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Photo: Album cover art
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Photo: Movie poster art
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Photo: Book cover art.
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The Subterraneans, the only novel of Jack Kerouac’s to be adapted to film so far, was released in 1960, when the media fever surrounding the Beat Generation (much of it inspired by the publication of Kerouac’s On the Road in 1957) was still at a high pitch. Hollywood took great liberties with Kerouac’s story of a romance between his narrator stand-in (Leo Percepied, played by George Peppard) and a young black bohemian–for starters, the woman was played by the very white Leslie Caron. The soundtrack, however, was composed by Andre Previn, and it features a number of West Coast jazz luminaries–Gerry Mulligan (who also appears in the film as a hip street priest), Art Pepper, Russ Freeman, Shelly Manne, and Red Mitchell. Carmen McRae also appears, singing an updated beatnik version of “Coffee Time.” We’ll hear both dialogue and music from the film, including some selections only recently released on a new version of the sountrack from Film Score Monthly.
Some tidbits that didn’t make it into the program:
Ranald Macdougall, the director replacement for the fired brother team of Dennis and Terry Sanders, originally opened the film with the credits rolling over a Pollock/Rothko-like painting that dissolved into Gerry Mulligan playing his saxophone, the light gleaming off his crucifix. This was replaced in the final version by a much more conventional opening showing San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge in daytime. The words that appear onscreen were originally almost an exact quote of Allen Ginsberg’s description of “the subterraneans” (his character is named Adam Moorad in the book); they were altered in a manner that rendered them more neutral and cliched. The film was originally supposed to be shot in black-and-white for a more austere aesthetic; it ended up being done in Cinemascope and Metrocolor.
See a photo of William Burroughs and Alene Lee
Read an essay about Alene Lee, which suggests that she may have passed away around 1991.