This page describes Gena Rowlands’s response to Ray Carney’s discovery of the long-lost first version of Shadows. To read an account of that discovery, click here. To learn more about Rowlands's attempts to confiscate the print and prevent it from being screened, click here to read excerpts from interviews Professor Carney has given on this subject. To read a 2008 interview with a New Zealand magazine where Ray Carney talks about her attempts to suppress or withhold other items, including Cassavetes' manuscripts and film prints from circulation, click here.

If Rowlands's or Criterion's response seems puzzling, click here to read about how money and celebrity drive the distribution and video release situation in American film releasing and how money motivates many of Gena Rowlands's and Al Ruban's actions.

Another reason for Rowlands treatment of Prof. Carney is her attempt to prevent him from telling the truth about John Cassavetes' life and work. Rowlands is devoted to perpetuating a myth about her husband's life and conduct and resentful of Prof. Carney for not sticking to the party line. 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.

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.

To read about other unknown Cassavetes material (including recording studio master tapes and an unknown film by Cassavetes) Ray Carney has discovered, click here.

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The Response–
Denial, Hostility, "Remove all references from your web site"

I am sorry to say that when I communicated my discovery of the first version of Shadows to Gena Rowlands, she told me that she had no knowledge that Cassavetes had made a first version of the film. It was news to her. She then denied the importance of what I had found - in fact, when I referred to the print as "the first version," she got upset with me and denied that there was anything called "the first version." She told me to remove all references to "the first version" from my web pages. Mentions of it were to be expunged. I was not to refer to it. (As evidence of the falsity of Rowlands's position, and proof not only that there is a "first version" of Shadows, but that it is a complete and finished work of art, not a work in progress or a rough assembly, click here to view three brief video clips from the movie.)

It became clear as I spoke with her that she had virtually no knowledge or memory of the production or screening history of the film. She didn't know Amos Vogel from Jonas Mekas, the 1958 screenings from the 1959 ones, or one edit from another. When I referred her to my BFI book (which I had sent her a copy of several years before), she told me that she had never read it. When I referred her to my Cassavetes on Cassavetes book, which I had sent her complimentary copies of three years earlier, she told me she hadn't opened it either. (Click here to go to the John Cassavetes Pages and read selections from my interviews and writing about Cassavetes.)

Even more unfortunately, she clearly wasn't interested in learning about any of the things she didn't know. Her mind was made up. I was not to confuse her with the facts. I spent hours over the next few months gently trying to persuade her, talking to her and, subsequently, writing and sending her background information about the history of the film and the print (including sending her the text of the essay I wrote about my 17-year search for and discovery of the print, an essay which includes both Jonas Mekas's and Cassavetes' acknowledgements of the first version of Shadows as a completely independent cinematic work different from the second version -- click here to read this essay), but throughout it all, she has refused to change her view. She still denies that anything called "the first version of Shadows" ever existed or has now been found. She refuses to allow public screenings or a video release of the print I found. As she has told me and dozens of film festival programmers, exhibitors, and releasers I have asked to contact her about the print: "There is no first version of Shadows. The released version is the only print that should ever be screened." End of educational campaign. End of first version. End of story.

Strangely enough, there had been a precedent in our relationship for this sort of response. Her attitude toward the Shadows find was a repeat of her response toward my earlier discovery of the alternate version of Faces in the Library of Congress. (Click here for information about that discovery and click here for information about Gena Rowlands's response.) In that case, she similarly refused to let the print be screened or to be issued on video. She similarly told me not to announce the discovery or discuss it with anyone else. As with Shadows, her goal was not merely to ignore the print, but to suppress it and even suppress knowledge of it. It didn't matter. It was nothing. It didn't exist.

But that was not the worst of her response to the Shadows discovery. In my conversation with Rowlands about Shadows she ominously instructed that I should immediately turn the print and any copies over to her. She told me her goal was to repossess the material to make sure that it would never be screened by anyone, anywhere.She told me that she would suppress or even destroy the print if necessary to keep it out of circulation. When I hesitated to comply with her orders, the business manager of the estate, a man named Al Ruban, followed up with written orders to the same effect. When I didn't turn over the print voluntarily, I received a "lawyer's letter" stating that Rowlands was taking legal action to seize it. (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.)

I have been put in a difficult situation. As much as I would like to oblige Rowlands, she has made her intentions clear. If I turn over the print, she has told me her goal is that it will never be seen again. She has told me that it will never be screened publicly. She has told me that it will never be released on video. She has suggested that it might even be destroyed to keep it from being seen. Consequently, I have chosen to hold onto it. Even if it can't be seen during Rowlands's lifetime, it will be preserved for future generations. To protect the print, I have been forced to hire a lawyer and spend money I do not have, but I am doing it to save it from suppression, loss, or destruction. I am doing it for posterity. I am doing it for John. To save one of his films for future generations.

