André De Toth

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André De Toth

#1 Post by Scharphedin2 » Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:38 pm

André De Toth (1912-2002)


Don't act it on the screen, live it!


Toprini nász (Wedding in Toprin)* (1939)

Toprini nász (The Five-Forty)* (1939)

Két lány az utcán* (1939)

Hat hét boldogság* (1939)

Semmelweis* (1940)

Passport to Suez (1943)

None Shall Escape (1944)

Dark Waters(1944) Image Entertainment (R1)

Ramrod (1947) Suevia (R2 ES)

The Other Love (1947) Suevia (R2 ES)

Pitfall (1948)

Slattery's Hurricane (1949)

Man in the Saddle (1951) Columbia (R1)

Carson City (1952)

Springfield Rifle (1952) Warner Brothers (R1) also included in Gary Cooper: The Signature Collection

Last of the Comanches (1953)

House of Wax (1953) Warner Brothers (R1) as double feature with Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953) Sony (R1)

Thunder Over the Plains (1953) Warner Brothers (R1) included in Randolph Scott Triple Feature

Crime Wave (1954) Warner brothers (R1) as double-feature with Decoy included in Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4

Riding Shotgun (1954) Warner Brothers (R1) included in Randolph Scott Triple Feature

Tanganyika (1954)

The Bounty Hunter (1954)

The Indian Fighter (1955) MGM (R1)

Monkey on My Back (1957) MGM (R1)

Hidden Fear (1957)

Bronco (TV series, 1958)

The Two-Headed Spy (1958)

Day of the Outlaw (1959) MGM (R1)

Bourbon Street Beat (TV series, 1959)

Hawaiian Eye (TV episode Beach Boy, 1959)

77 Sunset Strip (TV episode The Texas Doll, 1959)

Maverick (TV episode Cruise of the Cynthia B, 1960)

Man on a String (1960)

The Westener (2 TV episodes The Old Man and School Days, 1960)

Morgan il pirata (Morgan, the Pirate) (1961)

I Mongoli (The Mongols) (1961)

Oro per i Cesari (Gold for the Caesars) (1963)

Play Dirty (1968) MGM (R1)

Terror Night (Bloody Movie) (1987) Image Entertainment (R1)

* signed as Tóth Endre

Forum Discussions

André De Toth has not been discussed to any great extent in the forum. There are brief mentions of his work in some threads, amongst other the '50s list discussion thread.

Web Resources

Chicago Reader

Classic Film and Television

Director's Guild of America -- obituary by Richard Schickel

Director's Guild of America 2 -- obituary by Martin Scorsese

Senses of Cinema -- interview with Toth

Senses of Cinema -- tribute to Toth


De Toth on De Toth by André De Toth, ed. by Anthony Slide (Faber & Faber, 1997)

Fragments: Portraits from the Inside by André De Toth (Faber & Faber, 1996)
Last edited by Scharphedin2 on Tue Jul 08, 2008 3:36 am, edited 2 times in total.

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#2 Post by Gregory » Tue May 20, 2008 9:13 pm

MGM released Day of the Outlaw a week ago. I don't think this has been discussed on the forum yet, and I don't see any reviews of the disc at any of the usual places.
While you're at it, there is a R1 DVD of Man in the Saddle.
Last edited by Gregory on Tue May 20, 2008 11:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#3 Post by Donald Trampoline » Tue May 20, 2008 10:12 pm

That release was fantastic news! Great film, one of his best. (Day of the Outlaw)
Truly mesmerizing in the theater, but DVD will do.

Also, Crime Wave is on Warner Film Noir Vol. 4.

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#4 Post by Scharphedin2 » Tue Jul 08, 2008 4:08 am

Day of the Outlaw is a wonderful western. As with the other of De Toth's westerns that I have seen, this film is excellent for having been shot on location in a rather forbidding landscape. The story takes place in Wyoming; whether it was actually filmed there, I am not sure, but the locations are very authentic, especially in the film's final act, where a group of men are ploughing through deep snowdrifts, the breath of horses and men alike pluming white in the frozen air.

There is also a genuine masculinity to the characters that is typical for the De Toth westerns I have seen. Robert Ryan with his natural weatherbeaten toughness is perfectly cast in the lead part as a fiercely independent cowboy, fighting for the survival of himself and his cattle. Burl Ives is the antagonist, leading a particularly nasty group of desperados, who are on the run after a heist, and only a few day rides ahead of a pursuing army unit.

