This page contains a selection of articles from the world's press in response to Ray Carney's discovery of the long-lost first version of Shadows. A summary of the interviews Professor Carney gave to journalists that provides information about Rowlands's attempts to confiscate the print of Shadows and prevent it from being screened is available on another page of the site. Click here to go there.

To read about Ray Carney's 17-year search for the lost first version of Shadows, click here.

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.

Click here for best printing of text

To read Jason Guerrasio's account of the Shadows find and screenings, and excerpts from a brief interview with Ray Carney, as it appears in Filmmaker magazine, click here.

To read Ray Carney's personal account of his seventeen-year search for the first version of Shadows as published in The Guardian (London), click here.

An Excerpt from a review of the Rotterdam International Film Festival screening published on

Rotterdam Report: Rediscovering Cassavetes' "Shadows"

by Stephen Garrett

Chilly air? Overcast skies? Rain-soaked streets? What better way to avoid gloomy weather than indoors at the multiplex. No other major festival is as conducive to moviegoing as the Rotterdam International Film Festival, where winter doldrums are cast away under a rainbow of cinephile's delights....

Another Rotterdam highlight during the festival's first weekend was the unveiling of the first version of John Cassavetes' "Shadows" -- a movie that the actor/director re-shot extensively and which is widely cited, in its most famous and familiar form, as the progenitor of the modern American independent film movement. Film professor and longtime Cassavetes scholar Ray Carney presented the movie, which screened only five times and then was lost for 45 years. Before his death in 1989, Cassavetes told Carney that he had long given up on ever finding the movie.

Turns out the film was left somewhere in the New York subway system, and after a year of languishing there in the lost and found was sold for pocket change around 1960 to a man who hoped he was actually buying a porn film. After realizing the truth, the disappointed film buff put the movie in his attic and promptly forgot about it. Only after his death did his grandchildren think to even look at the movie. "Needles in haystacks? That's easy compared to this!" said Carney about the remarkable discovery that was made only two months ago. And what a revelation: painstakingly transferred to digibeta to protect against the fragility of the film, this "Shadows" is remarkably well-preserved and offers a riveting look into the director's creative process.

When asked why Carney brought the film to Rotterdam instead of America's own premier independent film event, Sundance, he explained that Sundance had turned him down. "Their programmers said the festival had OD-ed on Cassavetes recently," he said. "And besides, they felt their audiences wouldn't be interested. I see Rotterdam as a blessing in disguise -- I think more people here appreciated the movie." All the more reason to hail this Dutch festival as a true bastion for hard-core film lovers.

(published on this site)

Copyright 2004

A brief interview with Ray Carney about the find published in The Daily Free Press:

Boston University
Daily Free Press

Prof. finds film missing for 45 years
By Lauren Capolupo

After 17 years, College of Communication film professor Ray Carney finally found what he was looking for.

The object of his search - an original version of independent filmmaker and actor John Cassavetes' first film, "Shadows" - premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival in Holland Saturday night.

Cassavetes filmed two versions of "Shadows." The earlier version, filmed in 1957 and 1958, was screened only three times in 1958 and once or twice in 1960 for selected audiences, according to Carney's website. Cassavetes used only one-third of the original footage to create a second version, which was publicly released.

Shortly before his death, Carney said Cassavetes told him about the earlier version, which was lost and presumed destroyed.

After a decade and a half of phone calls, announcements and interviews, a friend of Carney's put him in contact with the woman who eventually found the film. She said her father, who ran a second hand "junk shop" had bought a film with a similar name at a New York City subway lost-and-found sale. (Click here for information about a typical subway sale.)

The woman eventually located the two reels of film in an attic. Carney said he had been following other leads in the meantime and did not believe the woman's print would be the film he was looking for.

Once the film, which was too fragile to be run through a projector, was transferred to DigiBeta format, Carney said he was able to view the original version of "Shadows" for the first time in 45 years.

Carney said he was happy to find the film, but the searching was more exciting than the finding. About 10 years ago, he began reconstructing the original film and published his findings in a book entitled "Shadows."

"Writing that book was some of the most fun I've ever had in my life," he said. "It was like doing a crossword puzzle. By figuring out all the downs, I could figure out what the acrosses were. I was about 95 percent correct, so it was almost boring to look at the actual movie after that."

Carney said he traveled to the Rotterdam Film Festival this weekend to screen and talk about the film. It re-premiered on Saturday night to approximately 400 film aficionados from around the world. Another 100 people sat for a smaller screening Sunday night.

"[The festival] was a great opportunity to show this film to professionals - a large group of elite, special people."