Although I have been been advised by intellectual property lawyers that the first version of Shadows is completely and absolutely free of copyright restrictions on its screenings, that Rowlands has no legal grounds for her claim to confiscate the print or control the screenings, and that I am consequently free to screen and distribute it any way I choose, Rowlands's threats of legal action have discouraged exhibitors from showing the print. When it comes to legal matters, you don't have to be in the right to beat someone; you just have to make enough threats to scare other people away. That's the way our legal system works. It's not about being right, or winning in court, but about intimidating people into going along with what you want, or bankrupting someone like me who tries to fight for what is right. (Click here to read more about this issue.) Discovering a lost masterpiece is turning out to be a more expensive proposition than I had bargained for. I already spent a lot of money finding the print and now I have to spend a lot more because Rowlands and Ruban have lawyers working against me to confiscate it. I recently had to go out and get several of my own to deal with theirs. I'll have to ask mine if I can have a bucket placed somewhere in the back of my classroom at future screenings labeled "Contributions to the Shadows Defense Fund."

Such is life. And I had thought Rowlands would thank me! How dumb could I be? I'm convinced John is looking down on all of this and cackling away with that inimitable giggle of his. I know what he thought of lawyers and law suits. Keep laughing and smiling along with him. What fools we mortals be.

Shades of Norma Desmond
If you can't control someone, then destroy or undermine them
with censorship, suppression, firing, threats of law suits

Friends have asked me how Rowlands could possibly be so unappreciative of the Shadows discovery–or the earlier Faces one. As one acquaintance put it, “Even with the Beatles they release the tapes of their recording sessions. She has to know that. This is something even much more valuable and interesting than that. She should be delighted that you found this material. What’s really going on? It can’t all really be about Shadows. There must be something else.” Well, although I’ve been reluctant to talk about the “other issues” publicly up till now, recent events, both those concerning the Shadows and Faces discoveries, and another event which I will describe below, prompt me to. Something else has been going on for a long time–in fact, going on for fifteen years by this point. Ever since Cassavetes’ death Rowlands has tried to control what I have said and written about her husband. She lives in fear of certain things coming out. She wants to muzzle me. Even if she doesn't read my writing about her husband (see the previous section on this page for information about that or click here to go to the John Cassavetes Pages and read selections from my interviews and writing about Cassavetes), the business manager of the estate, Al Ruban, keeps her informed of potential “hot spots” within it. I have been told to change things, to remove things, to censor what I have written. And when I have refused, she and he have retaliated.

To the best of my memory, the problem started back around 1990. I remember Ruban calling me and telling me that he had seen the advance text of an article about Cassavetes that was to appear in The New York Times, where an observation by me was quoted concerning Cassavetes’ discouraged emotional state in the late 1970s and early 1980s following the failure of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night. Ruban, who is never known for his tact, blew his stack at me. He was extremely abusive. Swearing and yelling, he told me that Rowlands insisted I call up the writer and have the statement removed before the article appeared in print. She insisted on only “happy stories.”

I told him I would not make the call. I told him that the statement was correct. It was based on a conversation with Cassavetes. I told him I refused to serve as a lap dog, putting out a sanitized, “authorized” version of the filmmaker’s life. My writing on Cassavetes has never been in a muck-raking vein; I have tried to respect the privacy of his and Rowlands’ personal lives; but where there were important artistic issues at stake, in this instance, questions about the emotional state of an artist and how it impacted his work, I refused to disseminate the happy-face narrative that Rowlands was determined to promulgate.

Though I was initially slow to understand what happened after that, it became clear to me much later that that conversation was a turning point in my relationship with Rowlands and Ruban. They decided that if they could not control my comments, they would systematically attempt to discredit and marginalize my work.

Ruban began mounting a series of increasingly vehement attacks on my writing in public forums: he mocked my books at film event question-and-answer sessions; he blocked my attendance at events connected with Cassavetes’ work (demanding that invitations for me to attend festivals or screenings be withdrawn on the penalty that Rowlands would pull the films if I were allowed to be present); he wrote to the publishers of my books vaguely threatening action against them. At the same time, he also launched a whispering campaign against me. Calls came into me on an almost monthly basis from various film professionals–festival directors, archive programmers, and university preservationists–reporting Ruban’s comments about how Rowlands was “unhappy” with my work. As I gave a single illustration of above, Rowlands on her part began objecting to things on my web site and in my writing. Though she never actually bothered to read my books (see the previous section on this page for more about that), she read reviews of them and Ruban fed her selected "objectionable" excerpts. She wanted the objectionable material removed.

