Cast & Crew
In late 1814, New Orleans has been under the control of the United States for less than a decade, and Gen. Andrew Jackson, who has been leading the fight against the British for the past two years, realizes that to win the war, he must maintain possession of the vital, still-wild port. With Washington, D.C. having been captured by the enemy, the outcome of the war lies in Jackson's hands. Desperate to prevent an impending blockade by the British, Jackson heads to New Orleans, despite warnings that notorious French Creole pirate Jean Lafitte is the de facto ruler of the city and especially of Barataria, the outlying swamps. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Lafitte flouts territorial law by selling his booty outside city limits, thereby avoiding paying taxes, while also secretly courting Annette, the daughter of Governor William Claiborne. At one rendezvous, Annette protests that she can no longer see Lafitte, as he is defying the American cause, which her father is attempting to solidify. The pirate replies that he has forbidden his men from attacking American ships and tells her that she can be the queen of Barataria, regardless of who rules New Orleans. Annette dismisses Lafitte's offer, stating that she needs a man of whom she can be proud. Later, at the harbor, Capt. Brown, one of Lafitte's men and the father of the fiery Bonnie, one of the pirates, watches as a strongbox of gold is loaded onto an American ship. The ship also carries Annette's younger sister Marie, who is eloping with her beau. Despite Lafitte's prohibition on attacking Americans, Brown orders his men to capture the ship, the Corinthian , and after securing the loot, burns the vessel without offering aid to those trapped aboard. Only young cabin boy Miggs is saved, and Lafitte is so horrified when he learns of the vicious crime that he has Brown hanged. In Barataria, some of the pirates want to kill Miggs, as he is the only witness to the Corinthian 's fate, but Lafitte protects the lad. Bonnie vows revenge against Lafitte for her father's death, and yells at the others that Lafitte is supporting the Americans only because of Annette. Soon after, Lafitte is visited by British naval officers who offer him royal pardons, land grants and a fortune in gold if he helps the British take New Orleans. Lafitte's righthand man, Dominique You, ridicules their promise to give Lafitte a captaincy in the British Navy, noting that Lafitte has far greater power as a pirate. Although the British vow to destroy Lafitte if he does not join them, he casually states that he will send them his answer in a week, then dismisses them. Later, Dominique teases Lafitte about his devotion to Annette, and Lafitte replies that he has come to believe in the ideals America represents, and that at some point in his life, a man must change. Lafitte then takes the letters from the British to Claiborne, who deeply mistrusts him. Lafitte asks only for a pardon for him and his men, and a "place under the American flag," in exchange for joining the Americans, and Claiborne agrees to take the matter to the defense council. Annette is so thrilled by Lafitte's transformation that she accepts his marriage proposal, but Lafitte's happiness is ruined when he returns to Barataria and discovers that the pirate village has been destroyed by the Americans. Bonnie tells Lafitte that the survivors have been imprisoned in New Orleans, and he determines to free them. Bonnie, who cannot help loving Lafitte, then begs him to escape with her, but he demurs. Meanwhile, in the city, Annette castigates her father for betraying Lafitte, while Mercier, a cowardly member of the council, asserts that their only hope is to surrender to the British. His comment is overheard by Jackson, who has just arrived, and the general proclaims that he will burn New Orleans rather than surrender it. Afterward, as Jackson rests alone, Lafitte sneaks in through a window and holds the general at gunpoint to demand the release of his men. Lafitte offers Jackson a huge store of arms in exchange, and Jackson, impressed by Lafitte's courage, agrees. As they talk, a young French Creole bursts in with news that the British are burning his father's plantation, only eight miles away. Lafitte helps Jackson devise strategic defense plans, then goes to the jail, where he tries to rally Dominique, who tells him that the men feel betrayed, as they believe that he has abandoned them. Lafitte shows him the pardon for himself signed by Jackson, who has offered to pardon any other pirate who fights alongside him. Lafitte then leaves, while on the battle lines, the Americans grow fretful, worrying that he will not bring the much-needed supplies. Claiborne arrives with three hundred city dwellers to reinforce the soldiers, although