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John Houseman

Book review: 'Nicholas Ray' by Patrick McGilligan

Book review: 'Nicholas Ray' by Patrick McGilligan

Nicholas Ray faced a roomful of film students. They had come to learn from the director who'd made James Dean an icon in "Rebel Without a Cause" and a gunslinger of Joan Crawford in the distaff western "Johnny Guitar." Ray began a mock exercise in filming a scene and the reverential students waited for his instructions — and they waited. Ray fell inexplicably silent. Minutes passed, then hours, and finally the students left, bewildered by the tall, frail man with an eye patch and wild, white hair.

Stories of an artist's downfall occupy much of Patrick McGilligan's "Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director," arriving for the...