This page contains statements by Ray Carney about the effect of Criterion letting Gena Rowlands have veto power over what was included in the box set. To read about Rowlands’s response to Prof. Carney’s discovery of a long version of Cassavetes’ Faces in 2001, click here. To read about Rowlands’s response to Prof. Carney’s discovery of the lost first version of Shadows in 2004, click here.

Gena Rowlands has waged a campaign devoted to savaging Prof. Carney's reputation for telling the truth about John Cassavetes' life and work. She is terrified of the truth and interested in covering it up and denying it. Click here for a glimpse of what Cassavetes was really like as a person and an illustration of the kinds of facts that Rowlands is retaliating against Carney for revealing. Her treatment of his Shadows and Faces finds, and her insistence that Criterion remove his name from the Cassavetes box set that he spent more than eight months helping to create are part of her attempt to silence him.

The first interview begins at the top of the page. To jump to the second interview, click here. Another page of the site contains extended excerpts from other interviews with Professor Carney that provide more information about Rowlands's attempts to confiscate the print of Shadows and prevent it from being screened. Click here to go there. And this page contains a 2008 interview with a New Zealand magazine where Ray Carney talks about Rowlands's attempts to suppress or withhold other items, including Cassavetes' manuscripts and other film prints from circulation.

The first interview begins immediately below this paragraph. To jump to the second interview, click here. Another page of the site contains extended excerpts from other interviews with Professor Carney that provide more information about Rowlands's attempts to confiscate the print of Shadows and prevent it from being screened. Click here to go there.

To read a chronological listing of events between 1979 and the present connected with Ray Carney's search for, discovery of, and presentation of new material by or about John Cassavetes, including a chronological listing of the attempts of Gena Rowlands's and Al Ruban's to deny or suppress Prof. Carney's finds, click here.

To read another statement about why Gena Rowlands or anyone else who acted in Cassavetes' films or someone who knew Cassavetes is not the ultimate authority on the meaning of his work or on how it should be cared for or preserved, click here.

To read about Carney's being blackballed by Rowlands from contributing to another DVD project, and about Seymour Cassel's being put in his place and, at Rowlands's behest, making (foolish and incorrect) comments that "there is no first version of Shadows" in the voice-over commentary to the Shadows disk, click here.

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Prof. Ray Carney worked for more than eight months and 300 hours as the official scholarly advisor to Criterion for the Cassavetes DVD Box Set. To retaliate for Prof. Carney's refusal to turn over to her the new version of Shadows that he discovered and for his refusal to expunge things from his writing and web site to conform with her wishes, Gena Rowlands told Criterion to remove Prof. Carney's name and scholarly credit from the set as well as specific parts of his work that she did not want included. Criterion agreed.

In Prof. Carney's view, giving the 74-year-old widow of a filmmaker a veto over what can and cannot be written and said about him and his work has extremely disturbing implications for the future of film scholarship. Are academics and other serious critics merely to become lapdogs to Hollywood movie stars, doing their bidding intellectually, clearing what is published with them in advance, and being threatened with firing or legal action against them if they don't?

Prof. Carney discussed this ominous situation in an interview with George Hunka. Gena Rowlands's continuing attempts to control what Carney writes and to censor things in his work that she doesn't approve of are described in more detail elsewhere in these pages. Click on the Rowlands items in the top menu on this page to find out more.

Edited excerpts from an interview
with George Hunka
conducted for Reason Magazine
October 2004

ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CRITERION

How and when did Criterion first approach you about the DVD set? At that point, you had apparently already had some conflict with Gena Rowlands about the existence of the 1957 Shadows; was Criterion aware of this when they approached you?

Criterion asked me to be the “scholarly advisor” for the box set in October 2003. The original release date was planned for around April 2004, so most of my work was done in the late winter of 2003 and early spring of 2004. But the date slipped first to the early summer and then to the fall of 2004, as dates do in projects like this, and I ended up continuing my work longer, finishing up most of it in late March or early April. I was fired on May 8, if I remember correctly.

In other words, my work for Criterion was more or less done when I was fired and had my name removed and other promises reneged on. I’m certain the timing was not a coincidence. Criterion got all of the work out of me, and then announced that they were reneging on their agreement with me to credit me.

Almost all of this occurred prior to Rowlands’s blow-up with me over the finding of the first version of Shadows. [Click here to read about that.] I had begun working for Criterion in October 2003, didn’t find the film and definitively verify what it was until late November and December, and Rowlands didn’t have me fired until May. By that time I had put in more than eight months and three hundred hours of work for Criterion. In fact, by May almost all my work on the box set had already been completed.

No one can accuse me of being underhanded or deceitful. Criterion and Rowlands were the underhanded ones. I was completely honest and honorable in all of my dealings with Criterion. I kept them informed at every step of the search and acquisition of Shadows. In fact, I told Criterion about the search before I actually found the print, while I was still searching for the film. I then told them about the find the day I found it. I kept them informed while I was still checking out its authenticity, and I gave them more information about it before I made a public announcement. I kept nothing from them.

As to how did they feel about including the first version of Shadows in the set—they were excited about it. Peter Becker told me that it would be the most important item in the release. He desperately wanted to include it.

What did Criterion ask you to provide, and what specifically was to be your credit on the release?

It’s impossible to itemize everything I did in an interview. We’re talking about eight months of work, almost every day. What I contributed also changed as I went along. I’ve done many projects like this and the scope of a project inevitably shifts and evolves as you work on it. That’s a good thing. You get new ideas, you change your mind, and you change your plans as you go along, as you find out what you can and cannot get, what it costs, what the deadlines and realities of including something are. Look, if I do say so myself, I’m the world’s expert on this material. That was why Criterion made me the scholarly advisor. I know more about Cassavetes’ work and what is available than anyone alive. I provided a wealth of information about dozens of things that could be included in the set, some of which were used and others of which couldn’t be included for one reason or another.

What was never in question and never changed was that I was the “brains” behind the box set. The producer knew only a little bit about Cassavetes and depended on me to make recommendations on everything: what photos to include, what documentary footage to include, which prints to use. (In Cassavetes’ case, this is a particularly complex issue since there are multiple versions of the different films.) And what other supplementary material to bundle with the set. I was in charge of making recommendations about everything. And I made scores of them, based on my twenty years of experience and fresh research I did during that period of time— in memos, in telephone conversations, by email, and in meetings in New York and Boston.

I was the official scholarly advisor for the set. That was my title. They confirmed it in writing and re-confirmed it in dozens of emails, telephone conversations, and face-to-face meetings. And Criterion agreed to “pay me” by including extensive crediting of my contribution, mentions of my publications, and links to my web site—among other things. They reneged on all of that. None of it is included in the set. When Gena told them to jump through her hoops, they only asked “how high.” I was defrauded to please a 75-year-old widow.

On the set as released this month, what material did you provide them with? What other material did you create exclusively for Criterion that Criterion still retains? For example, for which films did you provide commentary, how many stills did you provide, etc.

