The Siren has a friend who is a film editor, and over the years this gentleman has corrected her more than once when she pronounced Dassin "Das-SAHN," in the French way. "He's American," the editor would say. "Don't forget." Dassin would have approved. "I'm American, and that I will stay," he said, in this excellent interview over at the WGA site.
The Siren has been thinking about her editor friend's reminder this morning. Because along with the Sunrise jokester from the Oscars, here's another writer the Siren would like to nominate for permanent hiatus: whoever wrote Jules Dassin's obituary for the Associated Press.
Dassin, a leftist activist whose more than 20 films also included "Topkapi," abandoned Hollywood in 1950 during the Communist blacklisting era.
Dassin, who was active in leftist political causes, was denounced by Hollywood contemporaries as being a Communist enough to be placed on the era's infamous blacklists.
He moved to London in 1950 to shoot his next film, "Night and the City." Dassin then lived in Italy and France before returning to the cinema with "Rififi."
Did you get the part where he was a leftist? Are you sure? Should we mention it again? Lefty-left-left-leftist, got that? How about the fact that Dassin left the Communist party in 1939? Oops, no space for that. He moved to London to do Night and the City, who knows why. Then Dassin "abandoned" the U.S. after being denounced by vaguely plural "contemporaries" and put on the blacklist. They wouldn't let on just anybody, you know, you had to be "Communist enough." Then Dassin lived in Italy and France and after soaking up the Euroscene he returned with Rififi.
That's what these leftists do, you know. Just up and leave us with nary a backward glance:
He could not find work in Europe for five years, as producers felt American distributors would automatically ban any film with his signature. When Rififi opened, critics wrote about Dassin as if he were European. The New York Herald Tribune reported in 1961, 'At one ceremony, when the award to Rififi was announced, [Dassin] was called to the dais, and a French flag was raised above him: "It should have been a moment of triumph but I felt awful. They were honoring my work and I'm an American. It should have been the American flag raised in honor."'
The Siren knows she sounds grumpy. Well, it's bad enough to lose Richard Widmark and Abby Mann in the same week. It is worse to hear that an American director of exceptional talent, the maker of at least three excellent movies (Brute Force, The Naked City and Thieves' Highway) and two great ones (Night and the City, Rififi) has died at the ripe old age of 96, and then see that the obituary flashing across the newswires is a slanted piece of crap.
It's been sixty years, people. You can stop pretending that protecting us all from Jules Dassin movies was essential for national security.
All right, the Siren feels better now. Surely the day will bring good posts from good bloggers to wash the taste of the AP out of her mouth. The Siren has spent a lot of time reading farewells to the great Richard Widmark. Meanwhile there's the WGA interview. And, there is always Youtube.
P.S. Speaking of Richard Widmark--please check out this post over at Scanners, where Jim Emerson meticulously reconstructs the oft-retold Andrei Tarkovsky incident at Telluride. Glenn Kenny, meanwhile, pays his respects to Dassin's "inspired" run from Brute Force to Rififi. And Steve-O at Film Noir of the Week pays tribute by analyzing the pitch-dark Brute Force.