the New York Times - he wrote: "Adapted by Elmore Leonard from his novel, 'The Moonshine War' was directed by Richard Quine, a minor auteur described by Andrew Sarris in 'The American Cinema' as 'an inoffensive imitator of his betters.'"
Fair enough, I guess. Everyone has an opinion (particularly about movies), but Hoberman's is a second-hand one. Besides, Quine enthusiasts do exist.
Another case in point: The critic Dave Kehr. Quine's name was invoked regularly - and with some admiration - on Kehr's much-missed site, "reports from the lost continent of cinephilia." And then there's the intrepid Scott Foundas, who has reviewed for The Village Voice, Variety and Film Comment and who wrote a terrific essay for the LA Weekly when the director was the subject of "Richard Quine at Columbia," a mini-retrospective presented by the film arm of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art back in 2008. When Quine's wonderful ”It Happened to Jane” (1959) was screened in 2011 at the Colonial Theater, a rep house in Phoenixville, Pa. the recommendation came from Foundas.
He broke out in 1954 with two terrific titles, "Pushover," a gem that starred Fred MacMurray and introduced Kim Novak, and "Drive a Crooked Road," which started a quite interesting collaboration with Mickey Rooney.
In addition to Edwards and Rooney, his main connections at Columbia were studio head Harry Cohn (who promoted Quine to director), Lemmon (with whom he made six films and whose screen test he directed) and Novak (with whom he made four films there). Novak was entrusted to Quine by Cohn to groom into an actress and, more to the point, a star.
But the couple parted ways during the filming and much of the anxiety in Novak's performance in the film (her best) may have stemmed directly from the real-life break-up. Between 1948 and 1960, Richard Quine directed 17 titles for Columbia before leaving the studio when his contract was up. It was yet another parting after "Strangers When We Meet" which, by the way, remains Quine's masterwork. Arguably, of course.
Working outside the axis of the Columbia lot on North Gower, Quine's work took on a different dimension. Early on, he had been "loaned out" by Columbia (to Universal) for the Tony Curtis-Gene Nelson musical, "So This Is Paris" (1954), but his extracurricular professional life really started in earnest in 1960, the year he made "Strangers When We Meet," when he directed William Holden and Nancy Kwan in the film version of the Paul Osborn play, "The World of Suzie Wong" for Ray Stark and Paramount.
”The Notorious Landlady,” a clever, intricate take on Hitchcock. And then he dove into three back-to-back, star-powered comedies - "Paris - When It Sizzles" (1964), with William Holden and Audrey Hepburn; "Sex and the Single Girl" (1964), with Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, and "How to Murder Your Wife" (1965), his final film with Lemmon - the three made for Paramount, Warner Bros. and United Artists, respectfully.
"Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad," for Paramount.
In 1969-1970, Quine did two solid Richard Widmark films - "A Talent for Loving" for Paramount" and the aforementioned "The Moonshine War" for MGM - neither getting much of a studio push. Quine's last two films, both disposable Peter Sellers vehicles, were Universal's "The Prisoner Zenda" (1979) and Warners' "The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu" (1980), which he started but never completed. Piers Haggard is credited for "Fu Manchu."
Nine years later, Richard Quine would die from a self-inflicted gun shot. His career had been winding down and, sadly, he never achieved the wide-spread recognition that his peer and friend Blake Edwards enjoyed. Perhaps he missed the kind of movie he made so easily at his original home base, Columbia, where - again, arguably - he did his best work.
Perhaps, he was that rare filmmaker who worked best as a hired hand, a contract director, and not as a transient free-lancer. Who knows?
The standout among his final films is an unsung title reminiscent of his "Pushover"/"Drive a Crooked Road" days working for Cohn. "W," a tidy thriller that Quine made in 1974 for Cinerama Releasing, fell through the cracks the minute it was released, barely noticed. And it is now forgotten.
I've a hunch that his uneasy, idiosyncratic touch inspired her.
Notes in Passing: Quine and Billy Wilder both served as "best men" at Jack Lemmon's marriage to Felicia Farr in Paris during the summer of 1962, when Lemmon and Wilder were there for "Irma La Douce" location shooting.
Kim Novak was there, too. It was during that same summer that "The Notorious Landlady" was released. And, finally, Quine served as narrator for Lemmon's 1961 service comedy with Ricky Nelson, "The Wackiest Ship in the Army."
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~Richard Quine directing Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak in "The Notorious Landlady"
~photography: Bob Willoughby/Columbia Pictures 1962©
~Studio shot of Richard Quine
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1958©
~Doris Day, Jack Lemmon and Sam the lobster relax during the shooting of "It Happened to Jane"
~Betty Garrett, Jenet Leigh, Jack Lemmon and Bob Fosse in "My Sister Eileen"
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1955©
~Mickey Rooney in "Operation Mad Ball"
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1957©
~Kim Novak in "Strangers When We Meet"
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1960©
~Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis in a scene from "Sex and the Single Girl"
~photography: Warner Bros. 1964©
~ Dust jacket for the RCA soundtrack for "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling so Sad"
~ Lobby card for "W"
~Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak - in color! - in the otherwise black-&-white "The Notorious Landlady"
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1962©