they are still vastly outnumbered by the British. Just as the battle begins, Lafitte arrives with not only the ammunition, but all of his men. Jackson tells Lafitte that due to the heavy fog, he cannot employ his deadly, long-range Kentucky rifles, and so Lafitte undertakes a dangerous mission, accompanied by one of his men and one of Jackson's Indian scouts. The trio succeeds in sending aloft a fiery arrow to pinpoint the British Army's location, and soon the Americans win the battle. Claiborne hosts a party celebrating the victory, and both Jackson and Lafitte are feted by the townspeople. The evening is spoiled, however, when Bonnie arrives dressed in the wedding gown that Marie intended to wear, which was taken in the booty from the Corinthian . Miggs also appears, and when he is relentlessly questioned about the Corinthian 's fate, Lafitte comes to his aid by revealing that he was there when the ship was sunk. Lafitte does not place the blame on Brown, however, stating instead that as the leader, he was responsible. Annette tries to defend her beloved, but the townsmen grab him and plan to lynch him. Jackson stops them, insisting that the pardon offered to the pirates still remains in force, as they stood by the Americans during the battle. Lafitte turns down his offer, asking only for an hour's "head start." Jackson agrees, and although Annette begs to go with him, Lafitte tells her that he loves her too much to subject her to a life on the run, without a country to call home. Telling Claiborne that while he cannot restore his other daughter to him, he can give him the thing he loves most in all the world, Lafitte places Annette's hand in his, then leaves. Later, aboard his ship, Lafitte sails away with Dominique, Bonnie and the others. Bitterly declaring that they have no flag to fly, Lafitte gives orders to head to sea, and Bonnie joins him at the wheel.
E. G. Marshall
Ted De Corsia
Robert F. Simon
Leslie E. Bradley
Billie Lee Hart
Julio De Diego
Dorothy Elsa Boyar
June Rose Ross
Carter Mullaly Jr.
Jean De Briac
George W. Watkins
George D. Barrows
John A. Anderson
C. C. Coleman Jr.
Ann Del Valle
C. Kenneth Deland
Cecil B. Demille
John P. Fulton
Hubert H. Soldier Graham
Jesse L. Lasky Jr.
Bernard Mceveety [jr.]
Capt. A. T. Ostrander
G. E. Richardson
William Sapp Jr.
Best Costume Design
The Buccaneer - Yul Brynner & Charlton Heston star in Cecil B. Demille's 1958 remake THE BUCCANEER
That early experience may have helped Cecil B. De Mille personally identify with a famous pirate from American history. His final film The Buccaneer is a remake of his own 1938 production starring Fredric March. In failing health, De Mille turned the job of directing over to his son-in-law Anthony Quinn. Quinn had been lobbying to produce and direct an American remake of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, but relinquished control of that project to helm this grandiose but studio-bound picture about the adventures of the notorious Jean Lafitte in the War of 1812.
Realizing that the English will invade New Orleans, General Andrew Jackson (Charlton Heston, who had played Jackson just five years earlier in The President's Lady) expresses interest when the pirate Jean Lafitte (Yul Brynner) negotiates to help on the American side. Lafitte never robs Yankee ships, but the local authorities are incensed by his sales of stolen booty in secret bayou markets. Governor Claiborne (E.G. Marshall) isn't sure if Lafitte can be trusted, but his daughter Annette (Inger Stevens) is in love with the dashing Frenchman. The politics on both sides are unpredictable. Lafitte's number two man Dominique Yu (Charles Boyer) remains loyal, but some of his pirate captains rebel. Captain Brown (Robert F. Simon) secretly raids an American ship, killing all on board save for a small boy. Emotional New Orleans merchants like Mercier (Lorne Greene) convince the American command to attack Lafitte's outlaw island Barataria just as the pirate is sealing a deal to fight on the side of "Old Hickory". With the British approaching, the Americans have little in the way of powder and arms to stop them. Jean still wants to prove his loyalty to the American flag - but will his pirates still fight with him?
The entertaining The Buccaneer is a strange mix of old and new Hollywood. De Mille and his head writer Jesse Lasky Jr. simplify the Battle of New Orleans to one simple issue -- both the British and the Americans know that Jean Lafitte's backwoods domain lies on an overland route to the city. The Buccaneer would have us believe that the noble outlaw burns for the opportunity to side with the Stars 'n' Stripes. We're told that the actual historical Lafitte chose the American side for his own patriotic reasons: France at the time was just as hostile toward England as was America.
