Although critics and scholars tend to posit that great directors transcend genre, the gargantuan influence of Andrew Sarris’ The American Cinema has had the effect of conceptualizing an auteur’s oeuvre as a genre unto itself, «a self-contained world with its own laws and landscapes. » Many of the filmographies that populate the Pantheon, Far Side of Paradise, and Expressive Esoterica categories in The American Cinema possess a legible gestalt characteristic of genres in part because the directors enjoyed careers roughly coterminous with the 1917 – 1960 parameters David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson set for the classical Hollywood cinema. Their filmographies thus epitomize the classical mode of filmmaking, with entries that both refine and critique classicism and its limitations, especially later/last films like Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1960), Red Line 7000 (Howard Hawks, 1965), and 7 Women (John Ford, 1966). Indeed, the sway of their careers fit snugly into Henri Focillon’s experimental-classic-refined-baroque model of genre development in which conventions move from a state of equilibrium to a more mannerist and reflexive mode.
By contrast, Richard Quine’s career has slipped through the historical cracks into nonentity status, occupying an awkward interzone between the classical Hollywood cinema and the New Hollywood. He received praise early in his career, especially from the French New Wave directors. Jean-Luc Godard famously used Quine’s Pushover (1954) as a model for Breathless (1960). And Jacques Rivette rather confusingly lambasted critics who were still in the Fritz Lang, Howard Hawkes [sic], Elia Kazan, Edward Dymytryk, Fred Zinnemann [sic] syndrome»,while ignoring younger directors such as «Richard Aldrich [sic], Anthony Mann, Richard Quine, Edgar Ulmer, Richard Brooks, and Nicholas Ray. », But despite intermittent accolades, it has remained difficult to position Quine as anything but a talented journeyman.
And yet the very awkwardness of Quine’s place in film history lends his career a certain kind of poetry. The year 1960 bifurcates his filmography with a historical elegance unbefitting a director marooned to the junk drawer of Miscellany by Sarris in The American Cinema. Having completed his first solo directing stint in 1951, Quine was relegated to television and two negligible, impersonal features after 1970 – W (1974) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1979). So his filmography pivots on 1960, framed on one end by Hollywood’s all-time box office high in 1946 and on the other by the dawn of the New Hollywood. It epitomizes many of the reasons Bordwell offers as to why 1960 can serve as an endpoint to the classical Hollywood cinema despite the persistence of classical modes of storytelling and production to this day: the transition from a contract system towards independent and/or self-incorporated stars and producers; the decline of the B-film; the increased influence of various New Waves and national cinemas; etc. After a decade-plus as an actor in bit parts and secondary roles, Quine began his filmmaking career by forming an independent production unit with William Asher and inked a deal in 1948 with Columbia to release his first film, Leather Gloves, co-directed with Asher. Columbia signed him to a seven-year contract as a director in 1951. After the death of Columbia president Harry Cohn in 1958, however, the studio converted to an operation that funded and distributed product from independent producers and Quine spent the rest of his career working for various studios in an independent capacity. He pumped out B-musicals under contract in the early 1950s but by the 1960s, he was putting together packages independently with the likes of Blake Edwards, Jack Lemmon, and George Axelrod. And he acquainted himself with other national cinemas, mourning the freedom Alain Resnais enjoyed making Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and having purchased the U.S. rights to Les Abysses (Nikos Papatakis, 1963) with Axelrod.
But there is another development Bordwell neglects to mention, one that had a great impact on post-World War II Hollywood cinema and Quine’s direction of musicals – the fact that records eclipsed sheet music as America’s chief popular music commodity. Along with fees collected by the rights organization ASCAP for the performance of music in public and on the radio, sheet music drove the white, urban music industry centralized in New York City’s Tin Pan Alley and was responsible for crystallizing what came to be known as The Great American Songbook comprised of the works of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, etc. Tin Pan Alley’s industrial mode upheld a conception of music as a template awaiting myriad interpretations rather than a unique iteration eliciting covers of an original. In the sheet music era, there was no such thing as an original (although there may have been one interpretation that outshone all the others). Songs were written under the assumption that they would be performed by all manner of musicians, professional or otherwise. Indeed, music publishers and song pluggers would try to get sheets into as many hands as possible in the hopes that the welter of versions would drive up not only sheet music sales but collections from ASCAP. This industrial mode created a musicscape in which spontaneous outbursts of song felt more natural, thus sustaining the Hollywood musical. If song was the ideological property of no one, then any song could be used as a character’s spontaneous expression.
