This page only contains excerpts and selected passages from Ray Carney's writing about Shadows. To obtain the complete text as well as the complete texts of many pieces about Cassavetes that are not included on the web site, click here.

Excerpts from Ray Carney's Shadows
Autobiographical Filmmaking
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There were three of us in one room … going around looking for jobs … I didn't do too well … My first real job wasn't until years after I graduated. I spent years making the rounds by day, and chasing women and liquor at night … Since none of us had any money, we had to use our wits. We had to get girls to give us their apartment, come in and cook for us, bring food over. We found that trying to get along with actresses who are broke too is no good. We had to go out and find people who weren't actresses – airline hostesses, women who worked in grocery stores, who could pick up some groceries for us. We had to find librarians, to get a better book collection, and stuff like that. We had a wonderful time. I couldn't wait for the next day to come, so I could get involved with some new girl and promise to marry her and then stop seeing her. In those days, I promised to marry just about every girl I took out. I felt if that's what they wanted to hear, that's what I'd tell them. Maybe it was dishonest, but at the time it didn't seem so.

What the actors had no way of knowing was that the characters were also based on Cassavetes' life. Each of the major characters was a version of himself – in both deep and superficial respects: Tom's tirade about colleges and professors embodied Cassavetes' own attitudes toward higher education. Ben's disenchanted drifting with his two buddies mirrored Cassavetes' own years of street fights, carousing, boozing and skirt-chasing with his two roommates in the early 50s. His love-hate dependency on Hugh was modeled on Cassavetes' rivalry with his elder brother, Nicholas, who was a lot like Hugh and bailed Cassavetes out financially many times in his early years.

Hugh's inability to get a decent job and his feelings about the indignity of the ones that were offered to him echo Cassavetes' own situation before he got his big break. In fact, in 1953 at an audition at the Hudson Theater (a burlesque house), he had had to introduce a girlie line and sing "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" and had been, in his own words, "humiliated" by the result. A few bars into the song, he was told to shut up and get off the stage.

Hugh also represents a side of Cassavetes from closer to the time that Shadows was made. As his career was finally coming together in the mid- and late 50s, Cassavetes felt overwhelmed by requests from friends to help them get jobs or meet important people. Like Hugh, after doing dozens of "favors" for friends, he would occasionally feel resentful of the demands placed on him and explode with anger and frustration.

Other characters and themes in the film echo Cassavetes' feelings in less specific ways. Rupert's and Hugh's faith in the importance of friendship and Lelia's endearing impulsiveness are reflections of aspects of Cassavetes' personality. Though it was downplayed when the film was re-edited, it is also biographically significant that the first version of Shadows focused much more heavily on the idea that Tony "stole" David's girlfriend from him, which tied in with Cassavetes' personal streak of jealousy and envy in romantic affairs.

More important than these specific references, the idea of "passing" represented Cassavetes' view of his own situation at this point in his life. As strange as it might sound, Cassavetes thought of himself as being a lot like Lelia and Ben. As the young ethnic actor making his way among New York's artistic movers and shakers in the late 50s, he felt himself to be an impostor in a world he was not part of and was not comfortable within. He felt he was "passing" for something that was not necessarily a reflection of his truest, deepest identity.

Shadows, Published by the British Film Institute (London, England)

Distributed in America by the University of California Press at Berkeley

ISBN: 0-85170-835-8

88 pages; thirty illustrations

This page only contains excerpts and selected passages from Ray Carney's writing about Shadows. To obtain the complete text as well as the complete texts of many pieces about Cassavetes that are not included on the web site, 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 2003 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.