The many settings of Richard Brooks -- From ''The Brothers Karamazov'' to ''Lord Jim,'' this write-director always stretched himself

The many settings of Richard Brooks

From schoolrooms to singles bars, from Russia to the Bronx, the films of Richard Brooks spanned an incredible variety of settings. Yet the writer- director, who died last week of heart failure at the age of 79, brought to all of his movies a respect for the written word and a knack for controversy. His films were nothing if not ambitious — few but Brooks would even attempt to film Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov, 1958) or Conrad (Lord Jim, 1965) — yet the pretentiousness of those efforts was more than offset by Brooks’ way with Tennessee Williams (1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1962’s Sweet Bird of Youth), Sinclair Lewis (1960’s Elmer Gantry, which won Brooks both a Best Screenplay Oscar and his second wife, actress Jean Simmons), and Truman Capote (In Cold Blood, 1967). And no matter what the source, he never lost his relish for a good, nasty antihero. Here’s the best of Brooks on video:

The Blackboard Jungle (1955) A scathing look at juvenile delinquency-with a song called ”Rock Around the Clock” that single-handedly made rock & roll into the national music of teenagers. A-

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958) With Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, and Burl Ives in high gear, it’s just about the best Williams on film. A-

Elmer Gantry (1960) Burt Lancaster, perfect as the bogus evangelist; Shirley Jones, perfectly against type as a prostitute — the role that won her the Oscar. B+

In Cold Blood (1967) Brooks cast unknowns and shot on the original locations. The result is the first, and best, of the true-crime dramas. A+

Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977) Maybe not his greatest moment, but his last big controversy. Diane Keaton is scarily impressive as the teacher looking for love in all the wrong places. C-

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
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