With the advent of high-fidelity recording in the late 1940s, however, song morphed into a specific manifestation of sound that could be repeated infinitely. A&R personnel and disc jockeys supplanted song pluggers in a music industry centered on the performance of a particular song in recording form. Song was now the singular expression of an artist and covers were understood to be referencing an original (and as an opportunity for the cover artist to use that original to convey their own singular expression). And while country and R&B artists had operated under this industrial mode for years, it nevertheless created an inhospitable environment for spontaneous outbursts of song. A character spontaneously bursting into «Like a Rolling Stone», would come off as awkward since the song was so much the ideological property of Bob Dylan.
Two musicals Quine directed at the start of his career bear the marks of this transitional phase. As Hollywood studios added record divisions to their music publishing concerns in the 1950s, films became excellent promotional tools for recordings. But the insertion of a specific recording into a film necessarily changed the nature of musicality in Hollywood cinema. Characters spontaneously bursting into song gave way to such recording-based phenomena as the theme song and the compilation score. The early Quine musicals, then, are gawky attempts to wrestle with a musicscape based on the increased importance of recordings. But the concomitant decline in spontaneous outbursts of song in Hollywood cinema of the 1950s did not lead to a decline in musicals per se. Quite to the contrary, remnants of the form of the Hollywood musical remain in Quine’s putative non-musicals, particularly in their penchant for community formation through song.
David Bordwell notes yet another reason for 1960 standing as an endpoint to the classical Hollywood cinema. By that year, the major studios were devoting more resources to television. Television forms the backdrop to the first film Richard Quine directed solo, Sunny Side of the Street, a 1951 Columbia Pictures production. In his review of the film, Clive Hirschhorn observed that «if TV was a threat to the industry in the early Fifties, you’d never have known it from Sunny Side of the Street, a weakling of a musical (in SuperCinecolor) which emerged as a commercial for TV itself. », But television did not pose a threat to Columbia Pictures. As a mini-major, Columbia owned no exhibition outlets. It was hardly surprising, then, that it became the first Hollywood studio to enter television in order to diversify its profit potential. In 1948, Screen Gems, Inc. was formed as Columbia’s television division and by the end of the 1950s, it grew so successful that «shareholders wondered if the child was more successful than the parent. »,
In addition to a story that revolves around television, Sunny Side of the Street betrays its 1951 provenance due to the inclusion of a new kind of musical star who made a name through recordings rather than live performance (on radio or in concert). Frankie Laine was one of the hottest singers of the era. Unlike Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra who had to do time with bands before recording music and appearing in films, Laine’s Mercury recording of «That’s My Desire», in 1947 turned him into a popular music sensation overnight. Working with producer Mitch Miller at Mercury, Laine recorded three number one songs in a row. Under Miller’s studio ministrations, «That Lucky Old Sun, », «Mule Train, », and «The Cry of the Wild Goose», all became self-contained, even cinematic sound paintings. In Albin Zak’s words, «Miller’s pop records…were independent artifacts capable of establishing a palpable presence wherever they turned up in the ever more cacophonous modern soundscape. », When such recordings turned up in films, their presence was so palpable that they could «sing», for characters as part of the compilation score in the absence of spontaneous outbursts of song, forming a part of the film’s narration. Or they could stand outside of the narrative as a theme song played over the opening or closing credits. In short, recordings radiated a sense of omniscience. And that authorial voice would only get augmented when artists, especially rock ’n’ rollers, began to sing, play, write, and even produce their own recordings.
