Arthur Penn

“Penn’s use of lighting and sound are stylistically and intellectually sophisticated, but it his themes, rather than his style, which empowers his oeuvre. Using myth, violence and moral ambiguity, Penn often deals with contemporary issues through the lives of social outcasts.” - Mary C. Johnson (The Virgin International Encyclopedia of Film, 1992)

Arthur Penn

Director / Producer
(1922-2010) Born September 27, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Western, Revisionist Western, Drama, Biography, Comedy Drama, Gangster Film
Key Collaborators: Dede Allen (Editor), George Jenkins (Production Designer), Warren Beatty (Leading Actor), Marlon Brando (Leading Actor), Faye Dunaway (Leading Actress), Gene Hackman (Leading Actor), Hurd Hatfield (Leading Actor), Robert M. Sherman (Producer), Fred Coe (Producer), Ghislain Cloquet (Cinematographer), Aram Avakian (Editor), Jeff Corey (Leading Character Actor)

"Although his contribution to the depiction of film violence in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) was indeed startling and groundbreaking, Arthur Penn, like Sam Peckinpah, should be seen as something other than a filmmaker preoccupied with bloodshed. Arthur Penn is a skilled dramatist who, like other innovators in screen violence, offered moral and other lessons about the prominence of violence in American life… Still, Bonnie and Clyde is no doubt the film most associated with Penn, for it was a landmark in American cinema." - Christopher Sharrett (Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film, 2007)
"For a stage director whose work suffers from an oppressive literalness of effect, Penn has revealed a distinctive flair for the cinema. The intense physicality of the performances in his films serves to counterbalance a strained reading of lines. A director of force rather than grace, Penn may yet reassert the plastic role of the actor in the scheme of things. Be that as it may, The Left-Handed Gun remains a tribute to the director's gifts of improvisation." - Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema, 1968)
"Penn is the classic example of a fine director touching his peak, wobbling a little, re-finding himself, and then going, completely off the boil... There are too few directors of Penn's particular talent around today and it is something of a tragedy that either Hollywood, or the sum of his own particular idiosyncrasies, has let him down." - Mario Reading (The Movie Companion, 2006)
"American director who has made an interesting variety of films, some of them very fine - but only 13 in 30 years... Since Bonnie and Clyde, Penn has not proved to be a major figure at the box office; his films are always fascinating, even exciting, in concept and casting, but sometimes lacking in fulfilment." - David Quinlan (Quinlan's Illustrated Guide to Film Directors, 1999)
"The alienation of modern man in society, and the breaking of myths and legends are the subjects of Penn's most effective films." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
“An often remarkable director, whose best films deal provocatively and intelligently with the role of the outsider and the destructive power of myth in American culture.” - Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, 1995
“From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, Arthur Penn was one of the most exciting, stimulating, and unpredictable directors in U.S. films. Then, for no discernible reason, he lost it, and since then his films have been sporadic and unremarkable.“ - Philip Kemp (501 Movie Directors, 2007)
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Recommended
The Left-Handed Gun (1958), The Miracle Worker (1962), Mickey One (1965), Night Moves (1975) ✖︎
Worth a Look
The Chase (1966), Alice's Restaurant (1969), Little Big Man (1970), Four Friends (1981)
Approach with Caution
The Missouri Breaks (1976)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films ✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Little Big Man
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