Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties by Steven Watson (2003)

UPDATED 7/5/07

I am a HUGE fan of Andy Warhol--his paintings, the numerous documentaries and biographies about him--and especially his films. It is common knowledge that Warhol was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania--all the way on the other side of the state from Scranton. But were you aware that even Andy Warhol has a posthumous connection to Scranton? Let me explain.

In 2003, Steven Watson wrote the definite portrait of the Warhol Silver Factory years titled Factory Made; Warhol and the Sixties. In my own humble opinion, I think this is perhaps the best book on Warhol ever written. Not only does it paint a thorough and vivid picture of Warhol's years of painting and filmmaking in the 1960s (most would agree the sixties was his most productive period as an artist), but it also gives chronological and detailed accounts and biographies of the eccentric group of actors and artists that played roles in his famous Silver Factory in New York City during that time. Everyone from Warhol himself to his superstars (including Nico, Edie Sedgwick, Mary Woronov and Ultra Violet) to his friends and assistants (Brigid Berlin and Gerard Malanga) are profiled--even his near-assassin Valerie Solanis is included.

On the final page of Factory Made (page 436, to be exact), the final paragraph of the book discusses the preservation and continued revivals of Warhol's films, (which include The Chelsea Girls, Empire and Sleep), and this is where Scranton is mentioned:

"In the meantime, the films of the Factory era are resting safely in the Museum of Modern Art's film vault in a rural setting outside Scranton, Pennsylvania. They reside at an eternal 38 degrees, and if they are to be seen, they must first spend a few days in the warming-up room. Art and artifact, they record the Sixties like nothing else."

Now before you even ask, I must say that neither I nor my colleagues have any idea when the Museum of Modern Art's film vault is, in the vacinity of Scranton. It's a complete mystery to us. But if anyone can provide us with that final piece of the puzzle, please email me at

According to the official website for the book, Factory Made is in the process of being adapted into a feature length documentary film.

Unfortunately, we do not include Factory Made in our library holdings, but portions of the book (including chapters excluded from the final edition) can be viewed online by clicking here. It's an excellent book and I HIGHLY recommend it. In addition, an excellent 2006 film covering that time period titled Factory Girl (starring Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick and Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol) will be released on DVD July 17th. Albright Memorial Library will have a copy of Factory Girl in its circulating DVD collection. You can place a hold on the DVD at

UPDATE 7/5/07 "Ask and you shall receive" is my new motto. Not one, but TWO people helped me to answer the question "Where near Scranton is the MOMA film vault?" Well, the answer is Hamlin, PA-approximately 18 miles outside of Scranton in Wayne County.

The name of MOMA's film vault in Hamlin is The Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center and it opened June 10, 1996. According to the web site, the $11.2 million film storage facility consists of two buildings on a 38-acre estate in Hamlin and houses over 14,000 of MOMA's rare film collection from 1894 to the present at a constant 38 degrees for preservation.

I want to give a big thanks to two awesome people for providing me with this last piece of the Warhol/Scranton puzzle--Brian Fulton, Library Manager at the Scranton Times and artist "The Other Michael" (whose website,, is absolutely incredible--the umbrella hats ROCK).

Monday, June 25, 2007

State Fair (1962)

State Fair is one of those rare musicals (by Rogers & Hammerstein, no less) that appeared in film version first (TWICE, actually) before being adapted as a Broadway musical over fifty years later. The 1962 version starring Pat Boone and Ann-Margaret features a passing reference to Scranton.

State Fair began as a 1933 film (non-musical) starring Janet Gaynor and Will Rogers. The film told the story of a farming family (parents, a teenage son, and a teenage daughter) who travel to the Iowa State Fair to complete in a variety of competitions. The two teenagers go off on their own and each finds love.

In 1945, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II (who would later collaborate on the musicals Oklahoma, The Sound of Music. The King and I, South Pacific and Cinderella) were selected to write songs for a musical film version of State Fair; in addition, Hammerstein wrote the screenplay for the film). It is also of note that this was the only time the two songwriters wrote songs directly for a film musical--their subsequent collaborations were first presented on Broadway as stage musicals before being translated into film versions some years later.

The 1945 film starred Jeanne Crain (who would later star in A Letter to Three Wives, which featured a reference to Wilkes-Barre and was directed by Wilkes-Barre native Joseph L. Mankiewicz) and Dick Haymes and featured the song It Might As Well Be Spring, which has since become a standard covered by many recording artists.

Seventeen years later, in 1962, State Fair was remade by director Jose Ferrer (who also won a Best Actor Oscar for Cyrano de Bergarac in 1950). The 1962 version starred Pat Boone and Ann-Margaret (in her feature film debut) as a young couple who meet and fall in love at the Iowa State Fair.

Near the end of the film, after discovering that Wayne's (Pat Boone) parents disapprove of her, Emily Porter (Ann-Margaret) finds herself packing her trunk at her apartment to leave Wayne forever. He arrives and they have the following confrontation that includes the passing reference to Scranton:

Emily Porter: Well, what did you think was going to happen? I warned you. A few days, a few nights. Those were the ground rules. You knew that from the start.

Wayne Frake: But you changed, and after that we talked about the farm and how we were always gonna' be together.

Emily Porter: This trunk won't let us! Don't you understand? There's more than clothes in here! I'M in here, too! Read the labels. Little Rock, Ackron, Scranton, Springfield. That wouldn't leave us much time for the South 40 now, would it?

