Wednesday, March 26, 2008

R.I.P.: Richard Widmark (1914-2008)

Richard Widmark ensured his immortality as a giggling psycho killer (Kiss of Death), a cynical pickpocket (Pickup on South Street), a member of John Ford's version of the U.S. Cavalry (Two Rode Together), a wary but not sufficiently watchful N.Y. cop (Madigan)...

Yeah, sure. But my very favorite Widmark performance is the one he gave as himself at the one and only Telluride Film Festival that I ever attended, back in 1982, when the actor was one of the lifetime-achievement award honorees. Another honoree, Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, made a spectacle of himself one evening by announcing, through a translator: "The cinema, she is a whore. First she charge a nickel, now she charge five dollars. When she learns to give it away, she will be free." Widmark was not impressed. In fact, judging by his response the following evening, he was suitably pissed. He told a cheering audience: "I want to name you some pimps. Hitchcock ... Fellini ... Bergman ... Orson Welles ..." So there.

(BTW: After Googling sporadically throughout the afternoon, and not finding any mention of this incident anywhere, I was beginning to worry that I'd only dreamed it. Thank God, once again, for Roger Ebert.)

CORRECTION: My bad – it was indeed, as Griff posts in the comments below, the 1983 Telluride Festival (not the ’82 event) where Richard Widmark laid the verbal smackdown on Andrei Tarkovsky. I should have remembered the date, because that festival was the first I ever attended (though, unfortunately, not the last) at which a far-away real-life event (in this case, the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 over Soviet air space) distracted many festivalgoers from the films.

2 comments:

Griff said...

Joe:
Roger was mistaken. Widmark and Tarkovsky were honored at the 1983 Telluride Festival. Widmark's response to Tarkovsky's remarks proved the talk of the festival; I particularly liked that the actor cited filmmakers he'd never worked with! In (slight) defense of the great Russian director, I did wonder whether Krzysztof Zanussi properly translated his remarks; a day or so later, at a public forum, Tarkovsky made reference to how language barriers separate us all.

berg said...

I attended TELLURIDE twice (look on youtube) in 2000 and 2001, and every year since they have sent me a program booklet, love them, also sat behind S Rushdie and his granddaughter, ah, girlfriend at a screening of SOLARIS and there was also a C Marker docu on Tarkovsky where he claimed that his death was foretold to him right before he started The Sacrafice a film that obviously influenced another familiar Telluride face Paul Schrader (Affliction) ... there was a lot of Tarkovsky love in the mountains of Colorado going around in 01 ...