Huston would have agreed with [Orson] Welles, who declared, “I’m awfully tired of old men saying they have no regrets. We’re loaded with, burdened with, staggering under, regrets.” –Jeffrey Meyers, from his biography JOHN HUSTON: COURAGE AND ART

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I must admit that JOHN HUSTON (born August 5, 1906) is not the kind of human being I admire — however, he IS the kind of film maker I admire. Yes, he made his share of clunkers, but few directors made more of my all-time favorite films than he: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, Beat The Devil — and yet, he had more than his share of things to regret, as he himself admitted (more on that shortly).

But first, here are two classic scenes from THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE:

The second scene features the great actor Walter Huston (father of John) doing his incomparable dance in the gold-flecked dirt of the Sierra Madre mountains:

Getting back to John Huston’s regrettable qualities, Jeffrey Meyers (in his excellent bio) compares Huston to Ernest Hemingway: “Hemingway had four wives, Huston had five (and all of his marriages ended badly). Each married increasingly younger women and, while married, fell in love with a series of women even younger than their wives. Huston, however, [unlike Hemingway] was unashamedly promiscuous. Both had three children and were difficult, demanding and frequently absent fathers.”

“In the last paragraph of his autobiography, Huston brooded over his guilty regrets about family, finances, alcohol, tobacco and matrimony. Huston could be noble, generous and kind, as well as selfish, callous and cruel. But he should be remembered for his intellect, his imagination and his charm.”

I, of course, cannot remember him thusly because I did not know him. But I can remember him for his films, and so I do. Who could forget the black bird….

….or The African Queen:

One of those clunkers I mentioned was THE BIBLE (1966), an ungodly bad epic which he both directed and starred in. But those can be forgiven in light of the above trinity of masterpieces. If that doesn’t Beat The Devil….