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Otto Preminger: The Groundbreakers Gets a Retrospective

Riverofnoreturn"Good books make bad movies," said director Otto Preminger so he spent his entire career proving the opposite by adapting mediocre material into intelligent, controversial fare.  Unfortunately his reputation as a bully earned him few friends in Hollywood, and overshadowed his rep as a trailblazer.  In New York City, the repertory theater Film Forum is out to right that wrong with a retrospective of his work—23 films spanning four decades—from now until Thursday, January 17.

After proving himself a man worth watching in the 1940s with noir classics like Laura and Fallen Angel , Preminger rocked the boat in the 1950s with two huge musicals with all-black casts: Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess . His disregard for the status quo led him to introduce coarse language in his indie flick The Moon is Blue , tackle drug abuse in 1955’s The Man With the Golden Arm , and depict a gay bar in Advise and Consent in 1962.

All this seems tame by today’s standards and would be irrelevant if his movies were simply button-pushers for the sake of it. But they’re so much more than that.  Preminger chose stories that he knew were worth telling; it just so happened that in order for them to be told right, everyone else’s idea of what movies were like would have to be thrown out the window.

If you’re not going to be in New York for the retrospective, catch The River of No Return , Preminger’s Western starring Marilyn Monroe. The film is broadcast on AMC on Saturday, January 26 at 6:45 a.m. | 5:45C. If that’s too early, there’s always TiVo.

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