Sunny Side of the Street begins with Frankie Laine’s recording of «On The Sunny Side of the Street», playing over the Columbia logo and the opening credits of the film (including, of course, the «Directed by Richard Quine», title). The credits appear over a long shot of CBS studios and then there is a dissolve to a group of people inside the studio watching Frankie Laine sing the song on a television screen. There is no break in «On The Sunny Side of the Street», as the film moves inside. Even consistent volume is maintained during the transition so that the music does not appear as any point of audition of a diegetic character. The song’s ability to continue seamlessly over the dissolve heightens its omniscient effect. It can weave in and out of the narrative, functioning at once as non-diegetic score and diegetic sonic material.
It turns out the television performance is a live transmission. Laine is broadcasting in Studio B and the people gathered around the television set are on a tour of CBS. Because Laine plays himself in the film, he conveys a palpable presence on par with his recordings. Despite his ability to effect change within the narrative, he rarely recedes into a diegetic character and instead, stands out in all his Frankie Laineness. This aspect of his «character», is highlighted in an exchange of dialogue in this first scene between tour guide Ted Mason (Jerome Courtland) and young female fans of Laine.
Female fan: Do we get to see Frankie Laine?
Ted: You just saw him.
Another Fan: Really, we mean?
Another: In person!
Ted: Oh, I’m sorry. They don’t allow anyone to go into the stage during a broadcast.
The exchange is narratively motivated by the fact that real stars broadcast in television studios. But because there is nothing at narrative stake this early in the story, the film seems just as content pushing viewers out towards television and the purchase of Frankie Laine recordings as it is sucking them into a diegetic illusion. As such, Sunny Side of the Street forms one cog in an orgy of convergence comprising the film, television, and recording industries, soon under the aegis of one corporation.
From there, the film occupies an uneasy zone between new and old industrial modes, between diegetic illusion and non-diegetic cross-promotional activities. The story concerns a group of television producers attempting to find a musical act in order to retain their show’s sponsor, Pelley’s Peanut Brittle. Ted wants to become a professional singer and his girlfriend/CBS receptionist Betty Holloway (Terry Moore) serves as his agent in the hopes of securing him the Pelley’s Peanut Brittle spot. She gets Ted an audition with Frankie Laine who surmises that despite Ted’s excellent voice, he would prove too stiff for television. But Betty has recorded the audition and gets the recording to the producers who neglect to listen to it. Later, they realize that the daughter of the Pelley magnate, Gloria (Audrey Long), is in love with Ted and set up a date between the two at a nightclub that the Pelley magnate, Cyrus (Jonathan Hale), will be attending. Frankie Laine is the headliner. But instead, the producers have him announce Ted who sings for the audience after which Cyrus promptly signs him to the Pelley’s Peanut Brittle contract. Betty discovers Ted’s date with Gloria and wants to break up with him. But when Ted says he will rip up his contract to prove his love for Betty, Gloria overhears and, moved by Ted’s devotion, assures Betty that Ted never cheated on her thus making way for the requisite happy ending.
At first glance, this synopsis makes it seem as if Sunny Side of the Street is beholden to more antiquated industrial modes. Ted wins the Pelley’s Peanut Brittle contract via his live prowess and not his recording. And there is a shocking blackface scene that no doubt has helped ensure the film’s obscure status. Betty has secured Ted a job as a backup singer on Laine’s television show. With three other men, he sings a commercial jingle for Munchies Cereal to the tune of «Oh! Susanna.» All four men are in blackface. Even worse, Betty tries to use this performance as an opportunity to show off Ted to the producers. But because all the men are in blackface, she preposterously cannot tell the difference between them and thus cannot single out Ted. The scene is doubly shocking given that it comes late in the history of blackface performance in Hollywood film.
But other scenes reveal a musicscape transitioning to a recording standard. In the film, Laine sings «I’m Gonna Live Till I Die, »which was a Mercury hit for him early in 1951. The appearance of the song serves no narrative purpose beyond reestablishing Laine as a singer. Instead, it functions more as a reminder to the audience of a recent recording, one they might finally break down and buy after repeated exposure. And the film ends not with the formation of Ted and Betty as a couple but with an acknowledgement of Laine’s status as a recording star. After his reconciliation with Betty, Ted performs «On The Sunny Side of the Street» at a nightclub. Laine hears him backstage and huffs «How do you like that? Singing my song yet! » After singing the chorus, Ted makes an announcement to the audience:
That’s a great song, isn’t it? And as most of you folks know, it’s identified with a great entertainer. I led off with it tonight as a salute to a great guy. Mr. Rhythm himself - Frankie Laine! Frankie, come on out and sing it with me!