Finally, I like how so much of the characters' pasts are sketched in by brief comments that are only suggestive, without being expository. An example is a brief exchange between Ryan and Ives, concerning an incident in a Mormon town. The exchange does not explain what happened in that town, but from the look on his and Ryan's faces, it establishes that the Ives character has an evil reputation. When Ryan later alludes to the incident in a different context, we know instantly what took place in that town.

And then there are the little western touches that I enjoy: At one point, one of Ives' henchmen has fallen asleep with his legs resting on a stove, and a scene ends with him suddenly waking up with burning feet, and doing a quick stomp on the spot. At another point, tragedy is avoided by the fact that a character's hands are frozen stiff, making him unable to pull the trigger on his rifle.

In short, a great little film for fans of the western.

(I cleaned up and Updated this thread with DVD info and director's photo).
Last edited by Scharphedin2 on Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#5 Post by vivahawks » Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:39 pm

Agreed on Day of the Outlaw, which is superb in every way. I love the way de Toth uses that rolling bottle to lead into Ives' introduction: one of those simple images that takes on so many meanings and functions in a flash. The other de Toths I've watched are all interesting, but a film like this makes me want to see everything he's ever done. Of what I have seen, Play Dirty is probably the best after Outlaw, a bleak war film in the style of Siegel's Hell is for Heroes or Mann's Men in War, and Crime Wave is a superbly compact noir. The 40s films like Ramrod, Pitfall, and Slattery's Hurricane all have impressive elements but are more uneven in my opinion--though fans of The Furies should definitely keep an eye out for Ramrod, which is just as perverse and unusual in its blending of noir, western, and melodrama.

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#6 Post by Scharphedin2 » Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:29 pm

vivahawks wrote:I love the way de Toth uses that rolling bottle to lead into Ives' introduction: one of those simple images that takes on so many meanings and functions in a flash. The other de Toths I've watched are all interesting, but a film like this makes me want to see everything he's ever done...
Yes, the scene with the bottle shot is incredible! The scene comes at the end of the first act, and the tension has built up to a point, where I half expected that scene to be the end of the film; then that wonderful mechanism of the bottle rolling; and, then Ives & co. blast in onto the stage. What a great entrance, and great, great visual storytelling.

And, yes, film experiences like this makes you want to see the entire oeuvre of a director. It is a such a pleasure to discover directors/films like this. There are so many un-explored/forgotten films and filmmakers still out there. And once discovered, it is always only the tip of the iceberg... So we have about a dozen of de Toth's films available on DVD across the world, and there are approximately twice as many in his canon.

In the spirit of this thread, I thought this obituary by Philip Kemp from the March '03 issue of Sight and Sound was fun and insightful, and take the liberty to quote it in full:
"Don't act it on the screen, live it!" André de Toth's dictum, though aimed at his actors, applied even better to himself. The director of some two dozen hard-bitten, tersely economical Hollywood B-movies -- plus early films in his native Hungary and some late, negligible stuff in Italy -- he lived a life that would have fuelled a hundred melodramas.

Born in an indeterminate year ("I was told by reliable sources it was 1913") with an aristocratic Hungarian name running to 22 syllables, he was at various times a painter, pilot, polo player, racing driver, truck driver and cowboy. He was second-unit director on 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1940), consultant and location scout on 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962) and 'flying director' on the first 'Superman' movie (1978). He was married seven times (to Veronica Lake from 1944 to 1952), fathered 19 children and broke his neck three times. He took Harry Cohn to court, got shut in a cage with Alexander Korda and a tiger (one tends to feel sorry for the tiger), and was kidnapped during the Yom Kippur war by Palestinians who took the piratically eyepatched director for Moshe Dayan. (They let him go when he dropped his pants to prove he wasn't Jewish.)

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that de Toth, like Oscar Wilde, put his genius into his life and only his talent into his work. His movies, sardonic and pacy, rarely flag. His Westerns especially show an instinct for landscape and an appealingly disenchanted take on human nature. But there's often a perfunctory feel to them, as though the director's patience were nearing its limits. 'Dark Waters' (1944) and 'Pitfall' (1948) are atmospheric noir, but missing the nervy intensity of Siodmak or Lang. The string of Randolph Scott westerns that kicked off with 'Carson City' (1951) feel like a dry run for Budd Boetticher's more individual cycle later in the decade. 'House of Wax' (1953), the first 3-D feature (no problem, it seems, for the one-eyed director), launched Vincent Price on his horror-movie career, but Roger Corman explored elements in the star's persona that de Toth left untouched.

