A Birthday Tribute to Nicholas Ray

A fearless renegade of the studio era, Nicholas Ray imbued the genre formulas of classic Hollywood with a potent mix of psychological complexity and romantic fatalism. Today, on the anniversary of his birth, we’re saluting his legacy on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck with a spotlight on the complete editions of three of his most emotionally wrenching masterpieces: the groundbreaking lovers-on-the-run drama They Live by Night, the Humphrey Bogart–led noir In a Lonely Place, and the disturbing dissection of Eisenhower-era suburbia Bigger Than Life. These unsparing explorations of the discontents of postwar America showcase the master pushing studio filmmaking into deeper and darker territory, while the wealth of supplemental features available to stream alongside the films offer a riveting portrait of the complicated man behind the camera. Among the highlights is David Helpern’s 1975 I’m a Stranger Here Myself, a documentary portrait of Ray’s time teaching at Harpur College of Arts and Sciences at Binghamton University, a two-year period that began nearly a decade after he abandoned Hollywood in the wake of multiple unrealized projects. In the clip above, Ray explains his belief that traditional film courses inhibit innovation and authenticity, a stance that made him a controversial figure on campus.

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