Repeating from De Mille's gargantuan The Ten Commandments, Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston give spirited performances. Brynner struts and poses while Heston is compelled to portray General Jackson as the older man we know from famous portraits. Supporting these two in over a hundred speaking roles are several stars and a who's who of familiar Hollywood character actors. Charles Boyer is given the plum part of Lafitte's strategist. An ex-officer from the Napoleonic Wars, he hides a humiliating personal secret not that much different than Jimmy Stewart's in De Mille's The Greatest Show on Earth. Henry Hull is given an expansive character while E.G. Marshall is typically quiet and reserved. Lorne Greene is very atypically called upon to overact. Many scenes have ten or twelve recognizable character actors as various pirates or sailors. Quite a few get only a line or so of dialogue: Ted de Corsia, John Dierkes, Robert Warwick, Onslow Stevens, Stephen Chase, Henry Brandon, Jack Kruschen, Friedrich von Ledebur, Mike Mazurki, Jack Pennick, and many more. Young Woody Strode is an eager pirate, while calypso musician Sir Lancelot plays Lafitte's refined houseboy.
The two leading ladies swoon over Jean but are mostly decorative. It's a particularly bland role for Inger Stevens. The prominently billed Claire Bloom's character never develops. Her Bonnie Brown has set her cap for Jean Lafitte, but barely receives as much as a how-do-you from the dashing brigand. It's hardly a suitable role for such a distinguished actress.
The production is achieved on Hollywood sound stages, with VistaVision lensing and expert optical effects combining some sets with backgrounds filmed on location. But De Mille still conceives of an historical recreation as a mix between a pageant and a tableaux vivant. The lighting is bright and flat and the color design is suitable for a child's storybook. Not one of the pirates appears natural in his neatly pressed costume. Although lavishly produced in some respects, the whole show has an air of artificiality we associate with a much earlier era. The movie reflects De Mille's taste and standards so strongly that it's difficult to see what contribution was made by the credited director Anthony Quinn.
The show builds with some interesting action scenes, leading to the actual battle pitting Redcoats versus Yankees and pirates in a misty marsh. Although the scenario is pleasingly straightforward, there is no mistaking the heavy hand of Cecil B. The dialogue sounds as if it were written for silent movie inter-titles, with line after line of bald exposition making us wince. Exclamations from the citizens of Barataria tell us what we can see with our own eyes, while the sweet and trusting Annette trades love talk with Jean that's as silly as Gene Kelly's romantic lines in Singin' in the Rain. Interestingly, Charles Boyer and Charlton Heston must have been born to play historical stuffed shirts, for even the creakiest dialogue clunkers roll gracefully off their tongues. The Buccaneer is not really good cinema, but it is undeniably watchable.
The heroic Jean Lafitte is a very unlikely pirate, that special kind that picks and chooses his targets and never kills his captives. Jean instead reserves his savagery for the pirate captain that defies him, personally hanging the man on board his ship. But we're told that most of the outlaw citizens in the Barataria island hideout revere Lafitte as a great leader. Women greet Jean in the village; he's a man of the people who just happens to make his living selling stolen goods. Those unpatriotic New Orleans merchants come off as cowards concerned only with the tax revenue that Lafitte isn't paying.
Still grooming his personal image, producer De Mille personally introduces the show by pointing to a map of Louisiana and explaining why New Orleans was the key to winning the war of 1812. De Mille's claims of historical accuracy don't mention that the noble Andrew Jackson was the slave-holding politician who banished almost all of the Southeastern Indian tribes to the Oklahoma Territory. As for the "crucial" Battle of New Orleans, De Mille makes no mention of the fact that it was fought two weeks after the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812: word of the cessation of hostilities didn't reach Louisiana for over a month. Although unavoidable, the bloody conflict dramatized in The Buccaneer decided nothing and was a curious historical mistake.
