John Huston’s long and diverse career as a director and writer has been the subject of considerable controversy among film scholars. Since the publication in 1968 of Andrew Sarris’ THE AMERICAN CINEMA: DIRECTORS AND DIRECTIONS 1929-1968, in which Sarris included Huston among a group of directors he labeled “Less Than Meets the Eye,” Huston has remained a topic of debate and disagreement in critical circles.
REFLECTIONS IN A MALE EYE: JOHN HUSTON AND THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE offers a reexamination of Huston and his films with an emphasis on the director’s use of masculinity and the male experience. The book’s essays and articles are divided into three sections. The first, “Huston, History, and Ideology,” includes pieces that provide some historical perspective on Huston and his career, focusing on the ideological content of his work and its grounding in American history. The second, “Huston and the Problem of Masculinity,” consists of essays that explore both the celebration of masculinity in Huston’s work and the sometimes conflicting messages that underlie it. The book’s final section includes a biographical sketch of the director, an interview done in 1970, two stories written by Huston, and reprints of three articles, including Sarris’ 1968 essay and his subsequent reassessment of his original opinion.
What emerges throughout the book is a portrait of a filmmaker whose work reflects a distinctively male, distinctively American perspective. David Desser and Gary Edgerton’s essays on Huston’s wartime features and documentaries examine the role that World War II had in shaping Huston’s world view, while Stephen Cooper’s reevaluation of REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (1967) links the film’s themes to America’s involvement in Vietnam. Virginia Wright Wexman and Gaylyn Studlar both explore unexpected images of masculinity, Wexman in her assessment of MOULIN ROUGE’s (1952) unconventional use of artistic talent as a form of masculine achievement and Studlar in her analysis of the dark themes underlying FAT CITY’s (1972) portrait of professional boxing.
REFLECTIONS IN A MALE EYE: JOHN HUSTON AND THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE offers an intriguing point of view on a filmmaker whose life and work have captured the public’s fancy if not always the critics’ praise.