Laine joins him on stage and, in a nod to the different temporal structures of the film and television industries, the producers wonder what they will do for a musical act next week just before a fade out and the end credits.
«On The Sunny Side of the Street» was yet another hit for Laine. His Mercury recording achieved gold status in 1947. While songs were identified with certain performers in the Tin Pan Alley era, Laine’s association with «On The Sunny Side of the Street» evokes a moment when performers will become increasingly identified with specific recordings. Where once «Night and Day, » say, invited infinite interpretations, now «Like a Rolling Stone» was an original recording by Bob Dylan and any subsequent versions were covers thereof. And when audiences were done watching Sunny Side of the Street, they could purchase the soundtrack album on Mercury Records, a release Columbia worked in tandem with Mercury to promote.
Quine’s next film for Columbia, Purple Heart Diary (1951), continues in this vein of real singers abrading against their diegetic characters. The film stars Frances Langford, a singer-actress who appeared as herself in films as often as she played fictional characters. Here she stars as Frances Langford and the screenplay was inspired by her «Purple Heart Diary» column in Hearst Newspapers wherein she recounted stories told to her by servicemen during her time with the U.S.O., the military entertainment unit, in World War II. In order to heighten the reality effect of these stories, the film begins with a newsreel stressing the important role show business plays in boosting soldier morale. The newsreel contains footage of Al Jolson entertaining troops while a voiceover links Jolson’s incalculable contributions to the war effort with Langford’s.
At the start of the narrative, Langford is recording in a studio when she receives word that she must report for duty in the Pacific. In a voiceover, she explains that she and her band had only twelve days to prepare numbers for the troops and we see a montage of their rehearsals. Once she lands at the Pacific base, a sergeant immediately recognizes her and begins to gush: «I’ve got every record you’ve ever cut. Why, when you were on the air, they couldn’t drag me away from that radio. » So before the story even kicks into gear, the film explicitly links her with recordings.
The subsequent narrative tells of three different episodes of army life that Langford supposedly witnessed during her U.S.O tours. The first story turns on the very fact that Frances Langford is a real person. Elmo Slimmer (Warren Mills) is a wiry, nervous G. I. who proudly brandishes an autographed photo of Langford which reads, «To my darling Elmo, with all my love. Frannie. » Elmo claims that he met Langford backstage at a show while he was working as an usher and that they have carried on a love affair ever since. The story is an obvious lie and a group of men in his unit intend to humiliate him when they discover that Langford is on the base. Elmo understandably panics at this news and feigns illness. The rest of the story involves Elmo trying to avoid meeting Langford and having to explain their «love affair» to his buddies. However, when Langford learns of Elmo’s ruse, she feels sorry for him and decides to play along to spare him any humiliation. She sees Elmo talking with his buddies and proceeds to kiss him and carries on as if they are long lost lovers. Elmo and his buddies are flabbergasted. When Langford leaves, Elmo regains his cool and proceeds to tell his buddies about his affair with Rita Hayworth, hardly an arbitrary choice of paramour since Hayworth was under contract to Columbia at the time.
As with Sunny Side of the Street, Purple Heart Diary features a scenario that cannot generate spontaneous outbursts of song without extreme difficulty. The devalued status of these films in American cinema stems from how shamelessly they function as promotional tools for recording artists. They radiate so far out from the filmic experience towards the hope of increased record sales that the performances of Laine and Langford come off as awkward at best and the diegetic illusions cannot hold. And at least Langford had some acting experience. Laine signifies foremost as a recording artist and his performance in Sunny Side of the Street unsettles the diegetic balance of the film. As with recordings themselves, recording artists will increasingly emit such a palpable presence that they must be dispatched from the narrative as quickly as possible, e.g., Bill Haley in Rock Around the Clock (Fred F. Sears, 1956), or they are incorporated into a film precisely due to their disruptive presence, e.g., Dylan in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Sam Peckinpah, 1973).
