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|Also Known As:||Died:|
|Born:||February 23, 1938||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||New York City, New York, USA||Profession:||director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, cameraman, actor, editor, production assistant, office worker, social worker, magazine editor|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
Often overlooked as an independent filmmaker because of his association with Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey was instrumental in enhancing the celebrity of that pop icon, while his own fame fell victim to the success of his myth-making. The Fordham University graduate had made several short films prior to meeting Warhol who remarked, "Your films are great. They are in focus! Why not come help me make a movie?" Warhol had already made the epically monotonous "Empire" (1964), in which the camera stares at the Empire State Building for eight hours, among his experiments in the inane. Morrissey brought camera movement and editing to the Warhol pictures, as well as the camp, satire and 'social realism' that made the films appeal to a wider circle. Though Warhol liked to operate the camera, he withdrew from the filmmaking process after Valerie Solanas shot him on June 3, 1968, leaving the field wide open for Morrissey to enjoy unprecedented freedom as a director, though Warhol's "brand name" continued to "present" the product. He has described the shooting in interviews as "an ill wind that blew somebody some good."One day in 1967, while Morrissey and Warhol were shooting "The Loves of Ondine" (1967), Joe...
Often overlooked as an independent filmmaker because of his association with Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey was instrumental in enhancing the celebrity of that pop icon, while his own fame fell victim to the success of his myth-making. The Fordham University graduate had made several short films prior to meeting Warhol who remarked, "Your films are great. They are in focus! Why not come help me make a movie?" Warhol had already made the epically monotonous "Empire" (1964), in which the camera stares at the Empire State Building for eight hours, among his experiments in the inane. Morrissey brought camera movement and editing to the Warhol pictures, as well as the camp, satire and 'social realism' that made the films appeal to a wider circle. Though Warhol liked to operate the camera, he withdrew from the filmmaking process after Valerie Solanas shot him on June 3, 1968, leaving the field wide open for Morrissey to enjoy unprecedented freedom as a director, though Warhol's "brand name" continued to "present" the product. He has described the shooting in interviews as "an ill wind that blew somebody some good."
One day in 1967, while Morrissey and Warhol were shooting "The Loves of Ondine" (1967), Joe Dallesandro walked in through the open door of the Greenwich Village apartment and ended up in the movie. It was the beginning of a long collaboration between Morrissey and Dallesandro, who as the enigmatic, often naked star of a trilogy of films at the center of the Morrissey oeuvre "forever changed male sexuality in the cinema," according to director John Waters. Morrissey had already found a formula for working improvisationally with young, untrained actors, and now he had his Brando, the quiet, eye of the storm around whom he could spin dramatic lunacy. In "Flesh" (1968), which would go on to make $2 million on its meager $1500 budget, Dallesandro was a male hustler turning tricks to pay for his wife's girlfriend's abortion. In "Trash" (1970), Morrissey's enduring commercial hit re-released in 2000, the actor was a drug addict unable to perform sexually despite numerous opportunities, whereas "Heat" (1972), which marked the director's transition to traditional linear storylines, cast him as a washed-up child star preying on Sylvia Miles a la "Sunset Boulevard." In all, Dallesandro radiated a sort of passive virility (to go with the beefcake) attractive to both women and gay men.
Though Morrissey worked with producers Carlo Ponti, Andy Braunsberg and Jean-Pierre Rassam on two Gothic horror spoofs "Flesh for Frankenstein" (1973) and "Blood for Dracula" (1974) in Europe. Warhol got the credit when distributors called them "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" and "Andy Warhol's Dracula." Both starred German actor Udo Kier opposite Dallesandro and both made money, but "Frankenstein" with its severed heads and hands galore (plus an X rating) made more money than any of Morrissey's previous films, while "Dracula" was the better, more poetic picture. Kier's Old World Baron was at the other end of the spectrum from Dallesandro, whose howlingly funny Jersey accent cut an incongruous swath through the European accents around him, but the premise of "Dracula" presented an even better gag. Kier's sickly Count, who must feast on the blood of virgins ("where-gins") to survive, keeps getting beaten to the bed by the hunky Dallesandro. Morrissey abandoned improvisation when he realized his actors were having trouble acting spontaneously in front of the biggest crew he had ever used and would never return to it. Instead, he brought a secretary to the set to record his "off-the-cuff" dialogue for the cast to quickly memorize before going before the cameras.
