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Jerry Schatzberg and Scarecrow (1973)


kingrat
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{font:Calibri}Scarecrow (1973), a road film about two drifters played by Gene Hackman and Al Pacino, is a longtime favorite of Leonard Maltin, who introduced and interviewed its director, Jerry Schatzberg, at the 2013 TCM Film Festival. Maltin felt that the movie had held up 100% when the DVD came out a few years ago. The new restoration does justice to Vilmos Zsigmond’s outstanding cinematography, and this version will be shown later in the month at the Film Forum in New York.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Schatzberg was a fashion photographer who was struck by the way the fashion industry elevates a model to stardom for two or three years, then discards her. He interviewed a model (identified in other sources as Anne St. Marie) for three and a half hours, and this was the genesis for his first film, Puzzle of a Downfall Child, starring Faye Dunaway. He thought this would be his only film, and was especially upset that the last six minutes of his film had been scratched. Therefore, he turned down the opportunity to direct The Panic in Needle Park when this was offered to him.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}However, he reconsidered when he learned that Al Pacino was interested in the script. Before he had ever directed, Schatzberg saw a play called The Indian Wants the Bronx, starring Pacino. At the play he turned to a friend and said, “This guy is so powerful, if I ever make a film, I want him.” Kitty Winn, who also stars in The Panic in Needle Park, was present at the showing of Scarecrow. Schatzberg introduced her, praised her, and wanted everyone to know that she had won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Gene Hackman was paranoid that Schatzberg and Pacino had worked together before, but that was something Schatzberg felt he could use in the film. During the first week of rehearsal, Hackman told Schatzberg he never got along with his directors, but they actually got along fine. Hackman liked the fact that Scarecrow was mostly shot in sequence, as the production moved from Bakersfield to Denver to Detroit like the characters in the story.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Vilmos Zsigmond told Schatzberg that the film was like a fairy tale. Leonard Maltin praised the opening shot of the film, a long-held shot of Gene Hackman walking down a hill to a two-lane road, which is intercut with two quick shots of Al Pacino staring (I would say lovingly) at Hackman. During the first take of this scene, Hackman walked a little bit, then waved his hand to end the take. He asked Schatzberg why he was walking down the hill. Schatzberg made up a story that Hackman had just gotten off a train and was walking into town for a meal, and this satisfied Hackman.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Schatzberg used a lot of non-professionals they cast along the way. In one bar scene they used a number of bar regulars and had to pay them not to drink during the filming that day.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}In the scene where Hackman and Pacino get breakfast in a diner, Hackman didn’t like the actress who played the waitress. (She appears only briefly in the finished film.) Trying to use this, Schatzberg told her to switch the orders of the two characters. When she does, Hackman adlibs a sarcastic “This your first day?” Schatzberg said he never cut on Hackman, he just let the camera roll. In this scene, after it is supposedly over, Hackman says, “Give me a bottle of beer and a chocolate doughnut,” which cracks up Pacino. Schatzberg left this in.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Scarecrow opened well, then Warner Brothers opened The Exorcist and ignored Scarecrow. The film has just been rediscovered in England and received a fantastic response at the Lyons Film Festival, the European equivalent of the TCM festival.{font}

 

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