One thought on “The Noir Art of John Alton: The People Against O’Hara (1951)”

  1. I like the term ‘cosmic framing.’ If any cinematography can evoke such grandiloquent appraisal it is John Alton, a master helmsman and arguably noir’s most gifted and accomplished visual adherent. I haven’t seen this particular film, though I found these caps exquisite and only a short time ago went on Alton overdrive at a Film Festival that featured some of his most compelling work. Citing the noir/western DEVIL’S DOORWAY (1950) , Alton collaborated with director Anthony Mann on the depth of field, angular composition and intense close-ups they had used for baroque effets in the 1940’s films. The influence of the noir tradition is exemplified by a scene in which Lance rides into Medicine Bow to deposit money in his bank account that was earned by the sale of his cattle. As Lance rides into town, a large herd of sheep fills the street, blocking his pathway, as overhead, storm clouds gather. This single image tells the entire plot.

    But Alton’s work in films such as RAW DEAL, BORDER INCIDENT and HE WALKED BY NIGHT can be dissected with similar attention to his art and framing.


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