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Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Henry Jaglom is an auteur, one that has always made a profit on his quirky, low-budget, stream-of-consciousness pictures, often about loneliness and relationships. A scion of a wealthy Russian Jewish financier, he began his career in New York theater before moving to Los Angeles where he continued his affiliation with the Actors Studio and was signed as a contract player with Columbia-Screen Gems, working on series like "Gidget" and "The Flying Nun" (both starring Sally Field). His first foray behind the camera came during the Six Day War (Egypt vs. Israel) in 1967 when he shot a three-hour, 8mm, silent movie on the frontlines. The social gadfly in him had already cultivated friendships with such Hollywood personages as Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Sally Kellerman, the screenwriter Carol Eastman and producer Bert Schneider of BBS Productions who saw his movie and hired him to help edit Dennis Hopper's "Easy Rider" (1969).BBS subsequently produced Jaglom's writing-directing debut, "A Safe Place" (1971), a spaced-out, 94-minute fantasy culled from 50 hours of footage, causing critics to decry that unorthodox editing had destroyed all sense of time and...
Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Henry Jaglom is an auteur, one that has always made a profit on his quirky, low-budget, stream-of-consciousness pictures, often about loneliness and relationships. A scion of a wealthy Russian Jewish financier, he began his career in New York theater before moving to Los Angeles where he continued his affiliation with the Actors Studio and was signed as a contract player with Columbia-Screen Gems, working on series like "Gidget" and "The Flying Nun" (both starring Sally Field). His first foray behind the camera came during the Six Day War (Egypt vs. Israel) in 1967 when he shot a three-hour, 8mm, silent movie on the frontlines. The social gadfly in him had already cultivated friendships with such Hollywood personages as Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Sally Kellerman, the screenwriter Carol Eastman and producer Bert Schneider of BBS Productions who saw his movie and hired him to help edit Dennis Hopper's "Easy Rider" (1969).
BBS subsequently produced Jaglom's writing-directing debut, "A Safe Place" (1971), a spaced-out, 94-minute fantasy culled from 50 hours of footage, causing critics to decry that unorthodox editing had destroyed all sense of time and yielded a confused mess. Though it boasted performances by no less than Tuesday Weld, Orson Welles and Nicholson and retains a cult following to this day, "A Safe Place" branded him a pariah, and it would be five years before he would make his second film, the Vietnam-obsessed "Tracks" (1976), starring Hopper as a soldier cracking up. Jaglom is at his best when he combines strong ensemble acting (a trademark of his pictures) with a coherent narrative as in "Sitting Ducks" (1980), a rollicking good comedy about ripping off the Mob, directed with style and a sense of fun. For the most part, however, he has refused to write conventional scripts, rejecting their visual compromise in favor of his distinctive muse, making maddening movies that in the words of David Thomson "might actually bring someone to lay hands on a weapon."
Jaglom's "Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?" (1983), the official US entry at Cannes, starred Karen Black and Jaglom's brother Michael Emil (bringing to his part the same galloping hypochondria and original theories on sex that his "Sitting Ducks" character expressed). Allowing his actors to improvise much of the time, Jaglom got a sometimes uncanny sense of authenticity, as when the neurotic Black tries to make up her mind what to order in a restaurant, but accompanying this blessing was the curse of a slack framework, its scenes dragging on longer than necessary. He fared better with the confessional comedy "Always (But Not Forever)" (1985), a bittersweet account of the breakup of his marriage with Patrice Townsend, starring himself and Townsend. Highly personal and utterly universal, it is one of his most accessible films to date, despite the director's signature wall-to-wall talk and occasional moments when improvisatory inspiration flags.