My mailbag is full of reports of Al Ruban's gratuitous bashing of my scholarship and publications at public events from 1990 through the present. As objective evidence from outsiders who have no particular allegiance to me or my work, three reports follow that I received from individuals who don't know each other who were each present at post-screening question-and-answer sessions of Cassavetes' work. The first and last events took place in New York; the middle event in Los Angeles. Since all three are filmmakers or film industry professionals, I have withheld their names to protect their identities. (I'd also point out that many of these attacks preceded my discoveries of new Cassavetes material. When I found the new prints of Faces and Shadows, Ruban's and Rowlands's denigrations of my work became even more frequent and more abusive. I said nothing publicly about any of this for almost fifteen years.)

Date: Mon, 02 Jun 2003

Hey Prof. Carney-

Just wanted to let you know that I recently met AL Ruban at a screening of A woman under the influence and Minnie and Moskowitz at the Two Boots Pioneer theater on 2nd Ave in NYC. Ruban was a complete asshole and when I asked a question regarding something from your book "C on C", he condemned you as an "intellectual jerk". Something tells me that this guy either has something to hide or is really insecure.

Thanks, hope all is well.
Name Withheld

Date: Sun, 28 Jul 2002
Subject: al ruban

Ray, just returned from the UCLA screening of (the second version of) Shadows. Curtis Hanson introduced. Talked about first meeting JC during editing of Faces. Didn't he make LA Confidential? Seems, then, he didn't learn anything from his time with JC. Goldoni, Rowlands, Ruban and Cassel there.

Something you might want to hear, through I'm sure you know his attitude: Ruban explained that the version we saw tonight (ie. at UCLA) was the real film: 'This is the film, it's always been the film.' Ruban seemed rather scornful of critics/historians, and your work in particular, saying things like (I'm paraphrasing here): enjoy the film for what it is, don't worry about what color underpants people were wearing. One question from the audience mentioned your name, to which Ruban replied, 'Ray Carney wasn't there'. So, there you have it.

Name Withheld

Date: 15 Dec 2001

Prof. Carney:

What's up with Al Ruban? I was at an event where people cited your work on Cassavetes in the q-and-a (all very favorable, I think some of them might have been your students) and he launched into this ferocious attack saying (words pretty close to): "How can Carney claim to know what Cassavetes meant? He wasn't there to ask him. A critic has no business telling us what a film is about or what a director was thinking unless he was there. Carney wasn't there." A few minutes later he called your Shadows book a "study of underwear" and said "who cares what underwear people are wearing!" I have to tell you the whole tirade (and it went on and on) caught the audience completely by surprise. Everyone was stunned. He seemed really mad. It pretty much brought the discussion to a halt. No one wanted to ask any more questions until the moderator calmed him down by making a joke. I want you to know though that the audience was on your side. Someone beside me whispered "he's jealous," and when we were filing out someone else made a joke about "that's the way all producers are." He sure put a damper on the evening. What gives with him? What is his problem?

Name Withheld

For more than a decade, I tried to take the high road. I kept my mouth shut and declined to go public about the character assassination and attempts to censor me. I confined my protests to private conversations with Rowlands and letters describing Ruban’s latest outrageous statement about me at a festival or to a programmer or archivist. My feeling was that as long as the situation only affected my personal situation, I would attempt to rise above it. I was a big boy. I would lick my wounds and go on telling the truth to the best of my ability. That is how things stood until recently.

But the situation changed with Rowlands's and Ruban’s decision to prevent screenings of the newly discovered prints of Faces and Shadows and with their efforts to prevent me even from announcing the finds on my web site or elsewhere. It was no longer merely about me. It was an attempt to rewrite history and prevent valuable work from being seen. In terms of my writing in Cassavetes on Cassavetes and the Shadows book, there were also important issues at stake in terms of the understanding of Cassavetes’ biography and work. Rowlands is committed to a happy-face version of her husband’s life and a Mickey Rooney “let’s put on a show” version of the making of his films. She has convinced many others to go along with it. I am committed to another vision–to telling the truth in all of its emotional and psychological complexity. That is ultimately what Rowlands and Ruban are attempting to stop. That is ultimately why they are gunning for me. That is the context in which the suppression of the Shadows and Faces prints and the attempts to silence me must be understood.

