By Jeanine Basinger
The undisputed master of three genres—film noir, psychological Westerns, and big-budget historical epics—Anthony Mann died too young (at age 60) to enjoy the wave of appreciation that has accumulated around his majestic body of work since his death in 1967, and save for this book, he might have disappeared entirely. Renowned film scholar Jeanine Basinger made an early name for herself in 1979 with this biography on Mann, which is the first and still remains the only necessary survey of his career. She returned to the subject three decades later having had the opportunity to acquaint herself more thoroughly with hard-to-find Mann gems (i.e., The Furies, Raw Deal, Men in War), creating a revised 2007 edition that is simply indispensable. Basinger ably dissects Mann’s historic collaboration with cinematographer John Alton on B-noirs in which light and dark torment and imprison their doomed characters, and she offers definitive accounts of the widescreen Westerns of the ’50s, in which transcendent landscapes do battle with collapsing and embittered mind scapes. On the larger canvas of El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire (the wellspring of Gladiator), Mann kept spectacle and human emotion in a fine and expressive balance. This is a journey from the shoddy backlots of Poverty Row to the grandeur of Cinecittà Studios in its glory years, an epic arc through the cinema of the ’50s, of which Mann, thanks to Basinger, is now seen as a giant.
Review written by John Patterson.