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Arthur Hiller Penn (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 27, 1922 – New York, September 28, 2010) was an American director and producer. He made several critically awarded films in the 1960s, such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
Attracted by the world of acting from a young age, Penn devoted himself to theater, an activity that he continued when he was serving in the army during World War II. In the 1950s, he made a series of dramas for television, debuting on the big screen with the Western El Zurdo (1958). The film is a free and demystifying interpretation of the director on the figure of Billy the Child, making it an excellent psychological portrait of a young criminal (played by Paul Newman).
His next film was The Miracle of Ana Sullivan (1962), a play by William Gibson (writer) based on real events, which narrates the life of Anne Sullivan and her relationship with her blind and deaf student Helen Keller. The film apart from being favorably received by the public, won two Oscars of the Academy. These two statuettes were for Anne Bancroft, as lead actress, and Patty Duke as a supporting actress, precisely the two actresses who performed this work on Broadway. Penn would also receive the first nomination of the three he would receive in his professional career at the Best Address.
In 1964, he embarked on the project of The Train, but his bad relations with the leading actor, Burt Lancaster forced him to abandon the project, which would end up filming John Frankenheimer.
The following year, he would direct Harassment with Warren Beatty, a parable about McCarthyism disguised with black humor, and in 1966, one of his best-known works, The Human Pack, with Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in the papers protagonists. This film became another incisive social portrait, at a time when South American society lived in a spiral of violence, racism and corruption that would lead to the Civil Rights Act. The film was, however, one of his biggest box office failures.
Penn would again meet Warren Beatty in 1967. The actor (and also producer) proposed a reconstruction of the life of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The result of this was one of the key works of American cinema of his time. With Bonnie and Clyde, the director shows again (as he did in The Left-handed) some robbers of the 1930s, who are only a reflection of the society in which they live: Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde ( Warren Beaty). The film gave Penn a second option to win the Oscar statuette, which he did not achieve either.
His next titles were El restaurante de Alicia (1969), a film based on one of the satirical songs of the American folklorist Arlo Guthrie, which remains a cult film for some sectors of the critics; and the western revisionist Little Great Man (1970), with Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway. Little great man has been the most expensive film that Penn made and one of the best examples of quality westerns that were made after 1970, based largely on the demystification of themes and conventions of the genre, based on acid humor and ironic. Subliminally, the film criticized the performance of the United States Army and the 7th Cavalry Regiment that were then fighting in the Vietnam War.
In 1973, he directed some scenes of the film of the Olympic Games of Munich Visions of Eight with John Schlesinger, Claude Lelouch, Kon Ichikawa and Miloš Forman.
His next projects were La noche se mueve (1975) with Gene Hackman and Melanie Griffith, interesting black film of almost intellectual readings, and Missouri (1976), again with Marlon Brando, and Jack Nicholson, These last two films raised some criticism among Penn’s followers.
The 1980s marked the last decade in which he worked as a film director. Georgia (1981) is a traumatic journey towards the 1960s, with the themes of the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, political scandals and the hallucinogenic LSD. Anyway, this film is an obvious sign that Penn was out of the new film trends of the decade and the taste of the public.
His later titles Target (double agent in Berlin) with Gene Hackman and Matt Dillon (1985) and Death in Winter (1987) ratified that sensation.
Thus, Penn directed his steps from the late 1980s to television. He did work as the telefilm El Retrato (1993), with Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall, and the production of the series Ley y Orden.
The director died on September 28, 2010, one day after he turned 88.
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