COM Film and Television Department Chairman Charles Merzbacher said the film is important to the film community because of Cassavetes' rising profile as one of the first American independent filmmakers.

"'Shadows' was Cassavetes' first feature and therefore his first stab at a radically personal approach to filmmaking," he said. "The discovery of an earlier version of this work therefore lets film scholars track more accurately the evolution of Cassavetes' vision." (To view three brief video clips from the first version of Shadows, click here.)

COM film professor Roy Grundmann said Carney's discovery is also important to the Boston University community.

"It was particularly artists such as Cassavetes who demonstrated that one could make films outside the established industrial circuits that were aesthetically innovative, cheap and commercially viable," he said. "Carney's research once more put BU at the forefront of film scholarship."

Copyright 2004 The Daily Free Press

The Village Voice
February 4-10, 2004

Long thought lost, Cassavetes's early version sees the light
The Return of Shadows
by J. Hoberman

February 4 - 10, 2004

Rotterdam, The Netherlands-John Cassavetes's Shadows, the founding work of the American independent cinema, has always had its own shadow—an ur-version championed in these pages in 1959 by Voice critic Jonas Mekas, who subsequently disowned the filmmaker's longer, revised cut. Unseen, supposedly dismantled, and thought lost for over four decades, an ur-Shadows has unexpectedly surfaced.

Turned down by Sundance, where it might logically have been shown, this ur-Shadows premiered at the ultra-cinephilic Rotterdam Film Festival. To anyone familiar with the controversy around Shadows and its shadow, the 78-minute ur-film is full of surprises. The known version is not, as Mekas suggested, a virtual remake. Most of Shadows is already ur. Nor is the ur-version less narrative. On the contrary: There is radical concentration of activity. The frantic round of parties, performances, and pickups on Manhattan's main stem begs to be diluted. Does the action span 24, 36, 48 hours? Where's the downtime? Other differences: Ur-Shadows lacks a bedroom scene but boasts a more experimental Mingus score, as well as a few songs whose rights would not have come cheaply.

The reappearance of this extinct creature is due to Ray Carney, a Boston University film scholar who spent years in search of this particular grail. The provenance is still mysterious. Carney, who must utter the word "Cassavetes" more times in a day than most people take a breath, credits the New York City Transit Authority. The movie was apparently left on the subway sometime after its screenings at the 92nd Street Y. Who lost it and how exactly the professor found it remain to be explained.

Found on this site.

Copyright 2004 The Village Voice

Cassavetes' "lost film" premieres

Ray Carney, a professor in the Boston University department of film and television and a well-known biographer of filmmaker John Cassavetes, discovered the lost original version of Cassavetes' 1959 film Shadows. The film premiered last week at the Rotterdam Film Festival. The 16mm film, made in 1957 and 1958, had been presumed destroyed. Carney launched an exhaustive hunt for the original print after a conversation with Cassavetes shortly before his death. He contacted collectors and curators, interviewed surviving members of the cast and crew, and scoured archives. After conversations with nearly 100 people, hundreds of phone calls, letters, and e-mail inquiries, and trips to more than a dozen cities, Carney received a tip that eventually led to him locating a family who had found the film in an attic. "The 16mm print itself is too fragile and rare to be screened, but a video transfer has been made and can be projected," says Carney. "Forty-five years after the creation of the first version, and 15 years after Cassavetes' death, the world will at last have a chance to see his first film."

B.U. Bridge, Week of 30 January 2004· Vol. VII, No. 18
Found on this site.

Copyright 2004 B.U. Bridge

An excerpt from the Catalogue of the 2004 Rotterdam International Film Festival:


"The holy grail of Independent Cinema"—Simon Field, Director of the Rotterdam International Film Festival

John Cassavetes' classic feature début is screened here in the rarely seen original version that has only recently been rediscovered. A semi-improvised story about the love between a white boy and a black girl.

It's not generally known that John Cassavetes, often called the father of American independent film making, made his first film Shadows twice. He initially shot the film in 1957. But after the print was screened a few times in 1958, he decided to re-shoot much of the movie. In 1959 he deleted approximately two-thirds of the footage, replaced it with newly shot material, and screened a different edit. Some time after that, the first version (which had existed only as single 16mm print) disappeared. Even Cassavetes had no idea what had become of it. For 45 years the first version has been one of the legendary unseen works of cinema, generally believed to have been lost forever. However as a result of a conversation with Cassavetes shortly before the film maker's death, Professor Ray Carney, the leading expert on the director's work, decided that the first version might still survive. From 1987 until the present, he spent his time pursuing scores of leads -making thousands of phone calls and other enquiries, talking to surviving members of the cast and crew and anyone who might have information. Finally this indefatigable and long search paid off. In November, 2003, the first version of Shadows was discovered in the attic of a house in Florida. After 45 years, the world will again have the opportunity to see Cassavetes' actual first film.

