Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Movie Pioneer

Congratulations to Turner Classic Movies for the recent Val Lewton festival and the documentary about Lewton by the great Martin Scorsese. Presented by Scorsese TCM's original documentary looked at the imaginative producer who fashioned a lasting body of beautiful and unsettling films on meager budgets. Among the films shown during the Lewton festival we got a chance to watch the wonderfully-titled I Walked With a Zombie and the eerily mesmerizing Cat People. Lewton is best known for these two and seven other brooding horror films he produced for RKO Pictures in the 1940s. We managed to capture some of the others on tape.
Lewton, originally named Vladimir Ivan Leventon, was born in what is now Yalta, Ukraine. He was a nephew of the actress Alla Nazimova. In 1909, he immigrated with his sister and mother to the USA (where his name was changed to Val Lewton). In Hollywood he earned his chops working for Selznick and then joined RKO. Lewton died of a heart attack at the age of 46 - much too young. But he left a legacy that has inspired other filmmakers.

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