Nicholas Ray checks out an issue of Zap Comix.
  • Nicholas Ray checks out an issue of Zap Comiz.

Nicholas Ray—the brilliant director of They Live by Night (1947), In a Lonely Place (1950), On Dangerous Ground (1952), Johnny Guitar (1953), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Bigger Than Life (1956), and Bitter Victory (1957)—knew Chicago well. A native of La Crosse, Wisconsin, he spent a lively semester at the University of Chicago in the early 30s, sampling the city’s night spots and becoming a protege of playwright Thornton Wilder, and nearly 40 years later he returned to the city to make a movie about the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial. That latter period is covered in my long review of Don’t Expect Too Much, a new documentary about Ray’s twilight years by his widow, Susan Ray, and We Can’t Go Home Again, an experimental film he worked on with students at the State University of New York at Binghamton; both movies screen as part of double feature at 7 PM on Friday at Northwestern University Block Museum of Art.