he wrote. Based on those two, he was a great screenwriter. He wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for four of the six films in the series, which makes the series almost a celebration of a screenwriter.
The series starts Friday night with one of the greatest films of all time, The Third Man
(screenplay by Greene, from his novella; directed by Carol Reed). To my mind, this story of post-war Vienna is the best film noir of them all, and more of a Greene film than a Reed one. You can read my A+ appreciation. If there’s a better film in the series than this one, there’s a masterpiece I need to discover.
The only other film in the series that I’ve already seen is the espionage comedy Our Man in Havana (screenplay by Greene, from his novel; also directed by Reed). I give it a B+. You can read my report, although you’ll have to scroll down a bit.
Our Man in Havana
Of the four remaining films in the series, Greene wrote only one by himself, The Fallen Idol. He wrote another, Brighton Rock, with Terence Rattigan. He did not write the screenplays for two of the films. John Dighton wrote the screenplay for Brighton Rock, and Seton I. Miller wrote the screenplay for Fritz Lang’s Ministry of Fear. All six films are based on novels or short stories by Greene.
One of these days, I hope, someone will actually do a series celebrating a screenwriter.