Director William Wyler never attained the critical prominence of colleagues Hitchcock, Ford or Welles, yet several of his films rank among the best made. Three Wyler classics have just been released, representing three distinct genres: a western, a play and an Oscar-sweeping drama. Check them out and see what the critics missed.
THE WESTERNER (Embassy, 1940)
Lean and lanky Gary Cooper tangles with ornery Judge Roy Bean, "the law West of the Pecos." Walter Brennan won his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar as the Hanging Judge. Directed by Wyler; with Doris Davenport, Forrest Tucker and Dana Andrews.
THE LITTLE FOXES (Embassy, 1941)
Lillian Hellman's famous play about a power-grasping family in post-Civil War days, vividly brought to cinematic life by director Wyler and an outstanding cast. Starring Bette Davis (at her brazen best), Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright and Dan Duryea, with a screenplay by Hellman herself.
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (Embassy, 1946)
Beautiful, poignant, timeless movie about three World War II veterans trying to readjust to civilian life. Winner of seven well- deserved Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Direction (Wyler), Best Actor (Frederic March), Best Supporting Actor (Harold Russell, a true handless veteran), Best Screenplay (Robert E. Sherwood), Best Editing and Best Score (Hugo Friedhofer).
PINOCCHIO (Disney, 1940)
An animated gem from Walt Disney, in which a wooden puppet attempts to prove himself a real boy through a series of enchanted adventures. Perfect family fare, with no condescending to children and some truly terrifying moments.
A SOLDIER'S STORY (Columbia, 1984)
The tyrannical sergeant of a black Army unit in 1944 Louisiana is murdered. Black officer Howard E. Rollins ("Ragtime") investigates. Flashbacks reveal the truth. Riveting adaptation of Charles Fuller's play about racial and individual conformance. Directed by Norman Jewison; with Adolph Caesar and the superb Negro Ensemble Company.
THAT'S DANCING (MGM, 1984)
Like "That's Entertainment," excerpts from 40 years of MGM musicals, highlighting the fancy footwork of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Tom and Jerry.
MEAN SEASON (EMI Thorn, 1985)
Burned-out ace newspaper reporter Kurt Russell stumbles onto the Story of the Year when a psychotic serial killer personally informs him of each murder. In its first hour, an authentic, provocative, well-acted thriller; the second hour degenerates into an implausible slasher-style movie. With Mariel Hemingway, Richard Jordan and the vastly underrated Richard Masur.