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John Huston: Cream of Credits

August 30, 1987

John Huston's credits read like a history of motion pictures for the past five decades--the cream of film history. When Huston was not writing the screenplays, he was directing, producing or acting. Many times he performed more than one such function at the same time. In fact, death came to the 81-year-old Huston in Newport, R.I., Friday in the course of the filming of yet another movie in which he was a co-producer, his son was the director and his daughter was a star. Huston had planned to act in the film himself, but was prevented from doing so by illness.

Huston was one of those giants of energy, creativity, eccentricity and gusto whose own life was more expansive than any stage or artist's imagination. Huston was a Hemingway character in the VCR age, but his films retained a universal appeal.

Entire generations of Americans will recognize and remember Huston for different generations of his films. They range from "The Maltese Falcon" in 1941 and the classic "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" in 1948, whose stars included his longtime friend Humphrey Bogart and his father, Walter, to "Chinatown" in 1974, in which Huston himself acted with magnificent malevolence, and from "The African Queen" with Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in 1951 and "The Misfits" with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in 1961 to "Prizzi's Honor" in 1986, a film that starred Jack Nicholson, a latter-day Bogart of sorts, and that earned Anjelica Huston an Oscar.

If Huston, the master of irony, seemed bigger than life, he conducted himself during his final months and weeks as if he might even be bigger than death, too. But that was about the only scene that John Huston could not get on film.

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