Mitchell Leisen Restrospective

  • 5 August 2006

This article is from 2006.

One of Hollywood’s brightest and most undervalued talents, director Mitchell Leisen gets the retrospective treatment at this year’s EIFF. Starting in silent films as a costume designer for Cecil B DeMille, Leisen went on to direct a string of classics in the 30s and 40s, meanwhile working as a couturier, interior decorator and nightclub impresario at the legendary Coconut Grove. He was also an overt bisexual - a fact that sped up his downfall in the puritanical McCarthyist 50s. Leisen spent his last years directing episodes of Wagon Train and The Twilight Zone, and died in obscurity in 1972.

His cult reputation has been growing ever since, and the 13 films on display are among his finest. Early gems include the gloriously kitsch supernatural fantasy Death Takes A Holiday, the poignant romantic comedy Hands Across the Table and the sparkling high society farce Midnight. Some of the later films are darker in tone, as Olivia de Havilland bears a child out of wedlock in To Each His Own and Barbara Stanwyck impersonates a dead heiress in No Man of Her Own. Regrettably, all the films are showing as midday screenings only. Get your sick notes ready now. (David Melville)

Death Takes a Holiday, Filmhouse, 623 8030, 15 Aug, noon, £5.50 (£4.20).

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