To tell you the truth, I still haven’t seen the final released version of the set. Friends have called and told me about it, but I don’t own it. Part of my arrangement with Criterion was that for my eight months and hundreds of hours of work I was to get a bunch of free sets in "partial payment," but they reneged on that just as they reneged on everything else when Gena told them to throw me overboard. So I’m be darned if I go into a store and pay money to buy a copy at this point. I don’t want to give them that satisfaction—or the sale! But Criterion told me that they were not including the previously agreed upon scholarly advisor credit, the web site link, the list of publications, and more or less everything else. Of course they included my research, my suggestions on what to include in the set, the list of people I gave them to talk to and interview. They stole that material, just like Charles Kiselyak stole similar material from me when he made the Constant Forge documentary that is included in the box set. [Click here to read about that project.] Welcome to the world of business. Get someone to put hundreds of hours into something and then defraud him of credit for it.

What was Criterion's reaction when you suggested the inclusion of the 1957 Shadows and the longer cut of Faces? Were these originally planned for inclusion and later dropped?

They were enthusiastic. I was too. They planned to include both films. They would have made superb additions to the set. Not merely in a commercial sense, though of course it would have helped the sales—but intellectually. As if you included sketches from an artist’s notebooks in a show of his or her paintings. It would have added depth to the release. The second Gena Rowlands learned of their desire to include this material (and my willingness to provide the Shadows print for free), she fired off a fax to them telling them words to the effect that she would sue their pants off if they included anything from either earlier film. (Click here to read the text of a letter written by Al Ruban at Gena Rowlands's behest to the Criterion Collection to prevent the print of the first version of Shadows from being released on video followed by the response from Criterion. The fax formalized and followed up on a previous telephone call on the same subject, forbidding Criterion's use of the print I offered to provide.)

It seems from your web site that your discussion of the 1957 Shadows on the commentary track for that film, and Rowlands' objection to it, was the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of your participation in the set. Did Becker or anyone else from Criterion, such as Johanna Schiller, explicitly tell you this was the reason for your firing, or was the email from Becker all the explanation you got?

The email from Becker was all I got. That’s the way they treat someone who has put in eight months of his life on a project. I was fired in a five sentence email with no more explanation than that. Criterion would not really communicate with me after that point. Their lawyers probably told them not to discuss my firing. The story was the same with Gena. I wrote her a couple times after that expressing my puzzlement about what had happened and holding out an olive branch—apologizing for anything I had done to offend her, offering to meet with her and discuss the situation, etc.—but she didn’t even reply. Complete silence.

As much as being puzzled about why I had been fired, I was disgusted with the sneaky, underhanded way it was done. Criterion kept reassuring me right up to the last minute that I was doing terrific work, even as they were just counting the days until they fired me. The timing was what gave it away. The firing was timed to occur almost immediately after my work for them was more or less complete. In retrospect, it seems clear to me Gena had probably told Criterion to fire me a month or two earlier, and they had agreed at that point, but they had deliberately held off doing it until I finished up everything I was providing for the box set. When I thought back on it later, I could remember all these last-minute phone calls for information in the last six weeks or so. What was going on was that Criterion was milking me for all of the work they could get out of me before they canned me and removed my credit from the set. Then and only then, once they got what they were after, Becker wrote his email to me.

What do you think Rowlands objected to in the work you prepared? Biographical interpretation? Aesthetic interpretation? The simple act of a more ambivalent presentation of Cassavetes and his work?

I know the difference between those things, but they would mean nothing to Rowlands. The answer is that she wants to control the interpretation of her husband’s films and censor the facts connected with the history of them. She objects to anything that is not cleared with her in advance. She is committed to a sanitized history. The truth is too scary for her to face. So, in this case, I guess you could say she objects to both my interpretations and to my facts.

As background, you have to keep two things in mind: First, Rowlands wasn’t all that involved in the making of the films. She acted in them, but in most cases that meant that she simply showed up when it was time for her scenes to be filmed and went home when she was done. She was not involved in the scripting, the casting, the shooting or the postproduction process.

Second, Rowlands isn’t an intellectual or of a critical bent. She is an actress—a wonderful actress—but that is different from being a critic. An actress is a highly specialized individual with a highly specialized set of skills. It is not the same thing as being an intellectual. Rowlands is not a thinker. Her mind is not analytic. She has little knowledge of film history or criticism. She has no talent in that direction and little interest. When it comes to understanding the function of film criticism, she's pretty much an ignoramus. (If you’re reading this, sorry to have to say it, Gena! But I have devoted my life to telling the truth and I won’t lie to flatter you.) Rowlands's idea of film criticism is a gushy puff piece in the New York or L.A. Times. That’s the limit of her understanding of the functions of criticism. She’s not a deep thinker about art or aesthetics. And if you doubt that, look at the movies she’s chosen to act in over the past two decades. They’re garbage. Sentimental dross. (Again, sorry Gena, but that’s the facts!) That shows what she knows about art. She only acted in her husband’s films because he needed her to do it. It wasn’t really her choice. And she doesn’t even like many of them. She once told me she thought Marvin and Tige was his greatest acting performance. If you’ve seen the movie, that will tell you a lot about her taste in film.

But where does that leave me? Since she wasn’t there for most of them, it means that Rowlands doesn’t know most of the facts connected with the making of the films; and since she doesn’t really understand what film criticism or interpretation is about, it means that she doesn’t understand what I have been doing for the past twenty years. Now, I don’t mind that. There’s no reason she should have to know those things or should have to appreciate sophisticated acts of analysis. My mother is a great person, and she doesn’t understand and is not interested in those things either. But the difference is that my mother doesn’t try to edit my work and my editor doesn’t let my mother edit it. Rowlands thinks she has the right to veto or censor what I write or say. And, even worse, Becker let her exercise it on his box set.

Is it clear what madness it would be to let my mother or Gena edit my work? When Gena reads my writing, it genuinely baffles her. And given her genuine lack of knowledge about the making of the films, she objects to it whenever I say anything that is at all innovative or new. And she really objects if it reveals something she would like to keep under wraps. But do we want to live in a world where the wife of an artist controls what is written about him? Do we really want to dumb-down film commentary in this way? How in the world can Criterion possibly justify their actions on moral or intellectual grounds? Why aren’t critics and viewers protesting what Criterion has done? Why aren’t people protesting what Gena is doing? How can she appear in public without being grilled about this?

Let me give you a couple examples of how my writing confuses Gena: the second version of Shadows ends with a statement “The film you have just seen was an improvisation.” Well, when I say in my BFI book or my Cassavetes on Cassavetes book that much of the film was scripted, Gena thinks I am just plain wrong! Why, the film says it “was an improvisation.” How can I say it wasn’t? I won’t go into the reasons why I know it wasn’t—or the talk I had with Cassavetes himself about this subject—but I hope you can see how when someone in a Shadows post-screening question-and-answer session tells Gena what I wrote, she thinks I am spreading falsehoods or, worse yet, saying her husband lied about the film.