But then he never for a moment pretended to take his profession seriously. "The director doesn't have to work," he commented, explaining the attractions of the job. "I'm lazy. I never worked a day in my life." Tongue-in-cheek, of course, like most of his published comments. But in the end, it seems, he genuinely didn't care about his reputation. "They earned the Oscars," he observed about his uncredited work on 'Superman', "and I walked away with the best -- happy memories."

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#7 Post by Via_Chicago » Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:19 pm

I caught De Toth's The Two-Headed Spy on TCM recently, and having gone into with no expectations (since it's apparently a film of little or no reputation), I was quite pleasantly surprised. The film, which relies to a large degree on a kind of cinematic naturalism meant to convey the reality of the "true" story it's telling (there's quite a lot of archival war footage interspersed throughout the picture), is essentially the story of a German general (and Hitler confidante!) who passes Nazi military secrets onto the Allied forces. While most of the criticisms of the film center on this plot element (particularly the film's almost glaring lack of character psychology), it misses De Toth's broader attempt to paint a faithful picture of the Nazi high command (which, to my mind, he actually does).

De Toth's work in this film (framing, editing, camera movement) is just as assured as that in 1959's Day of the Outlaw. While that film is vastly superior in its psychology and deft use of landscape, De Toth and cinematographer Edward Scaife here present the audience with a clever dichotomy between Nazi fantasy and Nazi reality. He often cuts between scenes of Hitler and his general staff discussing the horrific effects of "defeatism" and the Nazi push for victory with the sad reality of bombed-out cities, constant pain and struggle, and the protagonist's own external struggle with the pitfalls of trading secrets. Scaife's black-and-white cinematography draws on some traditional chiariosciuro lighting, but it also matches quite nicely with the archival footage, and lends a kind of perpetual gloom to the film's German setting (and this agrees with my own experiences of the country - beautiful, but with a kind of perpetual grayness that no doubt explains to some small degree the philosohpy of Nietzsche or the searing romanticism of Beethoven).

While those who have actually seen the film have criticized it for its lack of character psychology (an accurate but unfair criticism), De Toth seems less concerned with psychology than with "realism." Certainly, the interactions between Hitler (never shown from the front or even in profile, only from behind in a chair) and his general staff mirror what was (and is) known about Hitler's final months, weeks, and days. His increasing paranoia, fears, and doubts are wonderfully exploited by Jack Hawkins' hero-general. Hawkins himself brings a certain stiff upper lip quality to the role. While not exactly handsome, Hawkins' visage displays a kind of innate intelligence. He's a born spy if only because his face constantly expresses loyalty and sympathy (for the Nazi cause certainly). There is no anguished identity crisis here. The moral shading is very clearly defined. De Toth does not in the least question the general's reasons for spying, and certainly doesn't dare ask why he just didn't leave the country for moral or political reasons.

Indeed, the film's most interesting moment to my mind expresses the kind of mature themes that Hollywood began moving toward already by 1958 (before the supposed adult renaissance of Hollywood fare that began in the 1960s). The romance between the general and his Italian singer-spy counterpart is played completely straight (and to some degree never explained - although the reason why the general would fall for such a woman seems pretty logical in a world where few would have shared his deep-seated political passions nor understood his sacrifice), and it almost works. However, her ultimate fate came as a complete surprise to this viewever, who expected something much tidier.

Ultimately, the film is neither a great success nor a stunning failure. However, it is an entertaining and extremely well-crafted potboiler with a few nice tricks up its sleeves (and some very nice, very tense set pieces).

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#8 Post by tryavna » Fri Aug 08, 2008 12:22 pm

I also caught Two-Headed Spy and pretty much agree with your mixed-but-leaning-toward-the-positive reaction, Via_Chicago. And I think you're totally on the money when you say that one of its greatest values is its portrait of the Nazi High Command, particularly insofar as it portrays many of the internal conflicts that developed (and not just the assassination attempt). One of Hitler's (and many subsequent dictators') strategies for retaining almost total control over everything was to leave control over certain terrain only vaguely defined so as to encourage various different organizations to battle for that control. Responsibility for counter-intelligence was a classic example -- and quite appropriate for this film -- since Germans has three almost wholly independent organizations that shared responsibility for counter-intelligence and were often battling each other as much as the enemy: military intelligence headed nominally by the Navy, the Gestapo, and the SD (the counter-intelligence branch of the SS). And I think the movie does a good job of portraying that sort of "sibling rivalry" that the Allies could -- and did -- exploit during the war.

