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Issue 14 – Christmas 2022


McCarey’s Creed

On the director.


It is a curious thing to be a cinephile before you are a grownup. The temptation to emulate what you see on screen is always immense, and, in my case, so was the urge to take on the characteristics of those great men behind the camera who called “action” and “cut.” For me, discovering a new director was a bit like trying on a new coat. With or without the new garment, you were still you, but when you had it on, you carried yourself differently: a red jacket made you feel like James Dean, a Burberry raincoat, a bit like Lane Coutell in Franny and Zooey. So, when I watched a director’s work for the first time, it was natural to adopt their attitude towards the world: John Ford’s irascible cussedness or Howard Hawks’s nonchalant ease. 

When I was an adolescent, I was drawn mainly to these manly, mercurial types as my directorial heroes. If I could have hung any movie poster in my bedroom when I was a teenager, it would have been the one for Hawks’s final Western with John Wayne, the tough, sinewy, invigoratingly unembellished Rio Lobo. On the poster, the following text appears above a silhouetted image of Wayne bearing a gun: “Give ’Em Hell, John.” What American male between the ages of thirteen and twenty could resist those words as an anthem?

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About the author

Peter Tonguette

Peter Tonguette writes for the American Conservative, National Review, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, and many other publications.