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Indie films:
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' Shadows (1960).

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 narration.

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 efforts.

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Copyright 2000 MikeHarpring.