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The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies

The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies
    Book Description:

    The nation didn't know it, but 1960 would change American film forever, and the revolution would occur nowhere near a Hollywood set. With the opening of the New Yorker Theater, a cinema located at the heart of Manhattan's Upper West Side, cutting-edge films from around the world were screened for an eager audience, including the city's most influential producers, directors, critics, and writers. Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Susan Sontag, Andrew Sarris, and Pauline Kael, among many others, would make the New Yorker their home, trusting in the owners' impeccable taste and incorporating much of what they viewed into their work.

    In this irresistible memoir, Toby Talbot, co-owner and proud "matron" of the New Yorker Theater, reveals the story behind Manhattan's wild and wonderful affair with art-house film. With her husband Dan, Talbot showcased a range of eclectic films, introducing French New Wave and New German cinema, along with other groundbreaking genres and styles. As Vietnam protests and the struggle for civil rights raged outside, the Talbots also took the lead in distributing political films, such as Bernard Bertolucci's Before the Revolution, and documentaries, such as Shoah and Point of Order.

    Talbot enhances her stories with selections from the New Yorker's essential archives, including program notes by Jack Kerouac, Jules Feiffer, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonas Mekas, Jack Gelber, and Harold Humes. These artifacts testify to the deeply engaged and collaborative spirit behind each showing, and they illuminate the myriad-and often entertaining-aspects of theater operation. All in all, Talbot's tales capture the highs and lows of a thrilling era in filmmaking.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51982-3
    Subjects: History, Film Studies, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    This is a book about the love of cinema. You can find it on every page, in every photograph, and in every reproduction of schedules and ledgers and suggestion “Guest Books.

    Let me flash back to the year 1960, the year that Dan and Toby Talbot opened The New Yorker. At that time, love of cinema meant dedication to cinema. In a sense, the world was separated between people who liked to go to the movies to pass the time and people who went for the same reasons that lovers of dance would go to see a Balanchine performance, that...

    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. REEL 1 The Theater
    (pp. 1-60)

    “What kind of work is running a movie house?” my father-in-law asked. Who knew? Not us, until we opened the New Yorker. It ran through the sixties and early seventies: a golden age in cinema, turbulent in politics—French New Wave on our screen, ’68 uprisings at Columbia University. An Upper West Side hub became, as Bernardo Bertolucci dubbed it, “a kind of wild cinema university, like Henri Langlois’s Cinémathèque in Paris.” We were young film buffs, learning as we went. Not knowing where we were going. The theater is gone, but its marquee still glimmers in my mind. As...

  6. REEL 2 Distribution
    (pp. 61-142)

    In 1964 we saw a film at the New York Film Festival that we loved and immediately wanted to show. It was Before the Revolution by Bernardo Bertolucci. We wrote to the producer, asking to launch it at the New Yorker, but were told that he sought nationwide distribution, not just a run at an Upper West Side art house. Since no one cared to distribute the work of a 22-year-old unknown, to show it we’d have to bite the bullet, import a bulky steel canister with a 35-millimeter print from Italy, and circulate it nationwide. What did we know...

  7. REEL 3 On Location
    (pp. 143-160)

    In 1965 we opened the New Yorker Bookstore, with Peter Martin and Austen Laber. Pete was the illegitimate son of Carlo Tresca, the anarchist leader who masterminded several strikes in this country in the 1930s. Pete grew up under the aegis of the American Communist Party and once showed Dan a large photo of his father, smoking a cigar and playing cards with a colleague on a wooden box, surrounded by several hundred strikers, most wearing red Alpine hats. Pete’s aunt was Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a Communist Party leader in the United States.

    We met Pete in the early fifties....

  8. REEL 4 Film Critics
    (pp. 161-172)

    The 1960s and ’70s spawned a golden age in American movie criticism. Prominent were Manny Farber, Andrew Sarris, Pauline Kael, Vincent Canby, and Susan Sontag. Farber, a lanky, raw-boned, feisty fellow—the kind who looked poor—was in a class of his own. A maverick critic and painter, he knew his stuff. Over and over he would see a movie—soldier, gangster, or cowboy—slipping in and out our theater for particular scenes. My mother grew accustomed to his viewing pattern. At a particular moment—he knew which—he’d disappear to catch some telephone or cigarette shot in a Hawks,...

    (pp. None)
  10. REEL 5 Festivals
    (pp. 173-186)

    Vittorio Mussolini, in 1936, on the Lido, invented the film festival. Now, with over five hundred of them, you could well become a cinema bum, attending a different one every day—Venice, London, Edinburgh, Rome, Tehran, Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sundance, Palm Springs, and New York. Movies, however, are a relative newcomer in the world of art. Not until 1924 was the first filmmaker elected to the French Académie. Not until 1947 was the theory of film art included in the Prague Art Academy. And, until the sixties, in our own universities, there were chairs for literature and...

  11. REEL 6 Demolition
    (pp. 187-190)

    On a hot July day in 1985, stores alongside the New Yorker have been reduced to a gaping hole, a cemetery of rubble and concrete slabs. A bulldozer with eight or nine jackhammers going all week had done their job. From the opposite sidewalk, I snatch a final glance—structures need blank space to be fully seen. Off go the whistles: pavement shudders, eardrums explode. Frozen in my tracks, heart pounding, movie images rush forth: Polish partisans in Wajda’s Kanal emerging from Warsaw sewers; Renoir’s clochard being fished from the Seine in Boudu Saved from Drowning; a boy running on...

  12. REEL 7 Epilogue: An Ongoing Reel
    (pp. 191-194)

    For a long time, I avoided passing our New Yorker site (soon to be reincarnated as the Savannah high-rise apartment building). From the opposite sidewalk the block is a mirage: Joe Rosen’s thumb still on the scale, Benny in white apron and sailor cap dishing out frankfurters with the works. “What the eyes have seen cannot be erased,” says Dr. Pollack, the Holocaust survivor. Urban structures get leveled and razed—it’s a pattern, it’s progress. Nothing lasts, I repeat as a mantra. Manhattan, bounded by two rivers and spanned by multiple bridges, has no more permanence than its shore line....

  13. Appendix 1: Program Notes (sample pages)
    (pp. 195-228)
  14. APPENDIX 2: American Theatrical Premieres at the Cinema Studio
    (pp. 229-234)
  15. APPENDIX 3: American Theatrical Premieres at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas
    (pp. 235-262)
  16. Guest Book/Sample Pages
    (pp. 263-312)
  17. Ledger from the New Yorker Theater (sample pages)
    (pp. 313-340)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 341-352)