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A Entries
  Forrest J Ackerman
  Nick Adams
  John Agar
  Philson Ahn
  William Alland
  Irwin Allen
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  Jack Arnold
  Isaac Asimov
 
ARNOLD, JACK
(1916–1992). American director.

IMDB credits Elsewhere in this volume, I have suggested that it is producer William ALLAND, not director Jack Arnold, who most deserves credit as the creative force behind some of the most striking science fiction films of the 1950s. Yet the question arises: why would anyone feel impelled to develop such a theory? Ordinarily, noting that a man is the credited director of several outstanding movies, critics would automatically grant that he was a true talent; what is there about Arnold's career that might inspire a search for alternate explanations?

The regrettable answer surely involves something that might be regarded as irrelevant: namely, Arnold's activities after he directed the films he is famous for. It is not simply that his films of the 1960s and 1970s generally have little to do with science fiction and are uniformly awful to boot; it is rather that he was spending most of his time directing for television, a medium where directors are essentially functionaries, handed a script and assigned to film it as written within a limited amount of time. No doubt he was very effective in that role, since he kept receiving assignments for two decades, but he was never in a position to explore certain issues or express himself. Indeed, he even specialized in filmed television's most undemanding and less admired genre, the inane situation comedy aimed at younger viewers. When you are researching the career of a Film Legend, you do not want to dig up references to The Brady Bunch (1970-1974) and Nanny and the Professor (1970-1971); when you are researching the career of a Film Legend, you do not want to devote extensive time to nailing down how many episodes of Gilligan's Island (1964-1966) he directed. (The correct answer: 26.)

Criticizing Arnold for his career choices might seem uncharitable, even churlish: certainly, a man has a right to earn a living, and any informed observer of the Hollywood scene in 1960 could see that the B-movie market was dying, forcing directors to accept any stray assignments that might come their way, and that most of the directorial assignments in the coming decades would be for television. in addition, there might have been any number of legitimate concerns, ranging from financial disasters to health problems, which would require a fifty-year-old man to trade his creative freedom for a steady paycheck supplemented by occasional films of any variety. However, other directors of Arnold's age and stature, such as Samuel Fuller and Don SIEGEL, resolved to remain in the arena, to keep fighting the good fight to direct the sorts of films they wanted to direct, and they were able to craft for themselves filmographies reflecting their distinctive characters that eventually earned them larger budgets and critical acclaim. Why didn't Arnold do the same? Perhaps, it is because resolving to compete for desirable work and adequate resources in a tough, tough market demands a certain amount of self-confidence; Fuller and Siegel had it, while Arnold didn't.

That theory would be supported by The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), the one major film whose virtues can be unambiguously attributed to Arnold's directorial skills (because no one can plausibly portray its producer, Arnold Zugsmtih, as an unacknowledged genius). Handicapped both by an evocative but clunky script co-written by neophyte Richard MATHESON and by a weak cast headed by the hapless Grant Williams, Arnold nevertheless imbues the film with heart and a gravitas that still has an impact today. He may have strongly identified with its hero, a man who keeps getting smaller and smaller and is eventually more or less forgotten by everyone he once knew; as they carry on without him, he finds solace in conquering a tiny spider and telling himself that even a microscopic man must have a meaningful role to play in the universe. Arnold may have seen his own future in Williams's saga, a director who would become more and more invisible in Hollywood during the decades to come. A certain aura of self-abnegation can also be detected in his first, and arguably best, science fiction film, It Came from Outer Space (1953), which at first unfolds as a typically paranoid invasion-from-space nightmare, complete with familiar friends turned into ambulatory zombies in the manner of Invaders from Mars (1953) or Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956); yet hero Richard CARLSON, instead of leading a counterattack, learns that these aliens are really good guys and becomes their cooperative ally in obtaining the resources they need to get away from Earth. One might also say, more cynically, that Carlson is simply a man who is willing to surrender to the inevitable—like Arnold himself.

An overview of his career: after failing to find success as an actor, Arnold returned from military service and started directing films in the 1950s; an early documentary, With These Hands (1950), was actually nominated for an Academy Award. While noted only for his science fiction films, he also worked on westerns and crime dramas. In partnership with Alland, he directed five heralded films that slightly but steadily declined in quality—It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Tarantula (1955), Revenge of the Creature (1955), and The Space Children (1958); some would add the strange and marvelous This Island Earth (1955), to the list, on the grounds that Arnold was brought in to direct its climactic scenes on the planet Metaluna. Separated from Alland, he directed, in addition to The Incredible Shrinking Man, the absolutely pathetic Monster on the Campus (1958) and a serviceable Peter Sellers vehicle, the Ruritarian The Mouse That Roared (1959), before turning most of his attention to episodic television.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he became a favorite of sitcom producer Sherwood Schwartz, helming numerous episodes of Gilligan's Island, It's About Time (1966), and The Brady Bunch. One also finds him credited with episodes of all sorts of television series, including Perry Mason (1957-1966), Peter Gunn (1958-1961), Wagon Train (1959-1965), Rawhide (1959-1965), Dr. Kildare (1961-1966), The Virginian (1962-1971), Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (1963-1967), The Guns of Will Sonnett (1967-1969), Mod Squad (1968-1973), It Takes a Thief (1968-1970), Love, American Style (1969-1974),  McCloud  (1970-1977), Alias Smith and Jones (1971-1973), Movin' On (1974-1976), The Love Boat (1977-1984), The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-1979),  The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo (1979-1981), and The Fall Guy (1981-1986).  The list is limited to series that lasted more than one season; gluttons for punishment can examine his work for less successful series at the Internet Movie Database. To be sure, he also contributed to some science fiction television series, but nothing was noteworthy about his direction for the series World of Giants (1959-1960), Mr. Terrific (1966-1967)—all nine episodes!—The Bionic Woman (1976-1978), Holmes and Yo-Yo (1976-1977), The New Adventures of Wonder Woman (1976-1979), and Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century (1979-1981); he also presided over a forgotten television remake of The Mouse That Roared (1966). But the eclectic nature of his second career is best conveyed by the one Emmy Award he received, for directing the variety special The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special (1967).

As for his later forays into film, Hello Down There (1964), suggesting Schwartz's baneful influence, was nothing more or less than an overextended half-hour sitcom about a family living in an experimental underwater house. Other films included two terrible Bob Hope comedies (Bachelor in Paradise [1961] and A Global Affair [1964]), two blaxploitation films with Fred Williamson (Black Eye [1974]and Boss Nigger [1975]), an excursion into mild pornography (The Bunny Caper [1974]), a dull thriller (The Swiss Conspiracy [1976]), and two roundly panned television movies (Sex and the Married Woman [1977] and Marilyn: The Untold Story [1980]). Call, if you will, the first decade of his career The Legend of Jack Arnold, but for the rest of his story, the only appropriate title, quite unfortunately, is The Incredible Shrinking Director.

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