Olive Films' Blu-ray of The Buccaneer looks splendid. Paramount's HD restoration of this VistaVision production maximizes the impact of the bright and detailed images. We won't call it art, but the film is indeed pictorially handsome. Elmer Bernstein contributes a rousing music score. Actors Brynner and Quinn were very competitive Hollywood players in the late 1950s. They briefly partnered on the Magnificent Seven project, which both wanted to direct. As it turned out, Yul Brynner's participation was reduced to Actor For Hire. Composer Bernstein followed him to the new show and turned in what is probably his best-known motion picture score.
For more information about The Buccaneer, visit Olive Films. To order The Buccaneer, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
The Buccaneer - Yul Brynner & Charlton Heston star in Cecil B. Demille's 1958 remake THE BUCCANEER
The Buccaneer (1958) - The Buccaneer (1959)
During the War of 1812, General Andrew Jackson (played by Charlton Heston) has only 1,200 ragtag, tired soldiers left to defend New Orleans when he learns that a British fleet will soon arrive with an overwhelming force of 60 ships and 16,000 men to take the city. In this dire situation an island near the city becomes strategically important to both parties, but it happens to be inhabited by the most powerful pirate in the Gulf of Mexico, Jean Lafitte (Yul Brynner). When the big battle draws near, Lafitte must choose where his loyalties lie, despite his mercenary nature. His heart belongs to America, but his people urge him to join the party that's more likely to win.
Released in 1959 by Paramount Pictures, The Buccaneer was the last film to bear the stamp of one of Hollywood's founding fathers, the legendary Cecil B. DeMille. However, it was not the last film he personally directed; that would be The Ten Commandments, released in 1956, also by Paramount. But The Buccaneer bears an unmistakable DeMillian ambience: epic, historic, colorful, and never afraid of making an omission or addition for the sake of the narrative, history be damned. Like The Ten Commandments, The Buccaneer is also a remake of a previous DeMille picture. He first filmed The Buccaneer with Fredric March in the title role in 1938. Appearing in this version in a small role was actor Anthony Quinn, who was DeMille's son-in-law, married to his adopted daughter Katherine. In what would appear to be an act of Hollywood nepotism, Quinn would eventually helm the 1958 remake of The Buccaneer. Desperation and not familial favoritism, however, was more likely the reason because Quinn was not the original choice to direct.
The Hollywood Reporter stated in June 1956 that Yul Brynner would helm the remake of The Buccaneer, with DeMille supervising what would become the first musical of his long and storied career. But Brynner soon bowed out, not wishing his directorial debut to be such a mammoth production (and under DeMille's watchful eye, no less). Also ditched was the intention of making The Buccaneer a musical. Longtime DeMille collaborator, producer-actor Henry Wilcoxon, admitted that the plans to stage it as a musical were abandoned "because it was apparent that we had too good a story to tell." So with Brynner out as director (though he was still committed to play the lead) and a musical score scrapped, DeMille turned to his son-in-law, Anthony Quinn, a recent Oscar®-winner for his supporting performance in Vincent Minnelli's Lust for Life (1956).
Quinn did not want the assignment and recommended to DeMille that he hire director Budd Boetticher instead, but DeMille insisted on Quinn. Quinn acquiesced, noting in his autobiography years later that DeMille chose him so that he could maintain control over the production. Indeed, beneath the Paramount logo at the very beginning of the film is the telling reminder "Supervised by Cecil B. DeMille." DeMille even appears in a pre-credit prologue, helpfully giving the viewer a brief history and geography lesson behind the Battle of New Orleans. (No mere wand would do for DeMille; he points to a large colorful map behind him with an arrow.)
Quinn was offered a handsome package to make The Buccaneer: a $6 million production, including $1.2 million for promotion, plus five stars (including Brynner, Heston, Claire Bloom, Charles Boyer, and Inger Stevens), 55 featured players, 100 bit actors (look for African-American actor Woody Strode as an heroic pirate in Lafitte's band), 12,000 extras, 60,000 props (among them more than a dozen antique pirogues, a type of canoe made from a hollowed tree trunk), $100,000 worth of antique furniture and a couple of boxcar loads of Spanish moss and cypress tress. It certainly appeared to be a Cecil B. DeMille production. While Quinn is the nominal director, The Buccaneer indeed turned out to be his father-in-law's film, much to Quinn's chagrin. Preferring a more epic film, the aged director made several changes to Quinn's film, which was apparently more character-based and intimate in tone. Quinn later said that the re-edited film "was nothing like the picture I had shot...the whole feeling was different. The pace I had carefully established was gone, replaced by frenetic jump cuts and wide shots." Of the released film, Quinn summed up his feelings by saying, "I did not like it at all."
