Page 1 of 1

Correcting Trav S D on Louis Gasnier and Other Directors

Posted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 6:56 pm
by Richard M Roberts
So Trav S D posted a piece on Pioneer Director Louis Gasnier: ... verty-row/

in which he stated:

"Today is the birthday of Louis Gasnier (1875-1963). Fairly or unfairly, I mentally associate Gasnier with a handful of other directors (William Beaudine, Jean Yarbrough, Norman Taurog) who started out in silent comedy and distinguished themselves in the field, but ended their career at the psychotronic end of the spectrum."

And in which I sent this response, which he has refused to post in his comment section, so we'll put them here:

I think you're being a bit unfair lumping directors like Louis Gasnier, Norman Taurog ,William Beaudine, and Jean Yarborough into any sort of "psychotronic" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean) final acts when they were all directors who actually had amazingly long careers in a business where longevity is an exception rather than a rule.

When Gasnier retired from directing in 1940, he was 65 years old, when the average lifespan was sixty to begin with, and he had been in movies then basically since the pioneer days of filmmaking, and because he had been fluent in a number of languages, he had specialized in directing foreign language versions of American films for Paramount when talkies came in, and he continued to do this until Paramount stopped shooting separate foreign language films in 1935 as part of their financial reorganization. Then Gasnier went to work for Producer George Hirliman, a perfectly reputable producer for Grand National and Monogram who did indeed produce TELL YOUR CHILDREN (the film's original title, REEFER MADNESS was the re-title that not-so-reputable exploitation distributor Dwain Esper put on the film when he acquired it in the late 40's), but one must also remember that those who worked on it at the time believed that they were making it as a public service in an earnest anti-marijuana smoking campaign. The "camp" factor only came in when the film was rediscovered by college audiences in the 70's (many of them stoned enough to find it funny in the first place). Gasnier's other films for Hirliman are perfectly acceptable programmers, nothing for any professional craftsman to be ashamed of.

Norman Taurog wrapped up a fifty-plus year career directing Elvis Presley vehicles for MGM, some of the biggest box-office pictures of the 60's for a studio he had been at thirty years, he was pushing 70 at the time, and after he retired from MGM in 1968, he taught filmmaking at USC for another decade or so, until he lost his sight and then he became director of the Braille Institute in Los Angeles until his death in 1981. What is "psychotronic" about what seems to be a very successful and well-lived life.

William Beaudine was one of the most prolific,efficient and hard-working directors who logged nearly 400 films to his filmography, and even his work at studios like PRC and Monogram are better put together and more entertaining than the films of more gushed-over "auteurs" of low budgetry like Edgar Ulmer. Some may want to shout "psychotronic" over two of his 60's features BILLY THE KID MEETS DRACULA and JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEINS DAUGHTER, but again, those were two perfectly reputable if silly movies, both shot at Paramount, and featuring plenty of old pros, there are certainly worse movies. Beaudine spent most of his last decade in the industry directing episodes of WALT DISNEYS WONDER WORLD OF COLOR, and LASSIE, two of the top-rated TV shows of the 60's, where is the embarrassment in that? The irony of Beaudine's career is even he admitted he made more money off of directing MOM AND DAD (1944) for Kroger Babb, which he got a percentage of, than nearly any other film he ever made.

And what is embarrassing about Jean Yarborough's career? Unlike Beaudine, Yarborough never had a career anyone would mistake for an "auteur's" resume', but he helmed many a solid programmer (including a number of Abbott and Costello vehicles as well as their television show), and moved to television when it eliminated a lot of the movies programmer market. Sure he started out in two reelers, but I guarantee you he was making more directing in television than he was making shorts, and he wrapped up his career as he turned 70 directing shows like DEATH VALLEY DAYS and ADAM 12.Where the horrible shame in that?

All of these Directors outlasted a lot of their contemporaries and made good livings doing it, and we still are entertained by their works all these years later. I think historians need to spend a little more time researching and learning what the actual standards for success in the industry were considered at the time before making judgement calls on anyone else's lives and careers.


Re: Correcting Trav S D on Louis Gasnier and Other Directors

Posted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:18 am
by Chris Snowden
Trav's crack about Gasnier descending to the realm of psychotronic cinema is one thing. But I was shocked to hear Ben Mankiewicz ripping Harry Edwards on TCM last Sunday, after presenting several very solid comedies Edwards had directed.

Re: Correcting Trav S D on Louis Gasnier and Other Directors

Posted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:57 pm
by Richard M Roberts
Since Robert Osborne's passing, there is not a host worth watching on TCM, what we're seeing is a new generation of so-called "historians" who not only have no understanding of the actual business that made these films, but want to be dismissive of anyone who made something they do not consider to be "in" with current mores or attitudes. Harry Edwards directed a lot of great comedy films that still make us laugh today, but his career was nothing to laugh at, he had ups and downs like any film career, but he kept working for decades, and it shows no respect to even bother to look at what filmmakers like Edwards actually did in their careers.

Trav S D wants to think himself a qualified and serious historian, but he shows a lack of responsibility in his depth of research to the actual careers of the people he talks about. Using words like "psychotronic" (whatever the hell that actually means) or "camp" labels certain things in order to just dismiss them, and that is wrong. I had also sent him a comment regarding Neely Edwards, whose career he had written off after talkies as nothing but a few bit parts until 1959. I told him that film and television had actually become Neely Edwards sideline by the thirties because he had been gainfully employed in the Theatre Mart's production of THE DRUNKARD from the mid-1930's until that show closed in 1959, one of the longest-running West Coast Theatre productions in which Edwards was basically considered the "Grand Old Veteran" of the show for decades, but Trav S D didn't see fit to post that either, apparently he does not want to be either corrected nor learn anything new in doing his blog, but that is unfair to the performers he is talking about. This does no favors to the people we celebrate and discuss, and certainly promotes more dismissal of the films from the periods we historians who are trying to promote new awareness and interest in by the very new generations in which we are trying to introduce these films to and keep interested in.