Monday, December 22, 2008
RIP Robert Mulligan
And so, alas, it continues...Time's Richard Corliss has an affectionate remembrance of the Oscar-nominated director of 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird, Hollywood humanism at its best. Reese Witherspoon debuted in his last, good picture, 1991's The Man in the Moon, evidence that his craft hadn't dimmed. Part of New York's live TV scene in the 50s (so few of them are left), Mulligan made a smooth transition to film with the engrossing Jimmy Piersall story Fear Strikes Out (1957), with Anthony Perkins getting a jump on psychosis. Though best noted for his country credits he never left the city far behind: 1960's The Rat Race, with Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds slumming for showbiz work, 1963's Love with the Proper Stranger, with Steve McQueen trying to do the right thing by Natalie Wood as she considers an abortion, the frank teacher saga Up the Down Staircase (1967), and the lusty Bloodbrothers(1978), with Richard Gere in an early part and Marilu Henner as the self-admitted "town pump," all poke at the teeming underbelly of Big Apple life. Sex was also the subject of his other big hit, 1972's Summer of '42, which held up extremely well when I watched it recently.
The more I write, the more I realize that Mulligan was underrated, and perhaps taken for granted. The Nickel Ride (1974) is a compelling late noir. 1968's The Stalking Moon, a reunion with Mockingbird star Gregory Peck, is a tense Western with intimations of horror films. The Other (1972) is a horror film, suffused with the rurality, by turns folksy and menacing, of Mockingbird.
Dave Kehr also revisits Mulligan.