The Buccaneer made its world premiere in New Orleans as a benefit for the Louisiana Landmark Society, which was seeking to purchase the approximately sixty acres where the Battle of New Orleans was fought and preserve it as a national monument. The film received mixed reviews and an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design. Regardless of its critical or commercial merits, the film did manage to make an impression on historians. Brynner's Jean Lafitte and Heston's Andrew Jackson were fairly accurate, according to some scholars (despite Heston's wig being much too white for the younger Jackson at this stage in his life). Sean Wilentz wrote in the book Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies that in emphasizing the importance of the New Orleans battle, The Buccaneer is "actually more trustworthy than many standard history textbooks."
Producer: Henry Wilcoxon
Director: Anthony Quinn
Screenplay: Harold Lamb, Edwin Justus Mayer, and C. Gardner Sullivan (1938 version), Bernice Mosk, Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Jeanie Macpherson (adaptation), Lyle Saxon (novel "Lafitte, the Pirate").
Cinematography: Loyal Griggs
Art Direction: Albert Nozaki, Hal Pereira, and Walter Tyler
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Film Editing: Archie Marshek
Cast: Yul Brynner (Jean Lafitte), Claire Bloom (Bonnie Brown), Charles Boyer (Dominique You), Inger Stevens (Annette Clairborne), Charlton Heston (Gen. Andrew Jackson).
by Scott McGee
The Buccaneer (1958) - The Buccaneer (1959)
Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)
Elmer Bernstein, who was not related to Leonard Bernstein, was born on August 4, 1922, in New York City. He displayed a talent in music at a very young age, and was given a scholarship to study piano at Juilliard when he was only 12. He entered New York University in 1939, where he majored in music education. After graduating in 1942, he joined the Army Air Corps, where he remained throughout World War II, mostly working on scores for propaganda films. It was around this time he became interested in film scoring when he went to see William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), a film whose score was composed by Bernard Herrmann, a man Bernstein idolized as the ideal film composer.
Bernstein, who originally intended to be a concert pianist and gave several performances in New York after being discharged from military service, decided to relocate to Hollywood in 1950. He did his first score for the football film Saturday's Hero (1950), and then proved his worth with his trenchant, moody music for the Joan Crawford vehicle Sudden Fear (1952). Rumors of his "communist" leanings came to surface at this time, and, feeling the effects of the blacklist, he found himself scoring such cheesy fare as Robot Monster; Cat Women of the Moon (both 1953); and Miss Robin Caruso (1954).
Despite his politics, Otto Preminger hired him to do the music for The Man With the Golden Arm, (1955) in which Frank Sinatra played a heroin-addicted jazz musician. Fittingly, Bernstein used some memorable jazz motifs for the film and his fine scoring put him back on the map. It prompted the attention of Cecil B. De Mille, who had Bernstein replace the ailing Victor Young on The Ten Commandments (1956). His thundering, heavily orchestrated score perfectly suite the bombastic epic, and he promptly earned his first Oscar® nod for music.
After The Ten Commandments (1956), Bernstein continued to distinguish himself in a row of fine films: The Rainmaker (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Some Came Running (1958), The Magnificent Seven (a most memorable galloping march, 1960); To Kill a Mockingbird (unique in its use of single piano notes and haunting use of a flute, 1962); Hud (1963); earned a deserved Academy Award for the delightful, "flapper" music for the Julie Andrews period comedy Thoroughly Modern Mille (1967), and True Grit (1969).