Copyright 2004 The Rotterdam International FIlm Festival

From BusinessWeek Online
Where Indie Films Are Alive and Well

Wednesday February 11, 5:00 pm ET

GODFATHER OF INDIE. Rotterdam is indeed special, a celebration of cinema culture over star hype and box-office grosses. One of this year's highlights was the surprise showing of a film given up as lost for 45 years --- the first version of John Cassavetes' 1958 directorial debut, Shadows. Cassavetes withdrew the film in 1959, deleting two-thirds of the original footage and replacing it with new material. Scholar Ray Carney devoted 15 years to tracking the original cut, which he calls a "Holy Grail of the cinema."

He succeeded only a few months ago, when he got in touch with a woman whose father had inadvertently purchased it in the '60s, in a lot with other items lost on the New York subway. The buyer was reportedly disappointed it wasn't a porn film.

If the American indie movement had a godfather, it was undoubtedly Cassavetes, who shot his semi-improvised features on the cheap, with money raised from acting jobs and, in this case, contributions from listeners to Jean Shepard's famed late-night radio show. Cassavetes' first feature, a landmark declaration of cinematic independence, was right at home in Rotterdam. Carney first offered the film to Sundance, but it turned him down.

taken from this site.

Copyright 2004 BusinessWeek Online

Lumière sur «Shadows»
La première version du film de Cassavetes révélée à Rotterdam.

Par Edouard WAINTROP
mercredi 04 février 2004

Rotterdam envoyé spécial

Le professeur Ray Carney a mis seize ans à remonter la piste des deux bobines que Cassavetes avait perdues dans le métro.

Le héros paradoxal de l'édition 2003 du festival international du film de Rotterdam est John Cassavetes. Le cinéaste mort depuis quinze ans a causé la plus grande surprise de la manifestation hollandaise, avec la projection inespérée de la première version de Shadows, tournée en 1957 (donc deux ans avant le Shadows que nous connaissons). La plupart des festivaliers ne soupçonnaient même pas l'existence de cette version que le petit noyau de fans très avertis croyait disparue.

Jusque-là, nous pensions que le premier opus cassavetien, dont les héros sont de jeunes artistes noirs américains new-yorkais, avait été réalisé en 1959. Erreur, explique depuis des années le professeur Ray Carney. Cet universitaire bostonien a conçu un site web complet dont la raison sociale est explicite : Et il a fait le voyage vers Rotterdam pour raconter cette histoire et montrer l'objet inconnu.

Après la projection, Carney a expliqué que le long métrage que nous connaissions, celui de 1959, qu'un carton placé en fin du film proclamait entièrement improvisé, a été écrit, en partie, par un scénariste professionnel de Hollywood, Robert Alan Aurthur. Les parties scénarisées sont celles, majoritaires, qui ont été réalisées en 1959. Deuxième révélation : il existait donc une première version de Shadows, filmée en 1957 de manière spontanée, qui a été en partie intégrée au montage final. C'est quelques mois avant de disparaître que Cassavetes a avoué à Carney l'existence de ce premier essai.

Mauvais accueil. Fort de rencontres avec les survivants des deux tournages, de la consultation de centaines de photos de plateau prises pendant le premier tournage, le professeur a écrit un livre (1) dans lequel il détaille ce que le Shadows de 1959 a gardé de celui de 1957. Cassavetes aurait retiré vingt minutes à son premier essai (qui dure une heure environ) et ajouté quarante minutes de scènes nouvelles. Ces changements lui ont paru nécessaires après le mauvais accueil fait au film lors des avant-premières à New York.

Si une première version existe, qu'était-elle devenue ? En 1987, Carney se met à la pister. Cassavetes lui a avoué qu'il avait perdu ce film, deux bobines 16 mm, dans le métro new-yorkais. Pendant seize ans, l'universitaire s'active. Fin 2003, il rencontre enfin son graal, dans le grenier d'une maison en Floride. Et il reconstitue l'histoire de cette copie unique : égarée dans le métro, stockée aux objets trouvés, elle a fini par être cédée dans un lot à quelqu'un qui ne saisit pas la valeur de son achat. Revendue, elle atterrit en Floride chez des gens plus curieux qui identifient le trésor et se font connaître. Et ainsi, en cette fin janvier 2004, Shadows first draft est projeté (en copie beta digitale) à Rotterdam.