It puts me in an impossible situation. I can’t change the facts to conform to Gena’s imperfect understanding or memory of them, but I get fired by Criterion if I present them accurately. In the case of Shadows, Rowlands still denies not only that much of the second version was scripted, but that there even was a first version at all. I am not describing a definitional problem, some semantic hair-splitting about my argument about what constitutes a “first version.” No. Rowlands denies that the basic events ever happened. So when I write about them, she goes through the roof. She’s a very strong-willed, opinionated individual. And to make it worse, she’s being advised by an Iago-like businessman named Al Ruban, who resents that he is not the one people turn to for information about the films. Ruban feeds Rowlands libel about errors in my work, and Rowlands, because of her own insecurity and lack of knowledge, falls for them.

Not to protract my reply, but let me add one more dimension to this. Everything I’ve said about the facts goes double for the interpretations. Ruban and Rowlands don’t think like critics or understand how criticism comes to its conclusions or what it means. When I say something like “Love Streams reveals Cassavetes’ state of discouragement at that point in his life,” she is baffled how I draw that conclusion. How can a film tell me about its writer/director’s emotional state? Did Cassavetes tell me he was “discouraged?” Well if he didn’t say those exact words to me, then I have no business writing something like that. In her view I am just making it all up.

If you hold legal title to the work you created for Criterion, why haven't you pursued further legal action?

I do own it. It’s my work. It was stolen and used in violation of their agreement with me, which clearly involved crediting me for its creation. Some very high-priced intellectual property lawyers have told me that. Much of what is in the box set is my intellectual property. I have contemplated legal action, and I have even taken a few preliminary steps in that direction, against both Criterion and Charles Kiselyak for stealing my intellectual property in his film, [Click here to read more about what Kiselyak did] but legal action is so time-consuming and so emotionally draining, and is such a distraction from my real work of teaching, writing, and lecturing that I haven’t come to a final decision about what I will ultimately do or how much of my life I want to devote to fighting this injustice.

What I have put hours of my life into is trying to explain all of this to Rowlands, trying to get her to see my side of things, to convince her that I bear her no personal malice, but am just doing my job as a critic, presenter, and celebrator of her husband’s work. Trying to convince her that the fairy-tale version of her husband’s life and work that she and Kiselyak are promulgating is counter-productive and that a more complex, nuanced view is what people want. But I’ve gotten nowhere with that. She’s terrified of the truth coming out. She’s acted in a completely two-faced manner. Completely immorally. Pretending to be defending her husband’s work, while actually pursuing a completely different agenda. Everything she has done to me has been done for one of two reasons: first, to retaliate for my refusal to turn the first version of Shadows over to her so she can destroy or suppress it; second, to retaliate for my scholarly attempt to present the truth about Cassavetes’ life. Rowlands is terrified of the truth and interested in covering it up and hiding it from view. She hates me for puncturing the myth she is trying to perpetuate, and that other writers are still falling for. [Click here for information about what Cassavetes was really like as a person, for an example of the kinds of facts that Rowlands is retaliating against Carney for revealing.]

I’ve always believed that the essence of being a great actor was being able to enter into someone else’s point of view, but Gena has sure proved me wrong about this. She is completely incapable of seeing anything but her own self-protective point of view. And she is willing to try to destroy anyone who dares to disagree with her or get in her way.

In the event you do recover this work from Criterion, what do you plan to do with it? Offer it on your Web site? Have you given thought to Internet distribution of the alternative cuts of Shadows and Faces, a la Syberberg's Hitler? (Or does the quality of Internet technology, along with any other unresolved legal issues, dissuade you from doing so?)

As far as my voice-over commentary goes, I don’t have it. I tried to get it back but Criterion won’t give the tapes to me. Like Gena, I guess they’d rather suppress something or deny it exists, than share it with the world. Shortly after I was fired, back in May, I phoned Criterion and then when they didn’t reply, I wrote them emails asking for a copy of my audio commentary. The audio commentary had been removed on Rowlands’s orders. At first I got no reply, but when I persisted in inquiring, I finally got a one- or two-sentence email from a producer saying that Criterion would not even consider returning anything to me until after the set had appeared in the stores. At that point, which would be in September, she said she would “revisit” the request. I’m almost certain that was her word. I remember it because it struck me as such a weasel word, committing her to absolutely nothing even after the set came out. She would “revisit” the request! Well, it’s now October and the set has been out for almost a month, and I have still not received anything back. I don’t expect to.

But even if I do, I’m not a businessman and I don’t really have the time to sell material out of the trunk of my car—or on my web site. And I don’t really have any interest in doing it. I want to make clear that I am not going public about this to sell anything, to make money. Anything I have done and am doing is simply an attempt to raise awareness about what has happened so that this doesn’t happen to another professor next year with some other filmmaker’s widow. I see this as an academic freedom of inquiry and expression issue rather than as being about who owns what or who can sell what. This is about censorship. About how a scholar is trying to write and speak deeply and spiritually about art and is being prevented from doing it by the forces of commercialism in our culture, and by the way institutions kow-tow to movie stars. It’s about whether just because someone is rich, powerful, or famous they can control what someone writes and says about an artist.

Although Cassavetes indicated several years before his death that he didn't want the 1957 Shadows to be distributed, do you think that he would have approved of its dissemination alongside the 1959 version? (Admittedly, this is an entirely theoretical question, but given Cassavetes' fascination with the process of living and the process of art-making, it is interesting to entertain the possibility.)

That’s news to me. Where did you get the information that Cassavetes didn’t want the first version of the film screened? Cassavetes was not opposed to screenings of the first version of Shadows. He held screenings of it during his lifetime. The main reason he didn’t continue to show it after the early 1960s was that he had lost the only print in existence. The one left on the subway. The print I found. He did not attempt to destroy or suppress it. He told me that when I talked to him. Cassavetes’ did not intend to prevent screenings of the first version of Shadows. Sorry, but I really rankle at statements like the one you’ve made. Because you’re repeating what Rowlands asserts without checking the facts. But Rowlands is wrong. That’s the sort of statement that magazines like Sight and Sound or Time Out have printed, and that are in circulation on the internet, but it’s wrong! You really have to check your facts before you make this kind of statement.

I was basing this on comments that Cassavetes made contemporaneous to the release of the 1959 version of Shadows; obviously, later in his life, he had changed his mind.

I still am not aware of any statement Cassavetes made indicating that he wanted the first version to be suppressed or destroyed—the things Rowlands has threatened to do, under the name of honoring his wishes. Everything I know and everything Cassavetes told me goes against that.

Could you tell me the source of the Andre Labarthe quotation you cite on your web site:

"Now, a lot of film buffs heard about the two versions of Shadows so they said, 'We want to see the first version, which was the great version of Shadows!' .... So we showed that first version of Shadows and they championed it. They thought it was great.... That other version exists and ... is allowed to be shown at any time...." —John Cassavetes in an interview with Andre Labarthe, when he was asked whether he didn't want people to see the earlier version of Shadows or had suppressed the print of it.

Knowing the source would help to support your summary of Cassavetes' comments to you regarding his attitude to the 1957 Shadows.

Sure I'll give you the source. And you know the joke? You'll scream when I explain it. The quote is now included the Criterion set! So you get it? The piece I am alluding to was a kind of "Trojan horse." But of course it's also interesting in itself. But the fun was that it refuted Criterion's and Rowlands's positions and would appear in the Box Set.

