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Paul Morrissey

Paul Morrissey

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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".

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".

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Andy Warhol's Dracula (1992) Director
3.
  Spike of Bensonhurst (1988) Director
4.
  Beethoven's Nephew (1987) Director
5.
  Mixed Blood (1984) Director
6.
  Forty Deuce (1982) Director
7.
  Madame Wang's (1981) Director
9.
  Women in Revolt (1972) Director
10.
  Heat (1972) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
4.
 Sleep in a Nest of Flames (2001) Himself
6.
 Divine Trash (1998)
7.
 Nico Icon (1995) Himself
8.
 Jonas in the Desert (1994) Himself
10.
 Chambre 666 (1984) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
While working at an insurance office job in Manhattan was inspired to make movies by critic-filmmaker Jonas Mekas' Monday evening programs at an Off-Broadway theater
:
Made own short films in the 1960s, including "Ancient History" (1961), a five-minute "rearranged newsreel", and "Taylor Mead Dances" (1963), a 14-minute profile of underground "superstar" Taylor dancing with wild abandon at the Second City nightclub
:
Introduced to Andy Warhol through mutual friend, poet Gerard Malanga
:
Managed the celebrity of Warhol, using the "underground" films to raise the artist's profile and ultimately the price of his art; put Warhol on the lecture circuit, allegedly going back and forth across the country the first year with a Warhol impersonator, owing to Warhol's fear of speaking in public; discovered Nico and the Velvet Underground and signed them to a management agreement and was instrumental in the production and selling (to Verve Records) of their first album; also served as the first editor of <i>Interview</i> magazine until he turned it over to Bob Colacello who worked as editor from 1970-1982
1965:
First Warhol film on which he considers he had input in the direction, "My Hustler", his third or fourth project with Warhol; convinced Warhol that a panning camera produced footage superior to that captured by a fixed camera, putting an end to Warhol's use of the fixed camera
1968:
Wrote, directed and shot "Flesh", the first in a trilogy; all three films starred Joe Dallesandro and were produced by Warhol; in London in 1969, an entire audience was arrested for watching the "pornographic" picture
1968:
Edited, executive produced and shot Warhol's "Lonesome Cowboys", filmed in Tucson, Arizona; the two-and-a-half days in Arizona brought the budget to a whopping $5000
1969:
Made cameo appearance as a party guest in the mainstream film "Midnight Cowboy"
1970:
Wrote, directed, shot and edited "Trash", the second part of the trilogy; filmed for $3000; re-released in 2000
1971:
Helmed "Women in Revolt", a transvestite take-off on 1950s women's prison movies
1972:
Wrote and directed the final segment of trilogy, "Heat", a campy reworking of "Sunset Boulevard" with Dallesandro cast opposite Sylvia Miles as the faded star; also served as cinematographer; filmed for $6000 over three weeks in Los Angeles
:
Wrote and directed the horror films "Andy Warhol's Dracula/Blood for Dracula" and "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein/Flesh for Frankenstein"; first pictures working with a full studio crew; the original credits read "Andy Warhol presents a Carlo Ponti, Andy Braunsberg, Jean-Pierre Rassam Production", but distributors simply changed the billing in the ads, making it seem like the "presenter" had more to do with the films, when in reality Warhol did not see them until they were complete
1978:
Directed "The Hound of the Baskervilles"; also co-scripted with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook
1981:
Made cameo appearance as a party guest in "Rich and Famous"
1982:
Helmed "Forty Deuce" about a teenage hustler (Kevin Bacon) who tries to frame a client for murder; based on the play by Alan Browne; released in 1996
1984:
Co-scripted (with Browne) and directed "Mixed Blood", a black comedy of rival drug gangs in Greenwich Village's "alphabet city"
1985:
Helmed and co-scripted (with Mathieu Carriere) "Beethoven's Nephew"; released in 1988
1988:
Wrote and directed "Spike of Bensonhurst", arguably his most mainstream movie, which drew favorable comparison to that year's "Married to the Mob" along with criticism for its ethnic stereotypes and "politically incorrect" humor
1989:
"Retired" from film directing
1990:
Appeared in Chuck Workman's documentary "Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol"
1993:
Featured in the documentary "Jonas in the Desert", about avante-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas
1994:
Appeared in "Nico Icon", a documentary about the heroin-addicted heroine of the Velvet Underground
1997:
Interviewed for the documentary portrait of the early works of John Waters "Divine Trash"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Fordham University: New York , New York -

Notes

"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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