Film critic Fujiwara (Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, 1998) glances at the director’s life but gives long, loving attention to every frame of his films.
After making his reputation as a stage director in Vienna, Preminger (1906–86) migrated to Hollywood in 1936. Notorious for his perfectionism and incendiary temper, he made movies notable for their adult tone and content, including Laura, Anatomy of a Murder and The Man with the Golden Arm—as well as some howlers like The Cardinal. (His reputation, Fujiwara acknowledges, has fluctuated.) The author does a respectable job of sketching Preminger’s biography in the opening chapters, zipping through his wives, art collection and affairs, including an extended, steamy one with his Porgy and Bess star, Dorothy Dandridge, and a quickie with Gypsy Rose Lee that produced an heir. He devotes the bulk of the text, however, to the films. Each gets its own chapter, beginning with the production history from screenplay and casting through scouting locations and shooting to post-production; then come accounts of each movie’s critical reception and the box-office receipts. But the heart of each chapter is the author’s careful analysis of each film. The insights are almost always flattering to Preminger and feature an annoying overabundance of superlatives. Reaching for praise, the author sometimes plunges into abstruseness, as when he comments of Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, “the film turns its abjection into the basis for an existential position and a political practice.” Nonetheless, Fujiwara’s insights are often interesting, occasionally elegant, and he scatters some savory factual bon-bons: Joan Crawford insisted the temperature on the Daisy Kenyon set be fixed at 58; Martin Luther King Jr. declined a part in Advise & Consent.
An assiduously researched work that examines and appreciates its subject’s art and craft rather than his tempestuous temperament—a complementary work to Foster Hirsch’s Otto Preminger (2007).