Do we want accounts of Cassavetes’ life and work to be controlled by (and censored by) his widow? Do we want Cassavetes’ life to be Hollywoodized? Is everything reducible to the value system of Entertainment Tonight? Does the fact that Rowlands is a highly paid, popular movie star give her the right to dictate what is said and written about Cassavetes? Does it give her the right to censor my work and bring in a team of lawyers against me? Does everything in film come down to who has the money and power? I wish I could say it doesn’t; but it is no secret that celebrity and wealth count for almost everything in American film culture. I have had firsthand experience of that in recent months when, in response to the events I have described, I have appealed for support from an important person–a film festival director, a programmer, another film director, an important critic. Virtually everyone I have contacted has told me that he or she not only believes and sympathizes with what I have experienced, but has independent evidence of similar actions on Rowlands’ part against others in the past; but they then invariably add that they are so sorry, but they can’t help me, because: "I have a relationship with her and don't dare alienate her." "I am afraid she will retaliate against our institution and we need her support." "We can't risk it because we are counting on her making a donation to the university when she dies." "I agree but we are afraid she might not let us show a Cassavetes film at a future event." Etc. Etc. It’s not a very encouraging state of affairs. Money and power talk. The truth goes begging.

I am a realist. I realize that going public at this point will probably change nothing. As a mere teacher and writer, I know I have almost no chance of winning a battle with a famous actress. All of the power, all of the money, all of the film professionals (interested in maintaining an amicable relationship with a big movie star) are on the other side. But there are important issues at stake. Can the truth be bought and sold? Does the fact that someone is a movie star give her the right to censor what is written and said and thought by a critic? Is this what we really want for the future of film study? Is it all about flattering the rich and famous?

For the record, here is one final illustration of Rowlands’s response to my attempts at truth-telling. For the past eight months I have served as the scholarly advisor to Criterion Video for their upcoming Cassavetes box set. I have devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to making sure that every aspect of the project was done to the highest possible standards of excellence, advising them on the choice of prints, traveling to New York to record audio voice-over commentary, and writing material for the booklet to accompany the DVDs. It has been a labor of love. I helped plan and select the contents for the box set, devoting more than 300 hours to locating rare photographs and documentary film material to be included on the disks, as well as outtakes from Opening Night that have never before been seen.

I attempted to persuade Criterion, Rowlands, and Ruban to allow the inclusion of the complete texts of all variant versions of all of the films along with rare filmed interviews with Cassavetes and rare filmed material showing him rehearsing and working with actors. The films to be bundled in the box set (beyond the outtakes of Opening Night) would have included: Tristam Powell's documentary, the entire long version of Faces, the first version of Shadows, and both versions of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. It was an uphill battle all the way. As Criterion relayed their conversations with Ruban back to me, at every point, Ruban (speaking for Rowlands) resisted these suggestions and shot them down. (To be perfectly clear about the Shadows print in particular: This was emphatically not a money issue with me. I was willing to provide a Digibeta copy of the first version of Shadows for free to Criterion, at no cost to them. Click on this link for more about my views of the money side of the question.) Ruban and Rowlands refused to allow it. They sent both me and Criterion "lawyer's letters" forbidding the inclusion of the first version of Shadows in the Criterion box set. Reluctantly, even though it went against my personal wishes, I resigned myself to accepting their decision on the matter. But that was apparently not good enough for them. They were apparently determined to retaliate for the fact that I had wanted to include alternate versions of Faces and Shadows at all. (The text above this explains Gena Rowlands's response to my discovery of the lost version of Shadows. Click here for information about Gena Rowlands's response to my discovery of the long version Faces.) They were apparently determined to get back at me for the fact that I hadn't expunged references to these prints from my work, that I hadn't taken them off my web site, as they had told me to.

Gena Rowands recently learned three things about my involvement in the project: First, that my voice-over commentary on the Shadows disk mentioned the "first version" of the film; second, that in my capacity as advisor, I privately expressed reservations to Criterion about including Charles Kiselyak's documentary, A Constant Forge, in the box set (which because of its fairy-tale/soap opera rendition of Cassavetes' life has aptly acquired the nickname of "A Constant Forgery" among perceptive viewers); and, third, that since Kiselyak's romanticized/ Hollywoodized version of the filmmaker was going to be included in any case, I intended to offer a different view of Cassavetes' life and work in the written material I was providing. (To read more about Charles Kiselyak's documentary, Ray Carney's involvement with it, and Carney's opinion of it, click here.)

