Beat the Devil (film)
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|Beat the Devil|
1953 film poster
|Directed by||John Huston|
|Produced by||John Huston|
|Screenplay by||John Huston
|Based on||Beat the Devil (1951)
by Claud Cockburn (as James Helvick)
|Music by||Franco Mannino|
|Edited by||Ralph Kemplen|
|Distributed by||British Lion Films (UK)
United Artists (USA)
|Release date(s)||November 24, 1953|
|Running time||89 min.|
|Box office||£115,926 (UK)|
Beat the Devil is a 1953 film directed by John Huston. The screenplay was written by Huston and Truman Capote, loosely based upon a novel of the same name by British journalist Claud Cockburn, writing under the pseudonym James Helvick. It was intended by Huston as a parody of The Maltese Falcon (1941), also directed by Huston, and films of the same genre.
The script, which was written on a day-to-day basis as the film was being shot, concerns the adventures of a motley crew of swindlers and ne'er-do-wells trying to lay claim to land rich in uranium deposits in Kenya as they wait in a small Italian port to travel aboard an ill-fated tramp steamer en route to Mombasa. The cast includes Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, and Bernard Lee.
This movie does not easily fit into the standard set of film categories; it has variously been classified as a "thriller," a "comedy," a "drama," a "crime," a "romance" movie, or even a parody of the Film Noir style that Huston himself helped to develop.
The plot concerns a quartet of international crooks—Peterson, O'Hara, Ross, and Ravello—are stranded in Italy while their steamer is being repaired. With them are the Dannreuthers. The six are headed for Africa, ostensibly to sell vacuum cleaners but actually to buy land supposedly loaded with uranium. They are joined by others who apparently have similar designs.
- Humphrey Bogart as Billy Dannreuther
- Jennifer Jones as Mrs. Gwendolen Chelm
- Gina Lollobrigida as Maria Dannreuther
- Robert Morley as Peterson
- Peter Lorre as Julius O'Hara
- Edward Underdown as Harry Chelm
- Ivor Barnard as Maj. Jack Ross
- Marco Tulli as Ravello
- Bernard Lee as Insp. Jack Clayton
- Mario Perrone as Purser on SS Nyanga
- Giulio Donnini as Administrator
- Saro Urzì as Captain of SS Nyanga
- Aldo Silvani as Charles, Restaurant Owner
- Juan de Landa as Hispano-Suiza Driver
In a review coinciding with the film's release to 68 New York metropolitan area theaters, The New York Times called it a "pointedly roguish and conversational spoof, generally missing the book's bite, bounce and decidedly snug construction."
Humphrey Bogart never liked the movie, perhaps because he lost a good deal of his own money bankrolling it, and said of Beat the Devil, "Only phonies like it." Roger Ebert, who included the film in his "Great Movies" list, notes that the film has been characterized as the first camp movie. In the biographical film dramas Infamous (2006) and Capote (2005), Truman Capote, portrayed respectively by Toby Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman, reminisces about life during the filming of Beat the Devil.
Public domain status
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (December 2013)|
Beat the Devil is commonly believed to be among the list of films in the public domain in the United States because of unrenewed copyright. Based on the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, the duration of copyrights for works created by individual authors is equal to the life of the author plus 70 years. For works made for hire (i.e., works created by employees or under contract, such as films and newspaper articles), the duration is 95 years. The rights to the music composition of the soundtrack falls under this legislation, making the status unclear at best.
- Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p501
- "Beat the Devil (1953)". MRQE. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- "Beat the Devil (1953)". Rotten tomatoes. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- H. H. T. (March 13, 1954). "Beat the Devil City-Wide Debut". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- Ebert, Roger (November 26, 2000). "Beat the Devil". Retrieved 2013-08-20.