What Woody Allen Thinks About The Hill (1965) And His Other Film Favourites

Picture above: Ian Hendry (as Staff Sergeant Williams) and Sean Connery (as Roberts). This film still is one of two given to me by my uncle. He also gave me the hat he wore in The Hill. See: Staff Sergeant Williams’ Hat  and The Hill (1965)

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I came across a list of 41 of Woody Allen’s favorite films in an article at This Recording, which were taken from Allen’s 2007 biography written by Eric Lax titled:

Conversations with Woody Allen: His Films, the Movies, and Moviemaking

The book received some fairly hefty praise when it was first published:

‘Perhaps the most reveaing book ever written about a living film director, this entralling dialogue spans 36 years’ – The Independent

woody-allen-the-hill-1965-sidney-lumet

In the book, Woody Allen discusses his obsession with film-lists:

‘When I awake during the night, to quell my existential panic I make lists in my mind. This sometimes helps me fall back asleep. Almost always the lists are of movies – adding and subtracting titles, substituting. My tastes seem to me unremarkable except in the area of talking plot comedies where I seem to have little tolerance for anything and certainly not my own films.’

And now onto some of those lists!

Fifteen of Woody Allen’s Favourite American Films
(in no particular order)

 

  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • Double Indemnity
  • Shane
  • Paths of Glory
  • The Godfather: Part II
  • Goodfellas
  • Citizen Kane
  • White Heat
  • The Informer
  • The Hill
  • The Third Man
  • Notorious
  • Shadow of a Doubt
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • The Maltese Falcon

Woody Allen goes on to discuss The Hill in more detail:

“For some reason, American audiences do not really know the film The Hill . In a filmography like Sidney Lumet’s, which includes many remarkable works, The Hill is perhaps the most successful. I certainly consider it one of the greatest American films. The making of this captivating story is perfect, from the actors’ impeccable performances to the inspired camera movements. It’s an immediate and total experience. Every time I see it I am surprised that such a wonderful film can pass unnoticed and fall into oblivion, which is what has happened”.

Woody Allen

The Hill is a 1965 film directed by Sidney Lumet, set in a British army prison in North Africa in World War II. It stars Sean Connery, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Ossie Davis, Alfred Lynch, Roy Kinnear and Michael Redgrave.

Plot:

In a British Army “glasshouse” (military detention camp) in the Libyan Desert, prisoners convicted of service offences such as insubordination, being drunk whilst on duty, going AWOL or petty theft etc. are subjected to repetitive drill in the blazing desert heat.

The arrival of five new prisoners slowly leads to a clash with the camp authorities. One new NCO guard who has also just arrived employs excessive punishments, which include forcing the five newcomers to repeatedly climb a man-made hill in the centre of the camp. When one dies a power struggle erupts between brutal Staff Sergeant Williams (Ian Hendry), humane Staff Sergeant Harris (Ian Bannen), Regimental Sergeant Major Wilson (Harry Andrews), and the camp’s Medical Officer (Michael Redgrave) as they struggle to run the camp in conflicting styles.

Extract From The Hill (1965) Wikipedia

Film Trivia:

Awarded best screenplay prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965. The screenplay by Ray Rigby taken from one of his own stage plays, is based on the author’s own experience in a prison camp in North Africa during WWII. The external shots were filmed in Spain, in October, but even so, the heat was scorching, peaking at 45C (113F).

Sidney Lumet – Director

Born in Philadelphia in 1924, Sidney Lumet got his training as an actor on the Broadway stage before turning to directing. In the early 50s he directed television series. 12 Angry Men (1957) was his feature debut and starred his friend Henry Fonda, with whom Lumet made five more films.

In all his films after 12 Angry Men , he continued to deal with social and political issues, such as violence against prisoners in an army camp in The Hill (1965), and corruption in the police force in Serpico (1973). Lumet took on Agatha Christie’s famous whodunnit Murder on the Orient Express (1974); he satirized television in Network (1976, Oscars for the two stars Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch); and brought a real-life news item to the screen in Dog Day Afternoon (1975).

Other important works, over the course of a career that ranged from live television theater to an impressive exploration of most of the traditional film genres – with a very personal obsession with the courtroom drama and its unlimited dramaturgic potential, as well as its usefulness for social and political debate – include The Verdict (1982), Family Business (1989) and Gloria (1998). In 2005 the Academy Awards honored him with the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement.

Other lists in the book included:

Woody Allen: Twelve Favourite European Films And Three Favourite Japanese Films

 

  • The Seventh Seal
  • Rashomon
  • The Bicycle Thief
  • The 400 Blows
  • Grand Illusion
  • Rules of the Game
  • Wild Strawberries
  • 8 1/2
  • Amarcord
  • Throne of Blood
  • Cries and Whispers
  • La Strada
  • Breathless
  • The Seven Samurai
  • Shoeshine

Comedy Favourites of Woody Allen

 

Woody Allen on comedy:

“I put comedies in two categories – comedian’s films which can be awful save for the comedian’s work and comedy movies that have plots. Of the comedian’s films or broader sillier films that I always laugh at are” :

 

  • Duck Soup
  • Monkey Business
  • Horse Feathers
  • A Night at the Opera
  • A Day at the Races
  • Monsieur Beaucaire
  • You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man
  • Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
  • Casanova’s Big Night
  • Airplane!

He went on to discuss his second category of comedy films:

Of talking plot comedies, I’m hesitant to say my list because my taste is eccentric and there are any number of comedies I love that would make me seem foolish or should I say, foolish in the eyes of the world. Plus there are any number of iconic comedies that never have and never will give me a laugh and I don’t like to hurt the feelings of anyone who turns such a tough dollar making screen comedies or even their descendants.

I will admit my list is always topped by The White Sheik, and when I think of American comedies my conviction is that no finer ones exist than Born Yesterday and Trouble in Paradise. Also The Shop Around the Corner is pretty damned good (I get a lot of fishy looks when I tell people I think Born Yesterday is the best all-time American stage comedy but it’s the way I feel.

 

A close second is The Front Page, the play.) After the above four, my insomnia list gets dicey for public consumption with a few predictable choices but many very personal ones. Incidentally, my list never includes my own comedies.”

From a note to Eric Lax.

 

  • The White Sheik
  • Born Yesterday
  • Trouble in Paradise
  • The Shop Around the Corner
  • The Front Page

Perhaps not surprisingly, the silent comedies in the first comedy list are all taken up by Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.

So what’s in your list of favourite films?!

Neil Hendry
Editor, Official Website of Ian Hendry

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Further Reading

A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography:

Read:  ‘Send in the Clowns – The Yo Yo Life Of Ian Hendry’ by Gabriel Hershman

Send In The Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry

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