Last night the excellent SKY ARTS cinema programme featured one of my favourite directors Fred Zinnemann.
It’s a name that the more casual cinema-goer probably knows but perhaps cannot list his films which include From Here to Eternity, High Noon, A Man for all Seasons, Oklahoma!, The Nun’s Story and Day of the Jackal.
He gave cinema debuts to Montgomery Clift and Edward Fox. Although a versatile director he favoured early on in his career a documentary style but became a master story teller.
Day of the Jackal illustrates this. Everyone knows Charles de Gaulle was not assassinated, so how can you make a film when the ending is known? The answer lay in focussing on the assassin (Edward Fox) and his meticulous preparation. High Noon famously took place in real time but also featured an ageing Gary Cooper for the first time as a sheriff showing fear.
His parents died in Auschwitz and the Holocaust informed and influenced many of his films.
Most of his central characters, like Gary Cooper or Paul Schofield as Thomas More, had a strong moral compass. Undoubtedly one of the Hollywood greats, the programme paid him appropriate praise.