Here's the back story: Criterion's producer knew very little about Cassavetes and I more or less worked out the entire contents of the box set for her, all of the material they eventually included, plus a lot they didn't include. Unfortunately, some of the best stuff didn't make the cut thanks to Al and Gena and Becker. Over a period of months I did hundreds of hours of research and made dozens of recommendations for supplementary material to be included with the disks. At one point, among many other suggestions, I told her we should include the Cineastes de notre temps television interview (which I had one of the only copies of in America—and which a few years before I had already suggested Kiselyak use in his documentary) where Andre Labarthe interviews Cassavetes about Faces. It's an interesting piece in itself, but one of the reasons I thought it would be especially amusing to include it was because around 42 minutes into it (at the point it switches from Faces 1965 pre-release to its 1968 post-release period, where John is sitting in a chair in his living room with a sport coat and tie on), Cassavetes starts talking about why he was unfairly charged with "suppressing" the first version of Shadows. Labarthe asks John something to the effect of: "Why did you suppress the first version of Shadows or withdraw it from circulation and refuse to make it available to all the people who wanted to see it?" And you can hear John's answer, the one I quote on the site. In the web site quote, I untangled a bit of his loopy syntax; but you can check it out on the Criterion disk and hear his answer for yourself. Cassavetes says he didn't suppress the first version, and that it can be shown any time. He says he prefers the second version, but has nothing against screenings of the first.

Well, as Criterion's scholarly advisor I thought it would be a great joke to have this on the release. And Criterion took my advice and included it, probably without ever listening to the piece carefully enough to see that they were including something that refuted Rowlands's position: First, that there was no “first version” of Shadows, and second, that Cassavetes didn’t want it ever to be seen again. That's what scholarly advisors are for—to know the material inside and out, to make recommendations on what to include and what not to include, and to make sure that important information gets onto the disks. That's what I did.

Well, jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, as the kids say today. You devil you!

Apart from what you include on your letters page, have you received any indications of support from other critics or directors? Anything for attribution?

I have heard from a number of high-level actors and directors. All privately express passionate support. They use words like “unfair,” “unjust,” and “scandalous” to describe Rowlands’s actions. One or two have even said things like “she’s definitely losing it” or “the old bird’s memory and mind are failing.” But the second I hint that a letter or call from them might make a difference, they tell me they don’t want to get involved because they have too many friends in common. Hollywood is a very small town, and they all stick together unfortunately.

In a similar vein, a senior figure at a major university film archive who has a relationship with her told me that he sympathized with my position 100 percent, but he “didn’t want to jeopardize his archive’s relationship with her or the possibility that she would leave them money or material when she died.” It was about money to him. Unfortunately that’s the way the world works. Money talks and people are afraid of making a movie star mad.

Martin Scorsese was even tangentially involved at one point. I have a hilarious story about him. It throws a lot of light on how the rich and famous really function. What their priorities are. But I can’t tell it to you. Maybe some other day….

ON THE BOX SET AS IT EXISTS:

As it stands, the Criterion set provides an alternative cut of Chinese Bookie, the 17-minute alternative opening to Faces (from your Library of Congress find), and the 1957 Shadows is mentioned in the booklet notes to the film (though not the existence of a print of this version). Why this material specifically, especially if the 1957 Shadows is arguably a more important discovery than the alternative 1978 cut of Chinese Bookie?

It’s all Gena would agree to allow in the set. And that was after a lot of persuasion. A lot of pressure from both me and Criterion! In short, the alternate version of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and the 17-minutes of Faces wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t taken a bullet to get them there. When I started the Criterion project Gena, through Al Ruban, turned down both requests. After she had vetoed the alternate print of Shadows, Peter Becker told her that there wasn’t enough to justify the box set if she didn’t agree to allowing Criterion to include at least parts of both films. Becker shared some of his thinking about this in a phone call with me a few weeks before he fired me. He told me by not having the first version of Shadows, he was afraid no one would want the box set and that Gena’s refusal to allow it had put him in a terrible position. He was afraid they were going to lose money on the project. So my pressure and the blow-up with Rowlands put pressure on her to give in on including at least a sample from Faces and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. That’s the only reason she finally agreed to allow them into the box set. It was kind of a payback to Becker for firing me.

Do you think this set would be attractive to Criterion at all had it not been for your work on John Cassavetes since the 1980s?

That’s not for me to say. Suffice it to say that at the point Cassavetes died, his work almost died with him. In the twenty years I have been writing and lecturing about him, I have turned tens of thousands of viewers onto his work. I used to joke with friends that Gena ought to have paid me a salary as his publicist for two decades. That sure would have been more than the royalties my books brought in during that period of time. The film festival lectures, panel discussions, and screenings I arranged paid nothing.

BROADER, MORE IMPORTANT ISSUES

In Cassavetes on Cassavetes, you note that "Gena Rowlands has lent support to Columbia's cuts [of Husbands] by saying that she herself prefers the cut print over the one her husband fought so long and hard to defend" (p. 256); this, and the suppression of the 1957 Shadows, indicates that we're unlikely to see versions of these films that aren't approved by Rowlands et al. Given that Cassavetes entrusted her, Ruban and Faces Distribution with the rights to his films (if not specifically his legacy or the interpretations of those films), what can be done to prevent their abuse of this legacy?

I don’t know the answer to that question. Personally I’m hoping that my speaking out like this can either: a) encourage her to reconsider her failure to preserve her husband’s legacy or b) encourage others to take action to preserve it. There’s no money in any of this for me. Anything I have posted on my web site is an appeal to the world to save and protect the art. I’m doing it for John, and that’s all I really want to do. That’s what I meant before by saying I was taking a bullet to preserve and fight for Cassavetes’ work. There’s nothing in it for me. But I’m doing it for him.

Does the behavior of Criterion in relationship to you and your work cast a "chilling effect" over the study of film and art in general? In what sense and in what manner may current and future critics and students change their practice to accommodate this effect?

It certainly can’t help things. Writing on film is already trashy enough, already skewed by celebrity suck-up values and movie star hagiolatry. When one of the premier DVD releasing companies in America jumps through a movie star’s hoops to keep her happy, it can’t help but make other writers more cautious what they publish or say. Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone else other than my own dumb self being brave or foolhardy enough to stand up to Rowlands in this kind of situation. Most film writers would have been more than happy to do anything she wanted, to cut their work to fit her prejudices, just to keep a movie star happy.

THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE

What is beyond dispute is that, legally, Cassavetes passed the rights to his films and their distribution to his widow, and that she is well within her rights to release and license them as she sees fit. Although she seems to have overstepped her rights on occasion, for example by asking you to remove material from your Web site, nonetheless your books on Cassavetes are still in print, you do have total control over what you post at ww.cassavetes.com, and you continue to screen the earlier Shadows for your students. In this case, why should she feel obliged to include your work on the DVD set if she disagrees with your conclusions or your approach?

Those “facts” are wrong. That is not “beyond dispute!” Gena does not own the first version of Shadows. Cassavetes renounced any claim to own it when it was made. It was owned by the actors. It was improvised by them. They created the script and scenes. Not him. And when it was done, they owned it. Not him. I’ve recently located contracts and documents from the period that make this official. [Click here to read more about this situation.]