Quine eventually graduated to films featuring spontaneous outbursts of song. My Sister Eileen (1955) remains one of the finest musicals of the decade and «Give Me a Band and My Baby» one of the most ebullient numbers in the history of the genre (aided by Bob Fosse’s hip choreography). And even Frankie Laine starred in one written by Quine and directed by Blake Edwards - Bring Your Smile Along (1955). But by that point, recordings were taking over some of the function and even feel of the spontaneous outburst of song, a development noticeable in Quine’s later films. In an exceedingly odd scene from Sex and the Single Girl (1964), Gretchen (Fran Jeffries) puts on a record for her boyfriend Bob Weston (Tony Curtis). She tells him that it is her new recording called «Sex and the Single Girl» and she proceeds to sing it to him. One must assume that she is mouthing the words rather than singing along to it because only one voice is heard on the soundtrack. However, as with the opening of Sunny Side of the Street, there is no change in the volume of the recording on the soundtrack despite the fact that Gretchen dances around his apartment at various points away from the record player. The sound is organized for the benefit of the viewer and not to convey the perspective of any diegetic character. In a relatively self-contained diegesis, this quasi-outburst stalls the forward progression of the narrative in a moment of pure shameless promotion. Indeed, Jeffries recorded the song for an album that year called Fran Jeffries Sings of Sex and the Single Girl released on MGM Records with a shot of her on the cover sporting the same outfit she wore in this scene of the film.
And in Paris When It Sizzles (1964), William Holden and Audrey Hepburn play a screenwriter and typist respectively who act out the scenarios they are trying to commit to paper. As befits a film being conceived in the mid-1960s, the two reference the contemporary vogue for theme songs. They imagine a movie called The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower featuring «the inevitable theme song» and a snippet of «The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower» sung by Frank Sinatra is heard playing over a title credit and a long shot of the Eiffel Tower. Even more revelatory about the state of music in 1960s American cinema, a later scene shows the two beginning their day as Fred Astaire’s «That Face» plays on the soundtrack. As Hepburn moves into the living room, the camera reveals a stereo playing the record. When Holden and Hepburn see each other, they begin to dance to the music. It is a moment of romantic delirium. But Holden turns off the stereo and reminds Hepburn that «we are not writing a musical. » In both instances, songs do not play out to completion. They can be turned on and off as if they were any recording on a record player.
But Quine was a musical director as well as a director of musicals. A child actor and veteran of vaudeville, he was trained in song and dance and can be seen hoofing it along with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Babes on Broadway (Busby Berkeley, 1941). And he wrote the lyrics to «The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower» and «Sex and the Single Girl» in addition to «Be Prepared» from It Happened to Jane (1959). So it is fitting that he brought a sense of musicality to his non-musicals, an ethos that goes beyond mere musical moments that retard the flow of the narrative. For instance, The World of Suzie Wong (1960) features a dance number scored to a record playing on a jukebox. And the story pauses for Suzie Wong (Nancy Kwan) to sing a song while sitting for a portrait. But Quine structured several of his post-My Sister Eileen films as musicals in that they borrow the genre’s tendency to bring together communities through song. Operation Mad Ball (1957) concerns the attempts of a U. S. army hospital unit to organize an illicit ball. The film ends with an extended sequence of the ball after all narrative loose ends have been tied up. So the purpose of the sequence is to convey the jubilation of the dancers at the party as if it were a musical spectacle. The spectacular nature of the sequence is heightened by the possibly apocryphal story that the last few pages of the script were blank and that «Quine decided the way to get the sequence was to stage a ball, call the characters, serve the champagne, and turn the cameras.» It Happened to Jane ends in a similar manner with a parade and town party swearing in Lemmon as first selectman. The witches-cum-beatniks-cum-pre-Stonewall-queer community of Bell, Book and Candle (1958) create just as palpable a presence as the central Kim Novak-James Stewart heterosexual coupling and cast doubt on the couple’s very formation. Even films that seem farthest away from the spirit of the musical, the grim drug rehabilitation drama Synanon (1965) and the Arthur Hailey industrial epic Hotel (1967), traffic in what Scott McMillin calls the voice of the musical, «a melodic and harmonic world into which various characters enter at various times, not so much because they are like one another psychologically (although they may be), but because they belong to the same aesthetic design.» Both films are ensemble dramas featuring episodic narratives that culminate in song, the former at a sing-along, the latter at a party with music in the hotel lounge. For Quine, music drains characters of their individual psychologies and allows them to recognize, however temporarily, a common humanity through song.
