John Sturges

"When it came to action films, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, this American director's were as vivid and exciting as any… Best of all were his westerns: a brilliant sense of colour control backed an immense flair for blazing action… While he had not quite the visual sense or genuine feel for the genre that Ford or Peckinpah showed, Sturges' adventure films were just as likely to send you out of the cinema tingling." - David Quinlan (Quinlan's Film Directors, 1999)

John Sturges

Director / Producer
(1910-1992) Born January 3, Oak Park, Illinois, USA

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Western, Thriller, Drama, Action, Traditional Western, War Adventure, Spy Film, Science Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Ensemble Film, Action Thriller
Key Collaborators: Ferris Webster (Editor), Cedric Gibbons (Production Designer), Charles Lang (Cinematographer), Daniel Fapp (Cinematographer), Robert Surtees (Cinematographer), Donald Pleasence (Leading Character Actor), Elmer Bernstein (Composer), Dimitri Tiomkin (Composer), Spencer Tracy (Leading Actor), Burt Lancaster (Leading Actor), James Garner (Leading Actor), Kirk Douglas (Leading Actor)

"At his best, he orchestrated his gung-ho action movies like delicate symphonies, expertly counterpointing loud bangs with quiet anticipation, set pieces with slow burn. There was an eloquent simplicity to his narrative thrust, which usually centred on a moral code of man's-gotta-do chivalry, where the reluctantly righteous often dispensed a brand of gruff justice. With CinemaScope, Sturges was a master of his domain, demonstrating a rugged compositional elegance and an unerring ability to frame his brawny, stoic characters in a finely calibrated choreography of macho assertion." - Lloyd Hughes (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)
“In the 50s, Sturges acquired a reputation as a solid director of Western action on the basis of several taut productions such as Escape from Fort Bravo, Bad Day at Black Rock, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Last Train from Gun Hill. In the early 60s he had solid hits with The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. But it was form rather than substance that characterized his work. Overall, his misses outnumbered his hits, and his successes or failures were often correlated to the quality of the scripts given to him.” - The Film Encyclopedia, 2012
"Certainly not the more interesting of the two Sturges, but when working with a good script he made several notable westerns, Bad Day at Black Rock (54), Backlash (56), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (57), The Law and Jake Wade (58), and his best film, The Magnificent Seven (60). His other westerns are uninspired and, outside the western spaces, he has often fallen into complete mediocrity, as in The Old Man and the Sea (58). He was an editor and producer during 1932-42 period, and directed several army documentaries during the war." - Georges Sadoul (Dictionary of Film Makers, 1972)
"His films contain perhaps the least humor of any post-World War II American director. Sturges' virtues are tense, well-hewn narratives with an emphasis on action. As such, he has shot a body of excellent Westerns." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
“Reliable Hollywood craftsman who established his reputation in the mid-1950s with a series of intense, morally charged features such as Bad Day at Black Rock (1954) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), before moving on to bigger - though not especially better - productions.” - The Virgin International Encyclopedia of Film, 1992
"The dean of big-budget action movies made during the 1950s and 1960s has almost no reputation today, despite having directed many films that remain hugely popular… His style was clean and uncluttered; he generally eschewed fancy camera tricks, but his compositions were invariably effective and evocative. Moreover, he seldom failed to extract skillful performances from his actors." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, 1995
TSPDT Guide
Recommended
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), The Law and Jake Wade (1958), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963)
Worth a Look
The Capture (1950) ✖︎, Kind Lady (1951), Jeopardy (1953) ✖︎, Backlash (1956), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Last Train from Gun Hill (1959), The Satan Bug (1965), Marooned (1969)
Approach with Caution
Mystery Street (1950) ✖︎, The People Against O'Hara (1951) ✖︎, The Hallelujah Trail (1965), Hour of the Gun (1967), Ice Station Zebra (1968), Chino (1973) [co-directed by Duilio Coletti], The Eagle Has Landed (1976)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films ✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Bad Day at Black Rock
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