And to focus on whether Rowlands likes or dislikes my work is to miss the point. Is my goal as a scholar to make a movie star like me? Is my purpose to suck-up to fame and power? The question at stake is whether Criterion, the self-appointed “do it right,” “no compromise,” “idealist” video releasers, should give a 74-year old widow the right to determine what goes into one of its releases and veto power over what gets excluded from it. And I don’t mean just particular films or versions. Don’t forget that Rowlands insisted that Criterion exclude my voice-over commentary and not include my writing in the booklet. This was deep, searching, intellectual commentary. As I was recording my voice-over commentary everyone present was telling me how wonderful and revealing it was, how it opened up whole new ways of thinking about Cassavetes’ work. Well, where is it now? Rowlands had it removed (without ever hearing it, I was told). In fact, she has not heard it to this day as far as I can tell. She was simply retaliating for my refusal to turn over the first version of Shadows to her. Would a film professor check with Hitchcock’s kids about what should be said about the films in their classroom? Would a film festival director disinvite a guest because Beatrice Welles didn’t like what he or she had written about Citizen Kane? Do we want a world where money and power and celebrity determine what scholars say and do?

But wait, I have a better analogy. How about if Gena Rowlands learned that you were writing this piece and objected to it because she was afraid you were giving me a platform to defend my actions. Just because she was Cassavetes’ widow, would you think that gives her the right to call your editor and have him fire you? And if he did it, would you say, “Oh, she owns the films, she’s a very important person, I guess she’s entitled to control what appears about them? I can understand the editor not wanting to alienate her or risk a law suit from her.” If we give movie stars this kind of power to censor and veto and control what appears about them or the films they appeared in (and that was what Becker was doing), we might as well live in some banana republic where a dictator can tell us what to think and speak and write.

That analogy with your article and your editor is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Much of my “publication” as a professor involves doing voice-over commentary, program notes, and advising for videotapes and disks. I was engaged in publishing scholarly material about Cassavetes and Rowlands had me removed from the project and my work censored.

Becker, through Criterion's publicity office, has turned down my request for an interview, but I will be contacting them again for reaction to your responses.

I figured Becker would not talk to you. Guilty people always take the Fifth! He has a lot to hide. Therefore he has to be careful to keep his story straight. To keep the alibis knit together. I don't. That's why I don't mind talking. I know what happened. I'm not ashamed of any of my behavior. I behaved honorably and honesty and above board. He has to be careful what he says.

If you do talk to him ask him if I was indeed the scholarly advisor to the set (and I clearly was, putting in more than eight months and 300 hours of work, way beyond simply doing a voice-over commentary or preparing essays for the booklet). Then ask him why my name is not credited on the box set as scholarly advisor?

Of course, the only real answer is he removed it to kiss-ass a movie star. But I'd be curious what he would tell you was the morality of removing my clearly agreed upon and earned credit as scholarly advisor.

There’s another person you could ask a similar question to. Call the head of the Motion Picture Division at the Library of Congress. Ask him or her why the print of Faces I found has not been screened yet or why they have not issued a statement to the press. When I was down there and discovered it and told the higher-ups about it, they were excited about the discovery and promised me they would have a big statement to the press and a major screening event involving the film as a result.

Ask them why it never happened? Why no press release or press conference from the Library? Why no announcement? Why no screening? Why has the long version of Faces I discovered effectively been suppressed for three years? The answer is that Ruban and Rowlands told the Library of Congress not to announce or screen it. Ask the Motion Picture Division if they always kow-tow to movie stars in this way. I thought the Library served the interests of the people. That it was devoted to the scholarship, preservation, and presentation of its collection. Turns out I was wrong. They exist to cater to the whims, to do the bidding of movie stars.

It’s extremely disturbing that a public institution like the Library of Congress would suppress a major scholarly find in this way to please a movie star. The Library of Congress is a public institution. Your and my taxes built the building and pay the employee’s salaries. We live in a democracy where a place like the Library of Congress is supposed to serve the ordinary person's needs. And what do we find? They are as in hock to Hollywood celebrities as the Academy Awards Ceremony. When Rowlands tells them not to announce something, or not to screen it, or to shut down a professor who has discovered it and not talk to him (for three years now they have refused even to respond to my inquiries about this subject), they bow down to celebrity. Is this what we want from our public institutions? The man in charge at the time of the discovery was someone named Patrick Longhey. He’s now at the Eastman House. Ask him. [Click here to read more about the Library of Congress’s response to Prof. Carney’s discovery of Faces.]

I've spoken to Rowlands' publicist and am setting up a phone interview with her for this week. I haven't mentioned your name yet, only that I'm doing a feature story on the DVD set. Here's hoping she doesn't slam the phone down before I can get the second syllable of "Carney" out of my mouth.

What you'll hear from Rowlands is undoubtedly what I heard: That she has no knowledge of the "first version" as a separate work at all. She regards it as a rough print, a prelim. version of the final (second) film. If you have read my Shadows book and my Cass on Cass, you'll see the mistake in her understanding. She's simply, totally, absolutely wrong. It's not a judgment call, not a gray area. She's just mistaken. But her stance has a superficial plausibility—if you don't know the facts. So don't be taken in. The first version of Shadows was a film unto itself. It was meant to be released. It was finished, complete, final in every detail. But Rowlands doesn't know this and refuses to accept it. It's a demonstration of how little she really knows about the other films as well. She was an actress in some of them. She showed up for a few hours, did her scenes and went home. She had little or nothing to do with the making of them. But of course she doesn't know what she doesn't know. That's the nature of not knowing. (And she has been mislead, profoundly so, by Al Ruban, which compounds the problem.) Well, I thought a little background might help you prepare….

Let me give you one more bit of background in case you interview Rowlands. Her whole position is that she is honoring JC's wishes by suppressing the first version, and that I am betraying them. Becker's email to me, which I have posted on my web site, has her exact wording. Well, the Labarthe quote is one refutation of that, but I wanted to emphasize that Cassavetes' statement in the interview is not mere verbiage or empty talk. It's a little known fact, but a fact indeed that Cassavetes actually did conduct screenings of the first version of Shadows even after he had finished the second version. I have detailed information about regular, public, commercial, theatrical screenings (in other words, real screenings, not just events for friends and relatives) of the first version of Shadows that Cassavetes approved and conducted before the only print of the first version was left on the subway. I have every detail of those events: the advertising, the box office ticket sales records, the attendance figures, and the rental payments to Cassavetes. I have the documentation approving the screenings and naming the payment terms with signatures on it. And Rowlands has information about these screenings also. Because I myself sent it to her months ago, along with dozens of other bits of information. But don't confuse her with the facts! She still denies there was a "first version"–let alone that Cassavetes ever allowed it to be screened for the public.

In summary, her position is completely bogus. If we are going to play the rhetorical game that she has begun, it would be fair to say that she is ironically enough the one betraying her husband’s wishes. Cassavetes said the first version could be shown. And he showed it. Now Rowlands is frying me for doing what he himself endorsed and did.

