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Picks and Pans Main: Screen

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A favorite Hollywood story goes like this: The Sisters of Malibu raise a foundling and send him to Notre Dame. After he becomes a prominent film producer, he returns to the convent and asks the Mother Superior how he can repay her kindness. Gently she refuses. When he insists, she finally relents and says, “Since you put it that way, my son—I would like to direct.”

Yes, in Los Angeles, everyone and his sister wants to direct. What it takes—for those who don’t break into film behind the camera—is star power. It’s not a new phenomenon. Mabel Normand directed Charlie Chaplin in Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914) when she was 19. In 1948 Laurence Olivier directed his own Oscar-winning performance in Hamlet. It hasn’t always worked, though. In 1955 Charles Laughton directed Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish in The Night of the Hunter. Hunter was a box office flop, and Laughton never directed again.