Morrissey's association with Warhol was over, and he struggled in the absence of the Warhol "branding." Despite the comic input of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (1978) fell flat, and of his next five films, only two, "Mixed Blood" (1985) and "Spike of Bensonhurst" (1988, his last film to date and arguably his most mainstream confection), received timely releases. "Retired" from filmmaking because he refuses to give up the control he has always had over his product, by the late 90s, Morrissey was finally emerging from Warhol's shadow as more and more people recognized him as a true "independent." One of the oddest ducks to work at the Warhol "Factory," he was the conservative businessman of the group, putting in his nine hours a day to generate revenue throughout his time there. Ironically, this man who saw his work labeled as "obscene, vulgar and profane" was a Ronald Reagan Republican, but he was just faithfully recording the times. Having anticipated the tenets of Dogma 95 by about 30 years, it is little wonder that Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier's company has a project in development with Morrissey about a man who tries to make it look like he's having sex with children in order to make a name for himself in the fashion business.
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CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
"I just chose to find story material in people who led idiotic lives, doing their own thing. I was making fun of people who accepted the hippie life of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll." --Paul Morrissey to William Grimes in The New York Times, December 26, 1995.
"Andy not only did not try to put direction in, he was incapable of it. He didn't even think in sentences, only disconnected nouns and fragments. He would say 'bathtub', then 'It's outdoors', then 'Viva's in it'. For him, that was a scene." --Morrissey in The New York Times, December 26, 1995.
"Andy brought the camera and film, I loaded the camera and set the lights, he operated the camera until the 35 minute reels ran out. I gradually began to choose the performers in front of the camera and make more and more suggestions as to what they should improvise about, and in what tone of voice to do it in. I tried to make sure all the performers understood that nothing 'dramatic' was wanted. I deliberately wanted to avoid the phony acting-class improvisations that were just becoming fashionable . . . two or three actors beginning slowly, finding something they could argue about, then raising their voices and escalating their dialogue to shouting matches wherein their 'sincere' and 'profound' emotions were supposed to be revealed . . . In order to avoid this agonized style of performing I never used anyone who informed me they were 'studying acting', even though New York was then, and remains, the acting capitol of the world." --quoted in the 1997 Stockholm Film Festival Catalogue.
"I have always felt that if filmmaking is ever to have any direct connection to the filmmaker himself it is essential that one person be in full charge of all the possible mistakes and possible choices. Few filmmakers get this opportunity, and I will always be grateful to producers like Andy Warhol and others who had the common sense to let me make my own films. I was spoiled from the very beginning by producers like this. In America such freedom is really unknown. When I felt that I no longer had the possibility of fully controlling the films, I chose instead to stop making them." --Morrissey in the 1997 Stockholm Film Festival Catalogue.
"Every movie I ever made says the same thing. They all find comedy in people trying to live their lives without any rules. They are a record of the period, but without any overt messages. And I think that confuses people.
"A movie should only be concerned with characters, not some big moral, although it's always underneath. I just thought the idea of people doing whatever they want was a great subject for films. The characters may be losers, but they're all kind of likable. I can't imagine putting unlikable characters in a movie. As to why their lives are so messed up, well that's for the audience to figure out." --Paul Morrissey quoted in The New York Times, February 27, 2000.
"Paul is very straight and narrow. But he's not moralistic. That's why we got along so well. And that's why his fans run the gamut from A to Z, from old ladies to gay liberals." --Holly Woodlawn to The New York Times, February 27, 2000.
"Without institutionalized religion as the basis, a society can't exist. All the sensible values of a solid education and a moral foundation have been flushed down the liberal toilet in order to sell sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll." --Morrissey to Maurice Yacowar, quoted in Gary Morris' "Slapstick Realist: Paul Morrissey".
"Cool is something fashionable, and fashion is frivolous. But now in the absence of any other standards, there's only fashion. There's nothing else but what's cool. This is a pagan planet, and anybody who speaks up for anything religious is ridiculed. But when you take away standards, you can't have stories. A game played with no rules is not worth playing. Today people live with no rules--so their life is not worth living." --Morrissey quoted in Boston Phoenix, February 21, 1999.
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