A POSTSCRIPT ONE MONTH LATER (VIA EMAIL)

Carney: Did you manage to talk with Rowlands, Ruban, Becker, or any of their representatives? I'd really like to know, in all sincerity and innocence, how in the world they justified their actions ethically.

Hunka: I spoke to Rowlands, who pretty much repeated her "It's my party and I'll invite who I want to" mantra. Neither Becker nor Criterion responded to several requests for interviews via a variety of approaches.

Carney: Remember the old song “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To?” I guess if you’re a movie star, being a party girl and throwing a temper tantrum to get your way is more or less what life comes down to. There’s no awareness that anything else matters—like truth-telling, besmirching someone’s career, or suppressing an important work of art.

As far as Criterion goes, Becker’s non-response speaks for itself. What could he say morally to justify what he has done? Nothing. So much for Criterion’s reputation as the “idealistic, non-commercial, uncompromising art film releaser.” Their sucking up to a Hollywood star kind of blows that image. And, make no mistake about, it probably goes on all the time. I’m just the first one to go public with it.

A follow-up email exchange between George Hunka and Ray Carney in June 2005:

George,

What ever happened with the Reason piece? Was it published? Killed? Delayed?

Meanwhile, Gena's mischief continues.

Curiously,

Ray

++++++++++

Dear Ray,

Sorry to say that the piece was eventually killed (without payment to me, needless to say, but that's the risk of working on spec, as you know). I'm trying to place the piece elsewhere and will let you know if I have any
success.

I'm also sorry to hear that the "mischief" (and that's putting it mildly) continues. Have you received any of your materials from Criterion to date? Any further movement on that score?

Best,
George

+++++++++

George,

Well it's been nine months and believe it or not, Criterion never even sent me a set. My work is on them--my choices, my suggestions are there--but my name is missing. And I don't even have set to show for it. (At least your editor didn't publish your work but remove your name and refuse to send you a copy of the issue! That would be a rough parallel.) And they haven't returned a scrap of the work they suppressed to me. For example: they have the only copies in existence of the voice-over tapes I recorded and refuse to return them. I guess it's a lesson. Principles are one thing in a Criterion press release and something a tad different when it comes to Peter Becker's personal and professional interactions, if keeping his commitments means he might displease a movie star.

The larger lesson is the shabbiness of American film and video reviewing. How if your issues are not on the Entertainment Tonight radarscope, no one cares. You're the only American journalist who has interviewed me about this situation and tried to publish something about it. The only one who has asked me a single question about what happened. (I don't count a couple interviews I did with students or former students.) And I'm not just talking about TV journalism or tabloid writing on film. Look at how Manohla Dargis reviewed the set for the NY Times and (even though she had to have known the back-story or not have done her homework) never said a peep about what went on. What does that tell you? It tells me a lot.

But thanks for your efforts! And you can quote me!

Best wishes,

Ray

A note from Ray Carney: Someone wrote me after reading the above material and said words to the effect of: "Since Peter Becker refuses to give his side of what happened and is stonewalling interviewers, it's unfair to question his motives. You can't question a person's motives when they won't tell you what they are."

A reply follows:

Of course you can question someone's motives when they refuse to explain them. In fact, it's precisely when they refuse to explain them to you that their motives are most suspect! If Peter Becker had a good, a moral, an intellectually defensible reason for what he did, he would be delighted to tell the world. E.g. If I had been "difficult" to work with as a scholarly advisor, if I had not done what I said I did for Criterion, if I were making the whole thing up, if I had quit the project and left work undone-- he would not be stonewalling interviewers. He would return their calls in a nanosecond to gleefully point these things out. It's the very fact that he is guilty of everything I accuse him of that makes him clam up. He doesn't have a leg to stand on and is afraid if he says anything I'll use it against him in a law suit. That's why he's "stonewalling."

Dargis's New York Times piece, which is alluded to above, is described in the following interview.

Excerpts from another interview with Ray Carney about the distortions of celebrity worship in film study and criticism: Specifically about Gena Rowlands's manipulation of the Library of Congress to suppress the alternate version of Faces, and the slanted, partial coverage of the Criterion events in the New York Times.

Excerpts from Another Interview with Ray Carney
about the Distortions of Celebrity Worship
in Film Study and Criticism

 Printing the Press Release

Someone who opens The Times film section thinks they are reading news – factually correct, objective, unbiased news stories – or, in the case of an opinion piece, a frank, uncoerced, candid personal viewpoint, when they are actually reading advertising. The only reason we don’t detect how weird this is because so many of our values are already skewed in the same way television and the newspapers are. Since that de-realized Rappaportian third realm is where most of our lives are already lived, we don’t really notice it when we encounter it in the media. Money, power, celebrity, and gossip define so much of our culture that we can’t see how crazy it is to let them define the news as well.

You want an example? Although I gave up reading The Times movie coverage on a regular basis years ago, because of my interest in John Cassavetes, a friend sent me a piece published about him in September 2004. It was written by Manohla Dargis, one of the paper’s lead film reporters. It was a retrospective appreciation of Cassavetes’ work. Now, anyone reading the article would assume two things: first, that it was motivated sheerly out of respect for Cassavetes’ films and a desire to pay homage to them; and, second, that it represented a more or less objective, noncommercial treatment of the subject.

Well, since I happen to know this particular subject inside-out, I can tell you categorically that neither thing was true. First, Dargis’s article wasn’t a disinterested homage. It was part of the publicity campaign for a Cassavetes DVD box set being issued that same month. It was prompted by and based on a press release issued by the company promoting the set. Second, the article was full of distortions and errors, of both omission and commission, which systematically suppressed a series of embarrassing facts connected with the decision-making process behind the set and what it included. I happen to know that part of the story since I was personally involved in it as the set’s scholarly advisor. It’s told on my Cassavetes.com web site. There’s not a whisper of any of that in what Dargis wrote. The controversy about the set’s content and creation was totally suppressed.

Now if that’s an example of the work of the person who holds the most prestigious film reviewing job in America, whose copy is overseen by the most highly-respected editors in all of journalism, and is published in “the newspaper of record” – that the story she filed was part of a PR campaign for a DVD release and that it was tailored to promote the product by saying only favorable things about it and avoiding raising embarrassing issues…. well, I’ll leave it to your imagination what goes on at places like Premiere and Entertainment Tonight.

The film reviewers might as well be working for the studios and DVD releasers. In fact many of them are. Roger Ebert often reviews and promotes DVD disks which he has been involved with the production of.

But the problem is larger than that one tiny piece of the pie. Virtually everybody in the reviewing game is in bed with everybody on the promotional side of things. The publicists invent phony behind-the-scenes drama, feed the reviewers fictional celebrity gossip, and fly them out to LA on all-expense-paid junkets to interview the stars – and a week or two later the reviewers dutifully report the fictions in the forms of articles, interviews, and reviews. PR becomes news. When the White House tries to manipulate reporters this way, the Washington press corps at least puts up a token struggle. But when the studios do this to the reviewers, the only complaints they ever get are that the hotel rooms are not fancy enough or that the plane tickets are not first class. No one writing about film for a major publication dares to say how corrupt the whole system is for fear that they will be expelled from the club and be denied the next big interview or photo op with the next big nobody.