At the time, 1962's State Fair was considered a critical and commercial flop, but the film is now regarded as a classic today.

In 1996, State Fair was transferred from film to the Broadway stage for the first time. The show starred John Davidson and Donna McKechnie and ran for just over 100 performances. There is no documentation I could find that the Scranton reference was included in the Broadway production. If anyone saw the show in its brief Broadway run and knows if the Scranton reference was retained for the 1962 film version of State Fair, please email me at

The 2-disc DVD of State Fair, which includes both the 1945 version and the 1962 version (which mentions Scranton) of the film, is available to borrow from Albright Memorial Library and Abington Community Library. To place a hold on the DVD for State Fair, click here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Douglas Carter Beane, Playwright and Screenwriter

JULY 12th, 2007 & MAY 13, 2008

The "culturally with-it" Evelyn Gibbons emailed me this morning and told me of a local resident who was profiled in Sunday's Citizens' Voice for his nomination for Best Play at the 2007 Tony Awards. His name is Douglas Carter Beane, and he has lived in both the Wilkes-Barre and Tunkhannock areas of Pennsylvania.

According to the article "Tony Nominee Recalls Summers at Lake Carey," (published in the Sunday Voice on Sunday, June 10th, 2007, page A5), Douglas Carter Beane was born spent part of his childhood in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and at a summer cottage on Lake Carey in Wyoming County.

However, in another interview, this one with Oasis Magazine, Beane confirms he was actually born in Wilkes-Barre--in General Hospital, to be precise.

Beane was nominated for a 2007 Tony Award for Best Play for The Little Dog Laughed, starring Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do!, Dead Man On Campus) and Julie White (who won a Best Actress Tony Award for her role). The Little Dog Laughed tells the story of an up-and-coming Hollywood actor whose budding homosexuality potentially threatens his career. The play ran for 122 performances at Broadway's Colt Theatre in New York City.

Beane also wrote the screenplay for the 1995 comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar; the film starred Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo as three transvestives whose car breaks down in a small town on their way to a drag queen beauty contest in Los Angeles.

Beane's most recent work was writing the book for Broadway's upcoming musical Xanadu, based on the 1980 film starring Olivia Newton-John as a muse who inspires an aspiring artist to create a rollerdisco. In previews now (in fact, I have a ticket for this upcoming Sunday's preview), Xanadu on Broadway is scheduled to officially open June 26th, 2007 at the Helen Hayes Theatre in New York City. To watch a short video of rehearsals for the show, featuring Douglas Carter Beane, click here.

Beane also serves as Writer/Artistic Director of the Drama Dept., a non-profit theater collective of actors, writers, directors, designers and stage managers--its rouster of members includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Peter Gallagher and Patricia Clarkson.

Douglas Carter Beane was also profiled in this past Sunday's Times-Tribune. The article titled, "Playwright With Local Ties Nominated for Tony Award," can be read online by clicking here.

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar is available to borrow on both DVD and VHS from libraries throughout the Lackawanna County Library System. To place a hold on the DVD, click here; to reserve the VHS, click here.

Much thanks to Evelyn Gibbons for this reference.

UPDATED 6/18/07 I attended a preview of Xanadu yesterday afternoon in New York City - and it was FANTASTIC!!!! If you're familiar with the 1980 film version of Xanadu, you'll be happily surprised that Beane only kept the songs and characters, and wrote a funny-as-heck musical comedy in place of the original film script. In addition, the Helen Hayes Theatre is a smaller Broadway theater, so every seat has a GREAT view of the stage. In additon, the theatre also offers a limited number of ON-STAGE SEATING available at the box office.

Unfortunately Douglas Carter Beane wasn't in attendence at Sunday's show, but I did have the pleasure of meeting cast members Kerry Butler (who played Kira, originated in the film version by Olivia Newton-John), Mary Testa (who plays a new character not in the original film, a muse named Melpomene) and the wonderful Jackie Hoffman (who plays another new Muse character, Calliope)--Hoffman was kind enough to pose for a picture with me and even humorously jibed me with a "YOU IDIOT!!!!" when a shaking-and-nervous me had a problem accessing the camera on my cellphone (click here to see it). I told all three actors that I hope Xanadu will be a HUGE hit.

SOME XANANEWS: The official opening date for Xanadu has been changed from from June 26th, 2007 to July 10th, 2007 due to an foot injury by lead actor James Carpinello - he has been replaced by Cheyenne Jackson.

Douglas Carter Beane was profiled in yesterday's New York Times in an article titled "Returning to Broadway on Celestial Roller Skates." The full article can be read online by clicking here. In addition, he also narrates the article in a slideshow of photos from Xanadu exclusively on the New York Times website. You can access the slideshow by clicking here. In addition, to view another rehearsal video for Xanadu, click here.

In summary---if you happen to be in NYC, have 90 minutes (with no intermission) to kill, and want to have a really great time - not to mention see a really fun piece of theatre by an alumni of this area, check out Xanadu on Broadway!

UPDATED AGAIN JULY 12TH, 2007: Xanadu had its offical opening Tuesday, July 11th and received a rave review in Wednesday's New York Times. To read the review, click here.

UPDATED May 13th, 2008: Congratulations to Douglas for earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical for Xanadu. For more info, click here.

Also, to see the infamous "You Idiot!" photo of me and Jackie Hoffman described above, it's posted on the offical Xanadu photo blog. Click here to see it (I look like a deer crossed in the headlights, but Jackie looks awesome!).