“There was theater (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth, there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray.”—Jean-Luc Godard, 1957
Nicholas Ray’s cinema is one of independence; it demonstrates his fierce individualistic nature and attitude through its themes, architecture, observation, and critique of American society. Despite his maverick ways, Ray (1911–1979) still managed to create a staggering number of Hollywood studio productions between his stints at RKO, Warner Bros., Republic, Columbia, and 20th Century Fox, among others.
“I think of Nick Ray as a great architect of emotional landscapes, and his films include some of the most graceful and brooding gifts in the history of cinema.” —Jim Jarmusch
On Dangerous Ground: The Cinema of Nicholas Ray presents a dozen films, arguably Ray’s best known, released between 1948 and 1958, that demonstrate his overarching poetic vision. They include his noir masterpieces, They Live by Night, In a Lonely Place, and On Dangerous Ground, and his expressions of disaffected youth and alienation, Rebel Without a Cause and The True Story of Jesse James. Recognized as a master stylist of CinemaScope format and color cinematography with such films as Rebel Without a Cause, Johnny Guitar, Bigger Than Life, and Party Girl, Ray has also received praise for tackling challenging issues that were occasionally autobiographical in nature. Our focus on Ray’s films from the fifties sets the stage for our Hippie Modernism exhibition: Ray’s cinema and his rebellious spirit can be seen as an early spark for the counterculture movement that followed a decade later.
Susan Oxtoby, Senior Film Curator