His career faltered by the '80s though, as he did some routine Bill Murray comedies: Meatballs (1980) and Stripes (1981). But then director John Landis had Bernstein write the sumptuous score for his comedy Trading Places (1983), and Bernstein soon found himself back in the game. He then graced the silver screen for a few more years composing some terrific pieces for such popular commercial hits as My Left Foot (1989), A River Runs Through It (1992) and The Age of Innocence (1993). Far From Heaven, his final feature film score, received an Oscar® nomination for Best Score in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Eve; sons Peter and Gregory; daughters Emilie and Elizabeth; and five grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)
TCM Remembers - Jack Kruschen
Jack Kruschen (1922-2002)
He may have not been a household name, yet his career consisted of over seventy-five films, spanned over six decades, and displayed a strong versatility in playing either dramatic or comic roles with equal effectiveness. He was the definitive, "I can't quite remember the name, but I remember the face" character player who enlivened many films with his robust frame, cherubic face and infectious smile. His name was Jack Kruschen, a superb performer who died on April 2, 2002 at the age of 80, leaving behind a strong body of work that was impressive as any character actor of his generation.
Kruschen was born on March 20, 1922 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The son of a watchmaker who later set up shop in Hollywood, he was performing in an operetta at Hollywood high school when a talent scout for CBS radio discovered him. Kruschen was soon doing voice characterizations on popular network programs such as Dragnet, The Danny Thomas Show and Sam Spade. With his gift for dialects (he was most adept at playing ethnic types like Greeks, Yiddish or Italians - a skill finely honed in his radio days), Kruschen was a natural for the movies and soon made his film debut with a small role in the Betty Hutton comedy Red, Hot and Blue (1949).
Kruschen's early career is peppered with a variety of roles like a comical gangster in both Abbott & Costello Go to Mars (1953) and Money from Home (1953) starring Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin; a hard-nosed police detective in Confidence Girl (1952) and Julie (1956), an underrated Doris Day thriller; or doomed victims to alien prey in Sci-fi cult classics: the 1953 version of War of the Worlds (fans remember him as Salvatore, one of the first earthlings to be killed by the invading Martians) and The Angry Red Planet (1959). The roles offered steady work, but not much critical recognition. All that changed when Billy Wilder cast him in the key role as Jack Lemmon's bemused but caring neighbor, Dr. Dreyfuss in The Apartment (1960). As the man who observes the steady stream of women in and out of Lemmon's apartment and the one who saves Shirley MacLaine from a drug overdose, Kruschen offered a wonderful performance - viewing his neighbor's proceedings with a jaundiced eye, yet never letting his disdain overtake his humor and humanity. He was justly rewarded with an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.
From this point on, Kruschen was seldom out of work, appearing in over 40 films (including a terrific dramatic turn in the original Cape Fear (1962) as Dave Grafton, a corrupt southern bigot) and nearly 60 guest roles on television for the next two decades. Kruschen would later find fame toward the end of his career when he was cast as Papa Papadapolis in the hit sitcom Webster (1985-1987) and would show pleasant variations of the "kindly old codger" throughout the remainder of his career - like his final role in the romantic comedy 'Til There Was You (1997). His death in April this year may have gone largely unnoticed by the movie-going public, but for those of us who treasure the art of the character player, Kruschen's passing was a loss that is fortunately compensated by his strong body of work that will be enjoyed for fans of the late show for many years to come.
By Michael T. Toole
SIGNE HASSO, 1910-2002
Actress Signe Hasso died June 7th at the age of 91. She was best-known for starring in A Double Life (1947) but played numerous Europeans in films during the 1940s. Hasso was born on August 15, 1910 in Stockholm, Sweden and began acting on stage at the age of 13. Ten years later made her first film appearance as Signe Larsson. She was married in 1936 and adopted the last name of her husband, cinematographer and later director Harry Hasso. After a dozen Swedish films, Hasso moved to Hollywood in 1940 where her first screen appearance was an uncredited role in Journey for Margaret (1942). A brief stint at RKO didn't lead to any more promising film parts so Hasso concentrated on her stage career in New York City. Eventually, her film career became more active, thanks to a quick succession of roles, most notably in Fred Zinnemann's The Seventh Cross (1944), Douglas Sirk's A Scandal in Paris (1946) and Henry Hathaway's The House on 92nd Street (1945). However it was her portrayal of Ronald Colman's wife in the Oscar-favorite A Double Life that solidified her fame. But as Hasso continued to act on the stage and TV, her film work began to taper off. She appeared in high-profile thrillers like Crisis (1950), several made-for-TV movies, a few European productions and even the cult murder mystery, Bert Gordon's Picture Mommy Dead (1966). In 1972, the king of Sweden decorated Hasso for her work. Her final appearance was in a 2001 documentary about Greta Garbo.
