Anthology Film Archives


September 4 – September 10

Robert Ryan (1909-73) started out in movies as a handsome Irish-American good guy, but that all changed with his Oscar-nominated performance as a fearsome anti-Semitic murderer in the film noir CROSSFIRE (1947). Over the next 25 years Ryan created a series of malevolent characters in noirs, westerns, and war movies, his services prized by such directors as Fritz Lang, Jean Renoir, Jacques Tourneur, Nicholas Ray, Samuel Fuller, and Anthony Mann. Ryan may be best remembered now as the vain army colonel in THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) or the guilt-ridden bounty hunter in THE WILD BUNCH (1969), yet he was an artist of great range and sensitivity; shortly before his death he gave a moving performance as the disillusioned anarchist in John Frankenheimer’s screen adaptation of THE ICEMAN COMETH. No less than Martin Scorsese has called Ryan “one of the greatest actors in the history of American film.”

On the occasion of the publication of THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN, a remarkable new biography of the actor by J.R. Jones, film critic for the Chicago Reader, we’ll be presenting this mini-retrospective showcasing some of the Chicago-born performer’s most arresting performances. Ryan left an indelible mark on noir playing a lonely, violent cop in Nicholas Ray’s ON DANGEROUS GROUND and a traumatized former POW in Fred Zinnemann’s ACT OF VIOLENCE. He lit up two classic 50s westerns, as the chuckling, philosophical killer in Anthony Mann’s THE NAKED SPUR and the sinister rancher in John Sturges’s BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. But Ryan had a tender side too: he shines as the wealthy gentleman in Daniel Mann’s poignant romance ABOUT MRS. LESLIE and as the crazed country patriarch in Anthony Mann’s comedy GOD’S LITTLE ACRE.

Select screenings will feature live discussions with the actor’s son Cheyney Ryan, professor of law and philosophy at University of Oregon and Oxford University, and J.R. Jones, the author of THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN.

Special thanks to Cheyney Ryan and J.R. Jones, as well as to Cassie Blake (Academy Film Archive); Jack Durwood (Paramount); Kristie Nakamura & Nicki Woods (WB); and Todd Wiener & Steven Hill (UCLA Film & Television Archive).

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