I heard Stanley Tucci talk about this a while ago. He was on a panel discussing the problems that confront filmmakers who attempt to do artistic work. Everyone else was blaming the studios, the budgets, the cost of special effects, the distributors, the movie theaters. He said wait a minute, the main reason our movies are so stupid is because our reviewers are. He talked about how bad reviewing in America is, how it panders to mass entertainment notions, how it sucks up to movie stars, how every reviewer in America reviews the same five Hollywood releases every week, how none of them supports art. I almost fell off my chair. It was the first time I ever heard anyone ever publicly cite reviewers as the problem. Most actors and directors will say it in private, but they are afraid to say it in public for fear of having Anthony Lane or David Denby retaliate in a review. Tucci’s point was that we’re not going to have audiences for good films until we have reviewers who write about good films. If you’re an indie, you can get all the distribution you want, but if reviewers don’t review your work and encourage people to see it, only you and your friends will be in the theaters watching it.

But, if we’re playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey, we need to take a good hard look at ourselves too. Just as is the case with political leaders and hit television shows, we ultimately get the reviewers and films we deserve. If people really cared about seeing great films, they’d boo bad movies or storm out of them and ask for their money back or stop mobbing celebrity events with Renee Zellweger and Ben Stiller. As long as we keep shelling out money to see junk, junk is what we’re going to get. That’s how capitalism and democracy work. Or don’t work. Look at who’s in the White House. Democracy is in even worse shape than film reviewing! [Laughs] I guess I shouldn’t be laughing. It’s not funny. Our culture is very sick. In very serious trouble.

Distortions of Democratic Values

Why do you think reviewers are not more supportive of artistic work?

The basic problem is our culture’s love affair with money and power and publicity. The celebrity suck-up factor is the most blatant manifestation of it, since celebrities represent all three realms. They are rich; they are powerful; and they are famous. Actors and directors are the American royalty. Everyone wants to interview them or write about them and is afraid to say anything negative for fear of alienating them. When was the last time Terry Gross or Barbara Walters or Charlie Rose laid into Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg for the meretriciousness of their work? Of course, the real problem is that Gross and Walters and Rose don’t even see that their work is stupid, because they are so awed by the fact that they are interviewing celebrities.

The flip side is that if you make a work of art that doesn’t have a movie star in it and doesn’t have a PR office promoting it – in other words, if it isn’t wildly popular or on the way to being wildly popular, as works of art generally are not – it won’t be valued by the culture. Blame it on democracy. We’re so deep into a view of life as being measured in terms of success and popularity that we’ve forgotten that art can’t be evaluated this way.

We have to remember how weird it is to do this. It’s really crazy. Spiritual and moral values that mattered for thousands of years have been replaced by commercial evaluations. Instead of writing articles and having discussions about a work’s truth, its morality, its ability to inspire us or make us think, reviewers and commentators focus on the size of its budget, its box office revenues, its demographic. Questions about what is right or wrong, good or bad have been replaced by discussions of what’s “hot,” what had the biggest opening weekend, what is generating the biggest “buzz.” It’s a PR view of life.

The emphasis on race, class, gender, and ideology in the classroom is an expression of the same way of viewing experience as if it were measurable and quantifiable. Moral questions about the degree of love and nobility in a work give way to political calculations about whether it is “representative,” “inclusive,” “ideologically correct,” or – God help us – “offensive,” “objectionable,” or “insulting.” Sociology replaces philosophy.

This force field distorts every area of film appreciation and study: the books that get published, the articles that get written, what is taught in our universities, what is screened at events.

Can you say more about that?

There’s too much to say! [Laughing] Neither of us will live long enough. Let me start with film festivals. The very reason they exist supposedly is to celebrate the art of film – in other words to offer an alternative to the culture of popularity, PR, and hype; but instead they attempt to play the same game as the rest of the culture, programming their event schedules and ceremonies around celebrity appearances, movie star awards, saturation press coverage, and big ticket sales – which means that if a film doesn’t have a name director or actor attached to it, it gets relegated to a Tuesday morning screening. What’s the reason for a film festival to exist if it’s going to organize its opening and closing night events around Academy Awards values and celebrity appearances by Julia Roberts and George Clooney?

Even the so-called indie festivals are corrupted by the same PR understanding of life. I was reminded of this not too long ago. I got a note from a programmer who said he was thinking about inviting Rob Nilsson as a guest of honor. Present a retrospective of his work and give him some kind of award. But the programmer wanted to check with me whether I thought Nilsson’s films would be a hit with the audience. If they weren’t, he said he didn’t want to go through with the invitation. I guess you could say I lost my cool. I told him that Nilsson had been busting his chops on the fringes for something like thirty years, bucking the system, financing films out of his own pocket, losing money, risking everything, and it was insulting and irrelevant to be grading him on whether or not his name or work would draw big audiences. I told the programmer he should become a Hollywood producer since he had mastered the Hollywood way of thinking. He replied – and I’m sure he thought he was being extremely reasonable and that I was the nut case – that he couldn’t possibly invite someone if his work wouldn’t get favorable reviews from local reviewers and draw decent-sized audiences. So that’s what it comes down to, even at a small, prestigious festival nominally committed to indie film. The programmers make the same commercial calculations as your local metroplex. If the know-nothing reviewer for the local paper doesn’t like Rob Nilsson’s work, or hasn’t heard of him, you don’t invite Rob Nilsson.

I saw the same thing happen when I was on the advisory board of the Boston Film Festival. I quit in disgust after about ten years of it. The most important reviewer in the city at that point was a Hollywood-addled idiot named Jay Carr. At that time he was the lead reviewer for the Boston Globe, but he has since moved on to being a television film reviewer. That’s what happens if you are stupid enough. Well, year after year, we would sit around a table at meetings debating whether we should invite so-and-so or program such-and-such based on our guesses about “whether Jay would cover the event” or “what kind of review Jay would give it.” His opinion affected every decision.

 The second worst Boston film critic at the time was a guy named David Brudnoy. He was just as stupid as Carr and just as addled by movie-star celebrity suck-up values, but did less damage because he wrote for a less important paper, something called The Tab. The festival took a different tack with him. They appointed him to the advisory board and let him have input into the decision-making process! [Laughs] Isn't that clever? Isn't that sicko? Do I have to point the moral and adorn the tale by telling you that, as it sailed between the critical Scylla of Carr and the Charybdis of Brudnoy, the festival ended up giving an award to a bimbo movie star year after year? Surprise, surprise. Capitalism triumphs again.

Celebrity Worship

But festivals do have to support themselves through ticket sales.

Yes, but economics are not what is driving these decisions. I am talking about values and the effects of values are subtler and more insidious. The world we have inside us is our real undoing. It’s much a more powerful determiner of actions than the world outside. Economics may be the reason these programmers give for their decisions, but they are not really forced to do what they do by economic pressures. The worship of fame and celebrity and money, the measurement of things in terms of buzz and ticket sales and press coverage and favorable reviews is inside us – even if we don’t realize it. That internal slavery is our undoing.