Rupture. Etait-il nécessaire de dévoiler une oeuvre dont Cassavetes même semblait n'avoir plus rien à faire ? Indéniablement oui. Parce que, dès 1957, elle avait ses partisans, tel Jonas Mekas, qui y voyait une rupture avec le cinéma commercial. Au point de considérer la mouture de 1959 comme une capitulation devant Hollywood. Ensuite parce que le film possède un charme indéniable. Les spectateurs de Rotterdam qui n'avaient jamais vu Shadows ont découvert une oeuvre instable et pleine d'énergie. Ceux qui connaissaient le film de 1959 ont constaté que le premier Cassavetes s'intéresse moins à son personnage féminin, Lelia, qu'à ses deux compères Hugh et Ben. Ce qui le rapproche de l'art beat de l'époque, par exemple des livres de Kerouac, si masculins.

Autre trouvaille de Rotterdam, le premier film du Péruvien Josué Mendez, les Jours de Santiago, a étonné par son intensité. Découverte aussi de deux courts de l'Américain de Londres Stephen Dwoskin : Dear Frances, consacré à son amie Frances Turner, peintre morte l'an dernier à 38 ans, et l'autre sur son père. Deux petites merveilles poétiques.

(1) Shadows, éd. British Film Institute, 9 £ (13 €).

Found on this site.

Copyright 2004 Liberation

33rd International Film Festival Rotterdam 21 januari - 1 februari 2004

PERSBERICHT 7 januari 2004

Legendarische eerste versie van Cassavetes' SHADOWS in Rotterdam

De legendarische 'verloren' eerste versie van John Cassavetes' speelfilmdebuut Shadows (1958) zal tijdens het komende IFFR, voor het eerst in meer dan vijfenveertig jaar, te zien zijn als onderdeel van het festivalprogramma 'Cinema Regained'. De Amerikaanse universitair docent en auteur Ray Carney, die de eerste versie terugvond, zal de film inleiden. Jonas Mekas omschreef SHADOWS in zijn 'Movie Journal' column in 'The Village Voice' van 27 januari 1960 als 'the most frontier-breaking American feature in at least a decade.'

De eerste versie van Cassavetes' SHADOWS, in 1958 slechts drie maal vertoond in het Newyorkse Paris Theatre, werd vervangen door een tweede versie die in 1959 in première ging. Deze tweede versie is bekend als een van de mijlpalen van de Amerikaanse onafhankelijke film en als het debuut van een belangrijk vertegenwoordiger van de 'beat generation'-filmmakers. Maar filmmaker en auteur Jonas Mekas schreef in een fameus commentaar: 'I have no doubt that whereas the second version of SHADOWS is just another Hollywood film..however inspired..the first version is the most frontier-breaking American feature film in at least a decade.' De eerste versie werd ondertussen als verloren beschouwd en groeide in de loop van veertig jaren uit tot een legende, de 'heilige graal' van de onafhankelijke filmkunst.

Dankzij een jarenlange inspanning van Ray Carney, expert op het gebied van Cassavetes' leven en oeuvre, is de eerste versie teruggevonden en zal door hem worden gepresenteerd als hoogtepunt van het IFFR 2004 programma 'Cinema Regained'. Deze herontdekking stelt hedendaagse toeschouwers in staat zelf te beoordelen in hoeverre Mekas' bemerkingen terecht zijn. Ook vormt SHADOWS een uitdagende combinatie met de wereldpremière van STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH van 'Filmmaker in Focus' Ken Jacobs. Deze laatste film is eveneens voor een belangrijk deel gemaakt in de late jaren vijftig en toont deels soortgelijke New Yorkse 'beat' figuren.

Copyright 2004 The Rotterdam International FIlm Festival

the international federation of film critics
Simon Field and the Original Shadows
By Jonathan Rosenbaum

To the best of my recollection, the first time I ever met Simon Field, the departing artistic director of the Rotterdam International Film Festival, was in the early 1970s - either 1970 or 1973 - when he was programming a festival of experiment filmmaking at the National Film Theatre in London (something he informs me he did both of those years). From the beginning of his eight years at the Rotterdam Festival, a major part of Simon's special contribution has been not simply an emphasis on experimental film but also a kind of investment in that branch of cinema that perceives and highlights its interconnections with the other arts as well as with other kinds of cinema. There has always been something refreshing about his pluralistic and nonsectarian way of defining film experiment, and one can see this in the range exhibited by Afterimage!, the invaluable magazine he coedited in England with Ian Christie for many years - an occasional publication which found room for Raul Ruiz as well as Michael Snow, Noel Burch as well as Steve Dwoskin, and Jean-Luc Godard as well as Stan Brakhage.

