In this collection of interviews, Robert Aldrich (1918-1983) tells fascinating stories of making motion pictures with such film legends as Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Robert Mitchum, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, James Stewart, Charles Bronson, Eddie Albert, and Burt Reynolds. As he speaks of them, of his on-going battles with censors, and of his audacious but failed attempt to create his own studio, he talks bluntly, sometimes ferociously, about struggling to make movies that accented his uncompromising view of life.
Among Aldrich's interviewers are Richard Combs, Peter Bogdanovich, Alain Silver, Pierre Sauvage, and David Sterritt. In dialogue with these critics and film scholars he recounts a life in filmmaking that encompassed both old Hollywood's studio system and the spirited independence that took American cinema in a new direction in the 1960s and '70s.
Although he was a member and a kinsman of wealthy, powerful families (the Aldriches of Rhode Island and the Rockefellers of New York), he gained a reputation as an anti-authoritarian maverick whose films condemned corruptive power. While succeeding as popular entertainment, they also were personal attacks on hypocrisy and intolerance.
Aldrich redefined genres and undercut the conventions they portrayed. Kiss Me Deadly transformed the detective film into a satire on Cold War America. Vera Cruz disclosed the corruption at the heart of the traditional western. The Dirty Dozen and Twilight's Last Gleaming rendered the ambiguous underside of combat and the military. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte shaped horror films into psychological studies of female loneliness and alienation.
Eugene L. Miller is the author, with Edwin T. Arnold, of The Films and Career of Robert Aldrich.
Edwin T. Arnold, a professor of English at Appalachian State University, is co-editor of Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy and A Cormac McCarthy Companion: The Border Trilogy (both published by the University Press of Mississippi).