Daily | Brian G. Hutton, 1935 – 2014

Brian G. Hutton, Michael Caine and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of 'X, Y and Zee'

Brian G. Hutton, Michael Caine and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of ‘X, Y and Zee’

“Brian G. Hutton, who directed Clint Eastwood in the World War II classics Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes as well as Frank Sinatra in the dark cop drama The First Deadly Sin, has died. He was believed to be 79.” Mike Barnes for the Hollywood Reporter: “Hutton also called the shots on two films toplined by Elizabeth Taylor: the drama X, Y and Zee (1972), also starring Michael Caine and Susannah York, and Night Watch (1973), with Taylor, as a widow suffering from a nervous breakdown, playing opposite Laurence Harvey.”

Where Eagles Dare, a thriller based on the Alistair MacLean novel, also starred Richard Burton,” writes Carmel Dagan for Variety, “while Kelly’s Heroes, a heist film masquerading as a war film, sported a large ensemble cast that included Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor and Donald Sutherland…. While Hutton directed nine films, he actually spent more of his career as an actor. He appeared in the John Sturges Westerns Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, and Last Train From Gun Hill, starring Douglas; the Roger Corman movie Carnival Rock; Elvis Presley pic King Creole; the 1958 crime drama The Case Against Brooklyn, starring Darren McGavin; and Frank Borzage’s The Big Fisherman.”

Hutton was “a long-time friend of and contributor to Cinema Retro,” writes Lee Pfeiffer. “Born in New York City, he never lost his hard-scrabble, irascible attitude which extended to resenting having to take orders from the studio ‘suits’ who employed him. He walked away from a great and lucrative career in the industry decades ago and kept out of the public eye, granting precious few interviews in the intervening decades…. Despite Hutton’s penchant for self-deprecation, his work on Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes has earned him a place in Hollywood history. He proved that a young, relatively untested director could meet the challenge of bringing major action epics to the screen—and seeing their popularity only increase over the decades. Brian G. Hutton did not miss the motion picture industry, but the industry certainly missed him.”

Update, 8/23: “I’m particularly fond of the two films Hutton crafted with Elizabeth Taylor in the 1970s during an intriguing period in her career that is often dismissed by critics as well as fickle fans,” writes Kimberly Lindbergs at Movie Morlocks:

The first film Hutton and Taylor made together was a twisted love triangle with the cheeky American title X, Y & Z (1972). This blacker than black comedy pitted Taylor against Michael Caine in a sexy update of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf set in swinging London. The film didn’t fare all that well with critics but audiences seemed to appreciate it and Taylor enjoyed working with the affable director who kept his two stars laughing during the shoot. Their second film was the Hitchcockian thriller Night Watch (1973) that reunited Taylor with Laurence Harvey, her longtime friend and costar from the Oscar winning Butterfield 8 (1960). Of the two films Hutton made with Taylor, Night Watch is my personal favorite for a number of reasons. First and foremost it’s a great little suspense filled feature with some surprising twists and turns that provided Elizabeth Taylor with one of her meatiest late career roles.

Update, 8/24: “In the implausible plot of Where Eagles Dare, Richard Burton and Eastwood play allied soldiers parachuted into a Gestapo stronghold and posing as German officers to rescue an important prisoner,” writes Ronald Bergan for the Guardian. “Written by Alistair MacLean as a vehicle for Burton, the big-budget film is pure rollercoaster entertainment, superbly photographed in Panavision in the Austrian Alps, and adroitly using a daredevil team of stuntmen, led by the former cowboy Yakima Canutt, which prompted Eastwood to call the movie Where Doubles Dare…. Getting Burton to approve the relatively unknown young director was not easy but [producer Elliott] Kastner told Burton that ‘Brian Hutton had a lamp in his gut like a beacon: just put him in a room and Flash!’ Hutton recalled that the Welsh-born Burton accepted him because he was of Welsh descent himself.”

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