HERMAN COHEN, 1927-2002
One of the key producers of B-movies, Herman Cohen, died June 2nd at the age of 76. Like most producers, his name wasn't generally known outside the industry or the realms of film buffs but most people never forget the titles of his films: I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) and the not-quite-immortal Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952). Cohen was a Detroit native, born August 27, 1927. He entered the film business in the smallest possible way, as a 12-year-old janitor, often accepting passes for his family and friends instead of wages. Cohen served in the Marine Corps (several articles incorrectly say the Army) before becoming a publicist at Columbia Pictures. By 1951 he was working as a producer's assistant on low-budget independent films, mostly for Realart Pictures run by another Detroit native Jack Broder. Soon Cohen was producing his own movies, including Westerns and mysteries, until hitting big with the famous I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Starring a then-unknown Michael Landon (under personal contract to Cohen who later tore it up so Landon could appear in Bonanza), the film was made for $100,000 but in just a few months grossed over $2 million. Cohen didn't hestitate to turn out I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula by Thanksgiving of that same year and before long had made several films that continued to earn money for years to come. (One TCM writer remembers Horrors of the Black Museum turning up in a small Alabama town in the early 70s, over a decade after its initial release. The film is scheduled for a DVD release with a Cohen commentary from VCI Entertainment.) Cohen also made several films in England including The Headless Ghost (1959) and the cult favorite Konga (1961) where Cohen even paid RKO $25,000 for the rights to use the title King Kong in publicity for his own film. Cohen's later movies included a spaghetti Western and Joan Crawford's final acting role Trog (1970). In the 1980s Cohen ran a company, Cobra Media, that distributed some films and licensed material such as Teenage Werewolf to Landon for use in one of his Highway to Heaven episodes.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Jack Kruschen
The film's opening title card reads: "A Paramount Picture Supervised by Cecil B. DeMille." DeMille's name appears in the form of a signature. At the end of the opening credits, a written prologue states that although "Three American Presidents condemned, pardoned, and again condemned" buccaneer Jean Lafitte, "Fate placed into the hands of this man-without-a-country the destiny of a country-the United States-fighting for its very existence in the War of 1812." According to reviews and information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, the picture's original release contained a prologue featuring DeMille, in which the producer described Lafitte's place in history. The prologue was not in the viewed print, however.
The Buccaneer was a remake of DeMille's 1938 Paramount production of the same title, also about Lafitte. In April 1956, Hollywood Reporter stated that DeMille would remake The Buccaneer as the first musical of his career. A June 1956 Hollywood Reporter announced that DeMille was signed Chinese actress Li Li-hua to make her American motion picture debut in the film, which was to be directed by Yul Brynner. In a December 1957 New York Times article, longtime DeMille collaborator, producer-actor Henry Wilcoxon stated that the plans to stage the remake as a musical were abandoned "because it was apparent that we had too good a story to tell." According to modern sources, after Brynner decided not to direct the film because it was going to be a larger production than he wanted to attempt for his directorial debut, DeMille turned to actor Anthony Quinn.
Quinn (1915-2001), who was married to DeMille's daughter Katherine from 1937 to 1965, had never directed a film before, and according to modern sources, recommended that DeMille hire director Budd Boetticher instead, but DeMille insisted that Quinn do it. Quinn, who had played the part of "Beluche" in the 1938 version of The Buccaneer, accepted reluctantly, noting in his autobiography that DeMille chose a first-time director so that he could maintain control over the production. Quinn stated that he hired Abby Mann to rewrite the screenplay that DeMille had given him initially, but that the producer rejected Mann's version as "too dark" and "too political."
