Beyond Finian

With the curtain calls in for Finian’s Rainbow, Francis Ford Coppola was hot to get on the road for his next project, The Rain People. But Howard Kazanjian was faced with a dilemma as to what he would be doing next.

Francis had asked Howard to accompany him on The Rain People as his AD. They were going to be on the road traveling light, catching those places and situations that crossed their path, much as they had when up in the Bay area for Finian. So he only wanted one AD for this film. This restriction placed a stumbling block to Howard’s participation.  Howard was a 2d AD at the time, but this arrangement would require him to be a 1st AD. To remedy this problem, Coppola called the DGA to ask for a waiver, or perhaps get Howard “promoted” to 1st AD early, since he was so close to qualifying already. The DGA turned Coppola down on both counts. Coppola turned to Howard and gave him this advice – “Quit the Guild.” Howard had to tell Coppola “No.” He just felt he could not. It would be too difficult (nigh on impossible, not to mention expensive) to try to get back in afterwards.

[Aside – As I mentioned in an earlier post George Lucas did go along with Coppola for The Rain People, not as AD, but as a general factotum, a gopher. He shot a documentary about the making of the film. On the road, somewhere in Colorado, Francis and George took in Kubrick’s “2001 A Space Odyssey.” George told Francis that he wanted to do something in that vein. It was one of the seeds for what later would become “Star Wars.” In tribute to Kubrick, they painted an inscription on one of the vans in their caravan – “HAL 9000” in three inch letters].

Instead, Howard went on to work for Sam Peckinpah and his film The Wild Bunch, (which is covered in other posts on my blog).

Later, in 1971, Coppola wanted Howard to be his AD on The Godfather. Again, the DGA rules intervened. Back then a member of the West Coast DGA (of which Howard was one) could not work within the jurisdiction of the East Coast DGA, where the film was to be shot.

Hitchcock and Me

Hitchcock and Me

I had to do some research to nail down the time period that I was at the Cinerama theater. As I mentioned in a former post, the theater changed hands some time during my tenure there. I was able to run down the date that this occurred by checking with the Seattle Times newspaper website. On August 15, 1972, the Cinerama was taken over by the Sterling Recreation Organization.

Using this same site I was able to track down the films that were booked at the Cinerama and hopefully to trace back to the time I started. I am not quite one hundred per cent sure, but I think I began when Stanley Kramer’s film, Bless the Beasts and Children was playing there, which puts the date as sometime in November 1971. I don’t think many people are familiar with this film. Not many saw it when it was out. It was a “coming of age” story about a bunch of misfit boys out to save a herd of bison from slaughter.  It wasn’t long before a second feature, the sci-fi film Marooned was added to it to help out.

From then until the take over, I tore tickets for:

Ryan’s Daughter – by one of my favorite directors – David Lean

Sometimes a Great Notion – Paul Newman (starred and directed) which might have been a re-release as it opened originally in 1970

A Clockwork Orange – Kubrick – this carried an “X” rating for its violence and controversy

Silent Running – directed by Doug Trumbull (famous for the SFX on Kubrick’s 2001)

While Bruce Dern and his robots Huey, Dewey and Louis were trying to save the last of Earth’s plant life, another figure joined the lobby to promote an upcoming film. And I had my eye on him.

Alfred Hitchcock was a great showman as well as a legendary director. For his upcoming film he had had full size cutouts of his standing figure created for theater lobbies across America. There he stood with a finger pointed at whomever he was facing. And attached to the back of the figure was a small tape recorder that continually played a message from the Master of Suspense – all centered around neckties – to huckster for his latest film – Frenzy.

I prevailed upon Mr. McKnight to give me the cutout after the film completed its run. And he acceded to my request, but not until after the run was stretched a bit when Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me was added to boost the attendance.

When Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask” moved in, I moved Hitch out and gave him a ride home in my Roadrunner.

Upon arriving home, I propped Hitch up on the front step and rang the doorbell. When my Mom answered the door, she must have jumped a foot in the air, and three feet back. After she recovered her composure, she told me, “Let’s do it to Dad!”

So we did.

Sixteen and 2001

Sixteen and 2001

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”
Dave was intent on dismantling HAL. And HAL knew it. And I was watching with intensity. Would Dave be successful turning off the murderous computer?
We were seated in the RKO Theater, a 3200 seat Cinerama screen in downtown Boston to see Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odessey. And we were there to celebrate my sixteenth birthday. Not since Lawrence of Arabia had a film captured my imagination and inspired me with awe.
From the opening music and the first frame there is an interplay between the two, the music enlivening the image and the image in return amplifying the music. The iconic image of the shuttle lining up to dock in the space station waltzes in my memory still. The film moved at a walking pace. You had time to think about what you were seeing and hearing. You would form a question, and then succeeding images would fill in your answer – what was that stewardess doing? Oh yeah, she was changing her up/down orientation in order to enter another area, where the old up would be the new down. The bits and pieces coalesced together to tell a simple story, expanding ever outward as more people were introduced into the quest of seeking the source of the monoliths.
I think I had more questions than answers by the end of the movie. Many viewers did. Some points went over my head and other subtilties were missed on my part. Further viewings, or in my case, reading the Arthur C Clarke short story upon which it is based, filled in the missing pieces.
It is a great film to reflect on, and I have done so over the years (I even wrote a short story in college inspired by the film, that I will put up on the blog soon). At its base the quest of the movie is the search for the creator. It is ironic given the materialistic, evolution driven world view that is its foundation gives off a spiritual vibe. But then again, in a way it makes sense. When you don’t take God at His word about who He is, you “create” God in your own image, limited by your own understanding.
On another note – or reflection – 2001: A Space Odessey marked a great divide. Before it came on the scene, entertainment in the US was filled up with stories of the old West, many stories that never happened. Now with this switch to sci-fi, we are multiplying stories that will never be.