I'd also agree that the lack of character psychology is also relatively unimportant. However, I do find the character of Schottland interesting from the point of view of "habit" or, as Bourdieu would put it, "habitus." What's most interesting about Hawkins' performance are the little touches that he includes of a man who is himself just a performer -- and wouldn't survive if he stopped performing the role he's taken on. The best example of this is at the end, when back in British uniform he almost returns a salute the Nazi way -- only to catch himself and smile. It's a nice little moment.

It's films like this, and Day of the Outlaw that make me want to take de Toth more seriously. (And perhaps it's no accident that he made these two films back-to-back during a particular high point of his creativity.) The problem is that so much of his work remains undistinguished to me. He strikes me as wildly inconsistent.

BTW, where was Michael Caine in Two-Headed Spy? I meant to keep an eye open for him but got too caught up in the story.

EDIT: Just remembered that the other de Toth film I really enjoy, Man on a String, was made just after Day of the Outlaw, which would seem to confirm my idea that de Toth happened to have a particularly strong creative outburst during this period. Anyway, Man on a String certainly makes for an interesting point of comparison with Two-Headed Spy, since it also concerns a deep undercover agent (based loosely on a real-life person) who has to carry on "performing" his role when he's found out by counter-intelligence. In this case, however, the protagonist is a Soviet double-agent whose working with the FBI.

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#9 Post by Via_Chicago » Fri Aug 08, 2008 11:57 pm

Well what I particularly found interesting was not simply the film's portrayal of the high command, but precisely how Hawkins's general exploits their fears and insecurities (particularly Hitler's!). I'm reminded of the moment when he not only sells out several members of the general staff in the bunker, but when he suggests that the very man pursuing him is a defeatist, and by extension then, a traitor. Fascinatingly, DeToth's camera is here totally detached. We can hardly read the expression on Hawkins's face, other than that he's totally cool and collected (amazingly). Yet here is where's the film's lack of character psychology is actually interesting, because what would otherwise be a dramatic high point in another kind of film, is here simply passed off as part of Hawkins's routine - and it makes the scene all the more chilling because of that very realization. He sends these men to their deaths without a second thought! At least not a second thought that we're ever privy too. Thus, where De Toth could have extended this idea of "ultimate sacrifice" that the opening prologue alludes to, instead he merely makes it a part of the workmanlike aspect of Hawkins's duplicity.

The above would I think dovetail quite nicely which what you've termed Schottland's "habit." The moment you mentioned is a perfect example, and I actually think of Hawkins's performance as only a few shades removed from Bressonian! Look at how passively he reacts in the face of both love and death. He's practically emotionless (one could almost read an element of repressed homosexuality in his characterization, certainly in his reaction to the women foisted on him early in the picture), and his whole life hinges on the success of this, his greatest "performance."

I personally can't speak for much of De Toth's oeuvre, since I've only seen this film and Day of the Outlaw (which is an astounding film, certainly one of the greatest uses of landscape in a Western, on a par with Boetticher's Seven Men From Now), but he certainly was on a role in the late 50s, judging by these two pictures and by your comments on Man on a String. As Fred Camper's essay nicely suggests (an illuminating read which can be found under "Chicago Reader" in the initial post), De Toth's films certainly have consistent themes and tones (The Two-Headed Spy nicely complements what Camper describes as betrayal and the "networks of betrayal," which interestingly are nearly outright praised in this film), and the quality of his films over the years suggests that he was, like many directors over the years, a director who delivered his best work when he was given the most interesting material with which to work.

As for Michael Caine, I didn't notice him. According to IMDb, he plays a gestapo guard, but that's like saying he played "a Nazi." #-o

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Re: André De Toth

#10 Post by owheeler » Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:09 pm

Carson City is out on DVD through Warner Archive.

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Re: André De Toth

#11 Post by rockysds » Sun Oct 20, 2013 3:24 pm

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Re: André De Toth

#12 Post by warren oates » Sun Oct 20, 2013 3:28 pm

That's my favorite of his films I've seen. Anyone know anything about the PQ or if the subtitles are removable?

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