Another way of describing Simon's orientation would be to say that his mission has always been to expand both the canon and the audience of experimental cinema, and for me this has constituted one of his most spectacular achievements at Rotterdam. One could see it in the rising number of viewers attending the films of Ernie Gehr over the course of a single festival retrospective, and in Simon's insistence on screening experimental films in mainstream venues like the Pathe and in prime time slots rather than following the safer and more conventional practice of segregating these films in a slightly out-of-the-way ghetto (e.g., the Lantaren and/or the Zaal de Unie), which is the more conventional way of handling experimental films at festivals.

Thanks to this welcome innovation, I can count as two of my most treasured experiences at Rotterdam two premiere screenings held in the roomy Pathe 7 two years apart: Michael Snow's Corpus Callosum in 2002, with Stan Brakhage (the subject of a retrospective that year) in attendance and part of the discussion that followed the film as well as Snow, and the first version of John Cassavetes's Shadows, miraculously rediscovered after 40-odd years (and many years of searching) and presented by critic Ray Carney in 2004, which Simon justly described as the centerpiece of this year's superb program, "Cinema Regained: Looking into the Past, to Create the Future".

Although Simon could hardly have predicted this, one of the major revelations of the original version of Shadows is the experimental aspects of the film that can be found in Charles Mingus's score - something that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been written about before. (There's a score by Mingus in the second and better known version of Shadows as well, and it's a very good one, but it's also far more conventional.) Even Jonas Mekas, who championed the original version for what he suggested were its nonnarrative aspects - despite the fact that this "first draft" of the film can be said to have more narrative (as well as more nonnarrative) elements than the released version - had little or nothing to say about this music. But if one acknowledges that Mingus is as important to the history of music as Cassavetes is to the history of film, especially as an innovator, Simon's ongoing emphasis on film in relation to the arts makes it easier to see that Mingus's innovative uses of music as commentary.

Consider how he gets a muted trumpet to both represent as well as mock the voice of one character (Tony Ray) speaking on the phone, reverting to a shouted gospel tune, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" (with the hollering voices of Mingus, Danny Richmond, and others) at another juncture, and in general using a highly fragmented approach that mixes brief, selected passages from a wide range of instruments, musicians, and arrangements - is probably the single most experimental aspect of the film from the vantage point of today. (By contrast, the nonnarrative stretches rightly celebrated by Mekas look almost classical now.) It's also instructive to view this experimentation in relation to the musical "conversations" that Mingus was carrying on a little later between himself and Eric Dolphy - see, especially, Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus on Candid - in which the music was specifically phrased in order to approximate the sound of speech. Even if applications of this technique often work against some of the film's narrative devices by duplicating or anticipating the work of actors and/or Cassavetes' direction (which is no doubt why it was radically altered and also simplified in the release version), it survives as a fascinating glimpse of a road not traveled in subsequent film scores. And I'll always be grateful to Simon for allowing me a chance to discover it.

--Jonathan Rosenbaum
© FIPRESCI 2004 (the international federation of film critics)
(posted here)
All rights reserved by the original copyright holders.


Gena Rowlands has expressed her desire to confiscate and suppress the print of the first version of Shadows. She has threatened legal action if Ray Carney shows it in public and refused to allow it to be released on videotape or disk. However, Ray Carney has been advised by intellectual property lawyers that the print and the right to screen it are completely and absolutely free of copyright restrictions and that it is his to screen and distribute as he sees fit.

Note also that the newly discovered first version of Shadows is not to be confused with the so-called "restored" UCLA print, which is merely a copy of the same print that has been in circulation for the past forty-five years. The UCLA print is identical to the existing version of Shadows. There are no differences. The first version, on the other hand, is a completely different film, with different scenes, shots, and dialogue.

For an account of the discovery of the first version of Shadows, click here. For more information about the attempts of Al Ruban and Gena Rowlands to seize and suppress the print and prevent future screenings of it, click here.

Al Ruban and Gena Rowlands claim that Cassavetes did not want the first version of Shadows shown. They are simply wrong. Click here to read Ray Carney's response to a reader who asked about this issue. What were Cassavetes' feelings about screenings of the first version? Did he want it to be suppressed? Did he suppress it?

This page contains a selection of articles from the world's press in response to Ray Carney's discovery of the long-lost first version of Shadows. A summary of the interviews Professor Carney gave to journalists that provides information about Rowlands's attempts to confiscate the print of Shadows and prevent it from being screened is available on another page of the site. Click here to go there.

To read about Ray Carney's 17-year search for the lost first version of Shadows, click here.

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.

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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: and

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