Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Jules Dassin (1911-2008)

Filmmaker Jules Dassin – an American who lived in Europe for the past half-century – died yesterday in Greece. He was 96 years old.

Dassin had been a Communist in the 1930s, and was blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1950s.

He is best remembered for the influential heist films “Rififi” and “Topkapi,” the romantic comedy “Never On Sunday,” and dark dramas “The Naked City” and “Night and the City.”

But Dassin also directed and co-wrote a 1968 film about political tensions in the black American ghetto. It was called “Up Tight!” Ruby Dee co-wrote the script and played the female lead.

“Up Tight!” was never released on videocassette or DVD. I’ve never seen it. But with a cast including Roscoe Lee Browne, Raymond St. Jacques and Dick Anthony Williams, “Up Tight!” begs to be seen.

Dassin himself is quoted in today’s L.A. Times obituary calling that movie “a disaster.” But Ruby Dee has fonder memories of “Up Tight!” She wrote about it in her 1998 memoir with Ossie Davis, “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together.”

I am streaming a 4½-minute clip from the audiobook (which is available at iTunes); Ms. Dee describes working with on the script under Jules Dassin’s guidance. Click here to listen.

If any of you have seen “Up Tight!,” please share what you think of it.


Invisible Woman said...

Wow. I really, really want to see this film.

Invisible Woman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Invisible Woman said...

Also see it has Max (The Mack) Julien in it--and it received a pretty high IMDB user rating...hope it's re-released.

michael a. gonzales said...

...this film is one of of the coolest things i've ever seen; and lets not even discuss the haunting funk of the soundtrack. i bought it on bootleg in harlem about ten years ago, and still don't understand why it is not on dvd.

the shots of ohio tenements and that crazy chase scene through the hood with raymond st. jacques was just crazy. i thought this film was a masterpiece the first time i saw it and obviously, its still in my head today.

i know now it was based on "The Informers," but to hell with John Ford, because dassin's was better.

by the way,i just wrote a piece on night & the city for: http://www.stopsmilingonline.com/story_detail.php?id=1011

michael a. gonzales said...

actually, it's about "the naked city." let that be a lesson a not proofing...


estiv said...

Wanted to see it, but have never been able to. However, the soundtrack is definitely available, and it is Booker T. and the M.G.s at their tightest. The closing track is a version of "Time is Tight" that is extended from the better-known single version. The album suffers from the usual soundtrack-itis--in other words, about half the tracks are not fully fleshed out, and were obviously meant to accompany images that aren't there. But you know what, who cares, the band is good, and their interplay is wonderful to behear. Plus you get to hear the arranging skills of Booker T. Jones, onetime music student at Indiana University. And--this was the album that taught me that everybody who praised Al Jackson was right, that he was a drummer whose simplicity concealed a heart that had a pure perfect beat, and that he was apparently incapable of playing a false note.

Can you tell I like this album? I like this album.

Undercover Black Man said...

Michael, peace to the bootleggers!

Dr. F. said...

I saw "Uptight" when it first came out and it was a terrific movie as I recall.

Based, as one of the other commentors said, on John Ford's "The Informer," it transposed the Irish Rebellion to the mythical Black revolution (Ditto Sidney Poitier's "The Lost Man," with Carol Reed's "Odd Man Out").

"Uptight starred Max Julien and playwright Julian Mayfield as the head revolutionary and the Informer who betrays him, respectively.

Max Julien's identical twin brother Tazwell is a DC cardiologist, and even he hasn't been able to get a copy of this film.

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