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Two Guys from La Crosse

July 1, 2017

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Featured viewing on this months Filmstruck - a curated streaming service for film lovers from Turner Classic Movies - are the films of two directors from different sides of the track in the same town. Nicholas Ray and Joseph Losey, both from La Crosse, Wisconsin, are considered by many to be among the most important film directors of the 20th century - a century dominated by another Wisconsin native, Orson Welles. Nicholas Ray was born in Galesville and raised in La Crosse. After graduation from High School he attended La Crosse State Teachers College and later studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesen. Like Orson Welles, he was friends with the famous Madison born playwrite and author, Thornton Wilder. Although best known for directing Rebel Without a Cause, his other films remain powerful viewing experiences today - Bigger Than Life (1956), Johnny Guitar (1953) On Dangerous Ground (1949) In a Lonely Place starring Humphrey Bogart and his brilliant 1948 debut, They Live by Night. In the 1950's French critics hailed him as the new genius of American Cinema. His films are about outsiders and misfits. In the end, Nicholas Ray was the ultimate misfit. He died in 1979.

 Joseph Losey was born the wealthy grandson of a beloved La Crosse philanthropist. He was a classmate of Nicholas Ray in high school and after graduation studied at Dartmouth and Harvard. Like Orson Welles, he was a major director of the New York dramatic stage in the 1930's. During the McCarthy Era.....(a pause for the irony to sink in)...... he was blacklisted. He found a new home in England and his career flourished. He is best remembered for his work with dramatist Harold Pinter in such films as The Servant(1963) and The Go Between(1971). He also directed a memorable horror film, The Damned -  better known as "that creepy-assed movie with those weird blonde haired radioactive kids who make people blow up" - I heard that quote at a bar in Milwaukee and wrote it down on the back of a drink menu.