Very few Hollywood films portrayed theBeats
in a positive light. Those that did were still never fully able tocapture
the Beat sensibility. Most films simply dealt with Beat associated phenomena
such as jazz, drugs, coffeehouse scenes, and avant-garde artand poetry.
Rebel Without A Cause is somewhat of an exception, as NicholasRay added
depth to his movie and was able to go places spiritually thatmost of Hollywood
was oblivious to.
Beat Generation filmmakers considered mainstreamcinema
“morally corrupt, aesthetically obsolete, thematically superficial,temperamentally
boring” (Sterritt 182), and looked to the underground filmcircuit
as a medium for production. Producing films independent of Hollywoodgave
Beat filmmakers the disadvantage of smaller budgets and audiences,but it
was a price to pay for a much more free environment -- free of restrictions,free
of censorship, and free of traditional structure.
The Beat-influenced independent film sceneflourished
in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s with the creation of
a numberof works. The Connection, Blonde Cobra, Senseless, Lost, Lost,
Lost,The Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man, and Guns of the Treesare
just a few of the many independent (or indie) films out there thatcaptured
the Beat sensibility, but two of the most important and widelyknown Beat
films were Alfred Leslie’s Pull My Daisy (1959) and John Cassavetes'
Pull My Daisy was the first andonly
film created entirely by the core group of Beat writers. Allen Ginsberg,Gregory
Corso, and a number of other Beats acted in the short film, whileJack Kerouac
provided the voices for the characters through an improvised, overdubbed
Scene from Pull My Daisy
Pull My Daisy was meant to capturethe
true essence of Beat culture by showing the Beats in their own environment,casually
interacting with one another and generally having a good time.The scenes
in this movie were carried out in a way that made them lookimprovised.
People believed this, and for good reason: “many of the greatest[literary]
Beat works were created spontaneously, from the subconscious,without revision
or correction” (Carney2000b
). Pull My Daisy seemed to fit into this category as oneof the great
improvised Beat works. It wasn’t until1968 Leslie that revealedthat
the scenes in his film were as completely scripted, blocked, and rehearsed
as those in a Hitchcock movie.
Shadows -- a “half-loving,
half-criticalanalysis of the Beat stance, from a position half-inside,
half-outside the movement” (
Carney2000c) -- was first filmed in 1957 as an improvisation, but was
remadein 1960 with more scripted and planned scenes than improvised scenes.
JohnCassavetes, the film’s director, was praised for departing
from film-industrynorms, and for uniting “feature-film storytelling
with unconventional aestheticsin ways that carried beat-style ideas beyond
the subcultural arena” (Sterritt1995). In 1959, Shadows
received the first Independent Film Awardfor showing an “improvisation,
spontaneity, and free inspiration that arealmost entirely lost in most
films from an excess of professionalism” (Sitney423).
Both Shadows and Pull My Daisyare
important works that inspired many other independent filmmakers. Theyhelped
to break down the traditional standards and restrictive barriers created
by Hollywood, and have in turn influenced many independent, experimental
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Copyright 2000 MikeHarpring.