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The Night of the Hunter is a cinematic curiosity Shot in black and white the 1955 film is Charles Laughtons sole directorial effort It starred Robert Mitchum Lillian Gish and Shelley Winters James Agee wrote the screenplay or is at least credited with doing so Based on Donald Grubbs 1953 bestselling novel it is a dark and powerful immorality play Not a great success when first released it is now an acknowledged masterpiece Simon Callows survey follows the making of the film from novel to screenplay through post-production and then considers the Reception Aftermath and Reputation of the film At the end he also provides a Coda offering a few personal observations on both form and content in the work Callow considers the film a supreme example of the integrated work of a team and much of his focus is on explaining how the team came and worked together to create this film For several of the contributors it was their only or their last involvement in making a film Laughton did begin work on the film version of Norman Mailers The Naked and the Dead but Raoul Walsh would go to direct it Laughton himself never directed again Composer Walter Schumann who Callow believes with his work on The Night of the Hunter immediately placed himself in the Bernard Herrmann league died in 1958 James Agee who had been scenarist of John Hustons The African Queen died before the film was even released But as Callow says even of those who continued to work in film No ones career was substantially boosted by the film Callow properly begins with the now largely forgotten book on which the film is based the bestseller by first-time novelist Donald Grubb Agees original screenplay -- a 350-page monstrosity that so producer Paul Gregory Charles never opened -- is unfortunately lost Who actually wrote
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