Think about public institutions like libraries and museums. They don’t have to support their operations through box office receipts, but they are no different. They host the same movie-star awards ceremonies, the same opening night galas, the same name directors and films as commercial film festivals do. The awe of celebrities, the desire to please them and get favorable write-ups in the newspaper goes so deep in our culture and is so much part of the internal values of a programmer or curator, that there is no difference if the organization is a commercial one or a non-profit.

It’s not economics, it’s values. I had first-hand experience of that a few years ago. I discovered a new version of one of John Cassavetes’ films in the Library of Congress. It was a major find. The Motion Picture Division archivists were excited. I made plans with them to issue an announcement, hold a press conference, and conduct a screening. So far so good. Then Cassavetes’ widow, Gena Rowlands, told the staff she was opposed to it. As far as I can determine, it appears that she was afraid that if the new version became known it would cut into rentals of the old version.

Well, if I was under any illusion that the Library of Congress served the interest of the public, and was above being manipulated by a celebrity, it ended that day. Rowlands had no legal or moral control over what the Library did with the print, but the Library of Congress curator instantly agreed to her request that the discovery be suppressed. At the same time, probably at her request, he refused to tell me what was going on. I kept waiting for the announcement and screening we had planned. When I called or wrote to ask why it wasn’t being scheduled, he wouldn’t reply.

When I later learned what had taken place, at first I couldn’t believe it. I thought it must have all been a miscommunication. I had thought the Library of Congress existed strictly to further the scholarship and appreciation of its collection. I had thought my tax dollars went to supporting an institution devoted to making available the greatest and best works of the past.

Now I realize how naďve I was. Gena Rowlands told them to jump through her hoops, and the only question they asked was how high. [Does a voice:] “She’s a famous movie star, for gosh sake! What part of ‘yes, ma’am’ don’t you understand?” Wealth, power, and celebrity set the agenda in those hallowed halls just as much as they do everywhere else in American culture. It has nothing to do with economics or money. In fact, in this particular case, the Library of Congress forfeited the potential box office receipts from the screening of the new film to keep a movie star happy. The administrators at the Library of Congress are as in awe of celebrity as some small-town journalist. For the record, I made that discovery three years ago. To this day, no announcement has been issued and no screenings have been held.

When I started out, I used to imagine that scholarly publishing operated outside the system of fad and hype. Well, that may be true in terms of philosophy and mathematics and physics, but it’s sure not the case with film books. What gets published by scholarly presses is dictated by the same forces as what is promoted in the culture. If something is popular, if something is newsworthy, if it appeals to a particular demographic – gays, African-Americans, World War II veterans, holocaust survivors, or whatever – that’s what gets published.

I learned that early on when I sent out the manuscript of my first book. It was about Cassavetes and was turned down everywhere, even though each editor said the writing was fine. Each one told me the problem was that Cassavetes didn’t have a following. I remember the exact words of one of them: “If it were Woody Allen, it would be different. But it’s Cassavetes. He’s just not a household name.” Can you imagine refusing to consider a manuscript about Heidegger or Riemann or Planck because they are not Woody Allen; because they are not household names?

Well, it’s now twenty years later, and Cassavetes has become fashionable. So now it’s easy to get something published about him. But why should popularity matter – either way – then or now? And what about a current Cassavetes who is not a household name?

The non-academic film book situation is even worse. Publishers are almost exclusively committed to publishing books that tie-in with PR events: a new DVD box set, the re-release of a film, the twenty-fifth anniversary of something or other. It’s the film book as product tie-in. [Laughs] Move over McDonalds and Burger King.

One of the dirty secrets of film book publishing is that a good fraction of it is subsidized by big name directors and stars, who commission books about their own work, paying authors to publish favorable critical studies. You heard it here first. I’m not sure the publishers realize what is going on. The only reason I know this happens is that I have friends who have written such books. It goes a long way toward explaining why there are so many books on some of these actors and directors. From the filmmaker’s or movie star’s perspective, it makes financial sense. Getting a book published about your work is an excellent investment – given the size of a movie budget, an extremely cheap one – with a potentially enormous payback. For less than $50,000 you can get a book written and published about you that can increase the box office value of your work by tens of millions.

It works the other way too. Things are taken out of books if they might offend a movie star. You can’t really say negative things about Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Sundance, or the AFI [American Film Institute] without facing repercussions. I’ve had passages in my writing removed by editors afraid of alienating a powerful director or star “who has helped us in the past and who we are counting on for a jacket blurb.” Of course I squawk, but the editor usually prevails. If I really dig in my heels, they can always play their trump card and tell you the lawyers won’t allow it because of a potential lawsuit. But no matter what you call it, it’s still censorship.

This page contains statements by Ray Carney about the effect of Criterion letting Gena Rowlands have veto power over what was included in the box set. To read about Rowlands’s response to Prof. Carney’s discovery of a long version of Cassavetes’ Faces in 2001, click here. To read about Rowlands’s response to Prof. Carney’s discovery of the lost first version of Shadows in 2004, click here.

Gena Rowlands has waged a campaign devoted to savaging Prof. Carney's reputation for telling the truth about John Cassavetes' life and work. She is terrified of the truth and interested in covering it up and denying it. Click here for a glimpse of what Cassavetes was really like as a person and an illustration of the kinds of facts that Rowlands is retaliating against Carney for revealing. Her treatment of his Shadows and Faces finds, and her insistence that Criterion remove his name from the Cassavetes box set that he spent more than eight months helping to create are part of her attempt to silence him.

In the first interview on this page, Professor Carney discusses his work for Criterion and Rowlands's actions in telling Criterion to remove his name and deny his credit for the work he did on the Cassavetes box set. In the second interview on this page, Prof. Carney talks with Shelley Friedman about how the Library of Congress bowed to Rowlands's wishes to suppress the alternate version of Faces and how the New York Times printed a slanted, partial "cover-up" version of the events that took place.

The first interview begins at the top of the page. To jump to the second interview, click here. Another page of the site contains extended excerpts from other interviews with Professor Carney that provide more information about Rowlands's attempts to confiscate the print of Shadows and prevent it from being screened. Click here to go there. And this page contains a 2008 interview with a New Zealand magazine where Ray Carney talks about Rowlands's attempts to suppress or withhold other items, including Cassavetes' manuscripts and other film prints from circulation.

To read a chronological listing of events between 1979 and the present connected with Ray Carney's search for, discovery of, and presentation of new material by or about John Cassavetes, including a chronological listing of the attempts of Gena Rowlands's and Al Ruban's to deny or suppress Prof. Carney's finds, click here.

To read another statement about why Gena Rowlands or anyone else who acted in Cassavetes' films or someone who knew Cassavetes is not the ultimate authority on the meaning of his work or on how it should be cared for or preserved, click here.

To read about Carney's being blackballed by Rowlands from contributing to another DVD project, and about Seymour Cassel's being put in his place and, at Rowlands's behest, making (foolish and incorrect) comments that "there is no first version of Shadows" in the voice-over commentary to the Shadows disk, click here.

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© Text Copyright 2004 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.