Of the directors whose work Agee most admired, John Huston was perhaps the one he was most personally drawn to. In the course of working on this article the two met for the first time. Subsequently they worked together on The African Queen.
John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King, based on the Rudyard Kipling short story, is an exhilaratingly farfetched adventure fantasy about two roughneck con men, Danny and Peachy (Sean Connery and Michael Caine), in Victoria’s India, who decide to conquer a barbarous land for themselves.
The movie is a demonstration of what, in Huston’s terms, movies can give you that print can’t: primarily, the glory of performers—performers with faces that have been written on by time and skill, performers with voices.
If John Huston’s name were not on Prizzi’s Honor, I’d have thought a fresh new talent had burst on the scene, and he’d certainly be the hottest new director in Hollywood. The picture has a daring comic tone—it revels voluptuously in the murderous finagling of the members of a Brooklyn Mafia family, and rejoices in their scams.
One of the worst failures of the movie is, implicitly, a rather comic modern predicament. Huston obviously can’t make anything acceptable out of the Bible’s accounts of sinfulness and he falls back upon the silliest stereotypes of evil
Meeting John Huston in Rome, where he was shooting The Bible, turned out to be easier than meeting any other director I had ever interviewed. On the set, among the giraffes and the peacocks, the lions and the Himalayan goats, I asked Huston how he made films.