The Michael Curtiz Method

With a Hollywood career that yielded more than a hundred films, Michael Curtiz was one of the studio system’s most dependable and prolific directors, a veteran whose quietly virtuosic craftsmanship enabled him to move effortlessly through a wide range of genres. Among the most underappreciated of his masterworks is the 1950 daylight noir The Breaking Point, a take on Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not that the author named as his favorite film adaptation of any of his books. Starring John Garfield in his penultimate screen performance, this heartrending portrait of postwar working-class life depicts the struggles of a good-natured charter-boat captain who is tempted into illegal activity after falling on hard times. In a video essay on our newly released edition, Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou analyze the understated artistry with which Curtiz propels the movie forward, uncovering layers of characterization and narrative. The above excerpt breaks down an early scene that highlights the strained dynamics between the protagonist and his wife (Phyllis Thaxter), whose relationship serves as the emotional core of the film.

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