The Lonesome Art of Don Siegel
Think of it this way: If our life is full of reconciliations and trade-offs great and small; if it's really marked by the things we settle for, rather than those we aspire to, then no artist in American Cinema made a greater exploration of that principle than Don Siegel; born on this day in 1912.
Like most of this country's great filmmaking voices, Siegel built the house of his art upon the foundation of genre cinema, yet always infusing it with a dimension of drear reality, an everyday torpor and absence of charm that just missed the shores of ugliness and sleaze. The Dramatis personae of Andre de Toth's or Phil Karlson's movies may have dwelled in the harshest corners of human motivation, but Siegel's characters wouldn't travel to the worst in themselves without a good, hard shove by events outside all control. In a Siegel film, it was always just the way things were. This is an approach to storytelling which has virtually disappeared in the face of gleeful postmodernist pursuits (which admittedly are not without their charms), and for me it grows more conspicuous through its absence with every passing season; hence this small tribute to Don Siegel we offer you today.
My thanks to the great Jeff Duncanson of Filmscreed for letting me know what day it was!