“Shadows 1958”

Published on Jan 28, 2016
Shadows is a film about interracial relations during the Beat Generation years in New York City, directed by John Cassavetes. The film stars Ben Carruthers, Lelia Goldoni and Hugh Hurd as three African-American siblings, though only one of them is dark-skinned. The film was initially shot in 1957 and shown in 1958, but a poor reception prompted Cassavetes to rework it in 1959. Promoted as a completely improvisational film, it was intensively rehearsed in 1957, and in 1959 it was fully scripted.

The film depicts two weeks in the lives of three siblings on the margins of society: two brothers who are struggling jazz musicians, and their sister who dates several men. Hurd plays Hugh, a jazz singer hunting for a job, finally landing a gig at a sleazy club. Carruthers plays Ben, a trumpeter who hangs out with his friends, tries to pick up girls, and gets in fights. Goldoni plays Lelia, a flirtatious artist whose innocence is revealed through three relationships she has, one with an older white writer, one with a shallow white lover, and one with a gentle young black admirer. YouTube

Ben, diffident and awkward, is meant to be a jazz trumpeter but wastes his time drinking in Manhattan bars and trying to pick up girls with two fellow-idlers, Dennis and Tom. He is supported by his brother Hugh, supposed to be a jazz singer but unable to find much work because of his old-fashioned style. They live with their fair-skinned young sister Lelia, who intends to be a writer. At first she is under the wing of an older intellectual David, but at a party abandons him for the younger Tony, who takes her virginity. Seeing her home, he is shocked to find that her family are black and is kicked out by Hugh, who does not want his sister going with white men. Lelia is paired off with a pleasant black man, who is shocked at the independent ways she has acquired. Ben, after getting beaten up for trying to muscle in on some girls in a bar, may have learned a lesson. Hugh, who may at last have made some compromises over his act, gets a booking in Chicago.

Shadows is a 1958 American independent drama film directed by John Cassavetes about race relations during the Beat Generation years in New York City. The film stars Ben Carruthers, Lelia Goldoni and Hugh Hurd as three African-American siblings, though only one of them is dark-skinned. The film was initially shot in 1957 and shown in 1958, but a poor reception prompted Cassavetes to rework it in 1959. Promoted as a completely improvisational film, it was intensively rehearsed in 1957, and in 1959 it was fully scripted.

The film depicts two weeks in the lives of three siblings on the margins of society: two brothers who are struggling jazz musicians and their light-skinned younger sister who goes through three relationships, one with an older white writer, one with a shallow white lover and finally one with a gentle young black admirer.

Film scholars consider Shadows a milestone of American independent cinema. In 1960, the film won the Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival. source

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