Richard Quine’s career ended ignominiously with his firing as the director of The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980). And some suggest his 1989 suicide was rooted in part in the absence of directing opportunities during his last decade of life. But his career need not be conceived as a tragedy just as the 1960s and beyond need not be conceived as a death march for the Hollywood musical. His filmography reveals a resourcefulness in the face of bewildering changes in the film and music industries such that there remains a continuity between his musicals and non-musicals. Even his nonentity status under Miscellany need not cause any alarm. Sunny Side of the Street and Purple Heart Diary are no masterpieces. But they fascinate all the same for how they monitor the shaky attempts of the film and music industries to synchronize their promotional efforts. Quine may never make it to anyone’s Pantheon. But his filmography is nevertheless rich with signification.
Kevin John Bozelka
Special thanks to Lawrence Chadbourne
 Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema - Directors and Directions: 1929 - 1969 (New York: Dutton, 1968), p. 40.
 David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960 (London: Routledge, 1985).
 Tom Schatz, Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and The Studio System (New York: Random House, 1981), pp. 37-38.
«French Highbrow Praises U.S. Films, Chides Fellow Critics’ Ignorance,»Variety, November 9, 1955, 3.
«Dicker for Columbia Tie,»Boxoffice, January 31, 1948, 35. Blake Edwards joined the unit later that year. «Champion and Edwards Dissolve Partnership,»Boxoffice, November 13, 1948, 42. Tellingly, another announcement for Leather Gloves, initially entitled Winner Take Nothing, appeared in a column noting how few films were in production that month. The classical Hollywood cinema was starting its decline. «February Production Lineup At Low Point With 25,»Boxoffice, February 14, 1948, 26.
«Studio Personnelities,»Boxoffice, July 7, 1951, 40. He received a new contract in 1953 «calling for two films a year, including TV rights.»“Briefs From the Lots,»Variety, August 19, 1953, 15. A «recently signed exclusive contract” prevented him from directing So This Is Rio, the sequel to his 1954 film So This Is Paris produced at Universal. His previous contract allowed him two outside productions per year. So This Is Rio was never made. «Dick Quine Ineligible,»Variety, December 29, 1954, 4.
«Columbia Echelon to Hollywood For Blueprinting of Tomorrow,»Variety, November 5, 1958, 3. Richard Quine Productions is mentioned in «Columbia’s Open-Iris Camera-Eye; In 18 Months - 99 Features Coming,»Variety, April 22, 1959, 5. In 1961, he formed Artists & Producers Associates with Blake Edwards, Max Arnow, and Jack Lemmon, each contributing $10,000 to the organization. «‘Keeping Clear Of Bankers’: Goal For A&P Bunch,»Variety, October 25, 1961, 3, 20. Quine formed a partnership with Axelrod in 1962 to produce Paris When It Sizzles. «‘Paris When It Sizzles’ Gives Fee-Plus-Percent To Axelrod and Quine,»Variety, February 7, 1962, 24.
Clive Hirschhorn, The Columbia Story: The Complete History of the Studio and All Its Films (New York: Crown, 1989), p. 184. See also his review in The Hollywood Musical: «Considering television’s threat to the industry in the early 50s, it received a surprising ‘plug’ in Sunny Side of the Street.” Clive Hirschhorn, The Hollywood Musical: Every Hollywood Musical From 1927 to the Present Day (New York: Crown, 1981), p. 322.
Arthur Knight notes that the last classical-era Hollywood films to feature blackface performance (Torch Song, Walking My Baby Back Home, and The Eddie Cantor Story) were released in 1953. Arthur Knight, Disintegrating The Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), p. 30.