56. “Dodsworth”, William Wyler (1936)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.



dir. William Wyler scr. William Wyler cin. Rudolph Mate with Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, Paul Lukas, Mary Astor, David Niven, Maria Ouspenskaya

In 100 words: No film has ever depicted marriage as realistically as this incredibly scripted and nimbly directed movie. Dodsworth represented Wyler’s greatest script—every character is complexly drawn, and every conflict rings with truthfulness and wisdom that still feel very relevant today. Cracks within the relationship are fully explored—never fully blaming one character for their faults, but more of a commentary on how time has left behind this couple’s marriage. Wyler’s mise en scene reveal layers within each scene, although for the most part, he wisely steps back to let the audience just observe performers give generous and such well-defined characterizations.

Other Movies for Context: Wyler’s filmography is so long and varied, it makes for a fascinating one to follow. Among my favorites from his include The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and The Letter (1940). He also directed Barbra Streisand in her star-making role of Funny Girl (1968).