If, as T.S. Eliot wrote, "humankind cannot take much reality," I guess it's even more true of movie stars than the rest of us. Rowlands's response to the above information can be seen in the text of the following email I recently received from Peter Becker, the President of Criterion Video concerning my work on the project:

From: Peter Becker
President of Criterion Video
The Criterion Collection
Subject: Bad news

Dear Ray,

I'm sorry to have to tell you that we won't be including your commentary or essay in the Cassavetes box. Gena Rowlands feels that you have violated her rights and failed to respect John Cassavetes' wishes, and she has informed us that under the circumstances, she will not participate in or approve the release with you as a part of it. Cassavetes entrusted his legacy to Gena, so for us, her word is final. I wish it hadn't come to this.

Sincerely,
Peter

Note that this represents denying me credit for hundreds of hours of input that is actually still included in the Criterion Box Set. Imagine writing a book or making a film and having your name taken off it. Imagine working for months on a project and having it still represent most of your input and having your name taken off it. That is what Gena Rowlands ordered be done to me and what Peter Becker acquiesced in doing. For all their vaunted idealism and high principles, that is what he and Criterion did to curry favor with a movie star. When she told them to jump through her hoops, Becker only asked "how high."

People should be asking a few questions at this point:

1) Is it right for a filmmaker's widow to harrass the discoverer of a new work by the filmmaker with threats of law suits and to threaten film festivals, theaters, and video releasers with law suits to prevent the work from being screened (and to post false and libelous notices on web sites claiming that the work was illegally or unethically shown by me at Rotterdam)? Is it right for Rowlands to claim that she can destroy the work if she wants to and to insist that I must turn over the print to her immediately? Should a rich movie star like Rowlands be able to use her money and legal connections to bring legal threats against me and force me to retain a lawyer and defend myself from her claims, when in fact she has no grounds whatsoever to claim ownership of the work or to control its screening and is using legal maneuvers merely to harass, threaten, and intimidate me—to tie me up legally in order to prevent the work from being screened?

2) Should the widow of a director have the right to censor and control the written material or spoken commentary that appears about him? Should she be allowed to control the critical interpretation of his work? Should she be able prevent the publication of anything she dislikes or has not approved in advance? Should Rowlands be able to retaliate for her inability to confiscate and suppress the first version of Shadows by having me fired from (and my name removed from) the Criterion box set after I put in eight months and hundreds of hours of work on it?

3) What do we think of a video company like Criterion for giving Rowlands the right to censor and control a video release in this way? What do we think of Peter Becker for summarily firing me and removing my name from the set, in violation of prior agreements with me, simply because Rowlands asked him to do it? What do we think of a video company that lets a movie star control the content of its releases?

4) What do all of the above things tell us about Rowlands and Becker and their values? Is deal-making everything in film? Do money and power make all of the decisions? Is everything in film about pleasing celebrity movie stars? Will anyone defend the right of a film professor to think, speak, and write what he believes? Do years of serious research and scholarship mean anything—or does everything come down to flattering a movie star—and jumping through hoops to please her? Is that what it's all about—so that even film scholarship is just another form of Hollywood air-kissing? Are essays and comments on film just a high-brow version of an Academy Awards acceptance speech, where the supreme goal is to flatter and stroke people in power, and yank someone off the air if they dare to say anything that hasn't been approved by the network in advance? Are we comfortable with a world where people like Spielberg, Stone, and Rowlands get the right to censor what is written—even when it is true and correct—just because they don't like it?

This page describes Gena Rowlands’s response to Ray Carney’s discovery of the long-lost first version of Shadows. To read an account of that discovery, click here. To learn more about Rowlands's attempts to confiscate the print and prevent it from being screened, click here to read excerpts from interviews Professor Carney has given on this subject. To read a 2008 interview with a New Zealand magazine where Ray Carney talks about her attempts to suppress or withhold other items, including Cassavetes' manuscripts and film prints from circulation, click here.

If Rowlands's or Criterion's response seems puzzling, click here to read about how money and celebrity drive the distribution and video release situation in American film releasing and how money motivates many of Gena Rowlands's and Al Ruban's actions.

Another reason for Rowlands treatment of Prof. Carney is her attempt to prevent him from telling the truth about John Cassavetes' life and work. Rowlands is devoted to perpetuating a myth about her husband's life and conduct and resentful of Prof. Carney for not sticking to the party line. 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.

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.

To read about other unknown Cassavetes material (including recording studio master tapes and an unknown film by Cassavetes) Ray Carney has discovered, click here.

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Photographs by Sam Shaw and Larry Shaw are used by special arrangement. They may not be used on other sites or otherwise reproduced. All ownership and copyrights are retained by Shaw Family Archives, LTD. More information is available at: www.samshaw.com and www.spc-promotions.com.

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