According to items in January 1957 Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column, Rita Moreno and Vincent Price were sought for roles in the picture. A studio press release added that four of the boys tested for the role of "Miggs" were Ronnie Sorensen, Bucko Stafford, Louis Lettieri and Duncan Quinn, Anthony and Katherine Quinn's son. Although Hollywood Reporter news items add Hal Rand, May Johnson, Jerry Lucas, Tony Linehan, Angelo Prioli and Ken Hooker to the cast, their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a studio press release, director of photographer Loyal Griggs was ill for four days during production and was temporarily replaced by Ellsworth Fredricks. Another press release reported that many of the antiques in the set of Lafitte's home in Barataria were borrowed from DeMille's personal collection. Some stock shots from the earlier film, such as the sinking of the Corinthian, were used in the later picture, according to studio records.
Douglass Dumbrille, Reginald Sheffield and John Hubbard also appeared in DeMille's 1938 version of The Buccaneer, but in different roles. Brynner and Charlton Heston had previously appeared together in DeMille's 1956 production The Ten Commandments. Many reviews of The Buccaneer commented on Brynner's wearing of a brunette wig and mustache, which marked the first time he appeared onscreen with hair instead of his trademark bald pate. According to the pressbook and an October 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, Mack David added lyrics to one of the film's musical themes, written by composer Elmer Bernstein, to produce the song "Love Song from The Buccaneer (Lover's Gold)." Used to publicize the film, the song was recorded by Mitch Miller and his orchestra and choral group. A modern source reports that Rebecca Morelli served as the film's script supervisor.
In November 1958, Hollywood Reporter announced that Paramount had allocated a budget of $1,200,000 for promotion of The Buccaneer, which marked the "second highest ad-pub budget placed on a film in the history of the company." One of the main focuses of the publicity campaign was a ten-minute theatrical trailer featuring DeMille "in a narration and display of the film's historical highlights." July and December 1958 Hollywood Reporter news items noted that the film's world premiere in New Orleans was a benefit for the Louisiana Landmark Society, which was seeking to purchase the approximately sixty acres where the Battle of New Orleans was fought and preserve it as a national monument.
December 1958 Daily Variety and Hollywood Citizen-News items reported that Henri de Balther Claiborne, the great-grandson of former Louisiana governor William Claiborne, was threatening to sue Paramount and the theater scheduled to host the New Orleans premiere. The plaintiff claimed that the film was a "slanderous misrepresentation" because it depicted a romance between Lafitte and a daughter of Claiborne. In reality, Claiborne's first daughter had died years before the fictional romance could have taken place, while his younger daughter was born in the mid-1810s. [As commented on by several reviews, the film was only loosely historically accurate. For more information about Jean Lafitte, please see the entry for the 1950 Columbia film Last of the Buccaneers in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.] It has not been determined if de Balther Claiborne did file suit, although the New Orleans premiere was held as scheduled.
Heston had earlier portrayed "Andrew Jackson" in the 1953 Twentieth Century-Fox production The President's Lady (see below). In his autobiography and published journals, Heston wrote that it took over two hours for him to be made up for the role in The Buccaneer, and as filming progressed, he realized that he had mistakenly instructed makeup chief Wally Westmore to age him too much, thereby making Jackson look much older than he had actually been at the Battle of New Orleans. According to Heston's journals, DeMille ordered retakes to be shot in mid-January 1959, which was "the closest he [DeMille] came to involving himelf in the shooting."
Although the last film personally directed by DeMille was the 1956 Paramount release The Ten Commandments, The Buccaneer was the last film on which the noted producer worked before his death in 1959. The picture was also the last of actor Reginald Sheffield and David Ledner, Henry Hull's stand-in; Sheffield and Ledner both died during the picture's production. The Buccaneer marked the screen acting debut of Fran Jeffries and the first onscreen producer credit for Wilcoxon, who had served in an assistant or associate capacity to DeMille on a number of his earlier pictures.
The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design. The Buccaneer, which received fair reviews, was a disappointment to Quinn, who never directed another picture. In his autobiography, Quinn asserted that after he produced a "far more intimate" film than anything DeMille would have done, DeMille, who preferred more epic dimensions, recut the picture completely. Quinn stated that the re-edited film "was nothing like the picture I had shot...the whole feeling was different. The pace I had carefully established was gone, replaced by frenetic jump cuts and wide shots." Quinn summed up his reaction to the released film by saying "I did not like it at all."
Released in United States on Video June 10, 1991
Released in United States Winter December 1958
Released in United States on Video June 10, 1991
Released in United States Winter December 1958