Jaglom's "Someone to Love" (1987), a seriocomic psychodrama in which the filmmaker calls on his friends to explore why he and they have problems with commitment or finding the right mate, is a loving farewell to Welles (making his final film appearance), his outsized personality in full flavor. Glimpsed briefly at pic's beginning, Welles dominated the entire last section, sensationally responsive, inquisitive, impudent and alive playing himself in a situation that showcased his great mind and conversation. "Eating" (1990), with its predominantly female cast and whimsical understanding of compulsions and fads, brought the director success on the art-house circuit, and "Babyfever" (1994) teamed him for the first time with wife Victoria Foyt, who co-scripted and starred opposite him in yet another docudrama which did its fair share of man-bashing. Leaving the feminist terrain of those two films, he again collaborated with Foyt on "Last Summer at the Hamptons" (1995), a Chekhov-inspired study of a theatrical family headed by Viveca Lindfors (in her last screen role). Polished production values along with engaging performances by Lindfors, Andre Gregory and Jon Robin Baitz helped make his 11th feature a pleasing, passably commercial outing.
Voluble to a fault ("Orson Welles used to say--he talked in paragraphs, I talk in chapters"), Jaglom has created his own larger-than-life character, one which cries out for a better actor than Henry Jaglom on screen. Though he is a professed champion of women, his choice to focus on vain, superficial, obnoxious members of the species in "Eating" painted a shallow portrait of shallow women, and "Babyfever" presented stereotypical females and the specter of the ticking biological clock treated better and in a more timely fashion a decade before. Writing-wise, his partnership with Foyt bodes well, since by Jaglom's own admission she favors a stronger storyline than is his wont. To some, though, "Deja Vu" (1998) exposed her as an underwhelming screen presence, too slight to carry a picture, while others felt it was among Jaglom's best work. His films remain best appreciated by fans of his own peculiar cinema verite, but for more mainstream audiences he finishes a poor second to Woody Allen, whose sense of structure and ability to blend comedy and drama is far superior.
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CAST: (feature film)
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Mr. Jaglom is man of various birth dates. All sources seem to agree on the month and day but the year varies from 1938 to 1943. We previously listed 1941 in this database. However, since we have information that he moved with his family from London to the USA in 1939, we will consider 1938 to be closest to the truth.
Jaglom was the third recipient of the Beatrice Wood Film Award.
"Mr. Jaglom's loosely lyrical improvisations masquerading as movies have exasperated me more often than they have enchanted me over the past two decades. Yet, there is a soft spot somewhere deep in my heart for a filmmaker who provided a haven for the late Orson Welles in the less employable period of the Great Man's Life, from "A Safe Place" in 1971 to "Someone to Love" in 1987.
"As an aspiring actor-auteur, Mr. Jaglom generously played the nerdy, voluble beast to such tantalizing beauties as Tuesday Weld, Gwen Welles, Patrice Townsend, Andrea Marcovicci, Oja Kodar. He likes women and he likes Jerome Kern, and who could ask for anything more?
"Mr. Jaglom, a man who truly loves women and has never pretended to understand them, has never claimed to be a revolutionary of any kind. He has simply followed his feelings to the end of the line, and thereby unleashed a completely absorbing and edifying entertainment." --Andrew Sarris in THE NEW YORK OBSERVER, May 13, 1991
"He doesn't really have a sense of other people's feelings. In social situations he won't hold back from embarrasing people. That can be both good and bad, depending on who it is. He's absolutely fearless." --childhood friend actress Joanna Frank, quoted in an undated MOVIELINE article (c. 1991)
"Jaglom is an acquired taste, like goat cheese." --an unnamed critic
"His pictures have no guts; they have no point. Is his life as empty as his movies?" --an unidentified Hollywood film producer
"Concerned neither with box-office grosses nor with critical acclaim, the effusive 54-year old filmmaker has indulged himself over three decades with self-produced, self-directed, self-acted, self-edited, self-promoted movies which plunge headlong into his microanalysis of life and his yearning for human connection." --From "Jaglom's Edge" by Susan Kittenplan in VANITY FAIR, October 1995
"Henry has elevated home movies into an art form." --Milos Forman in VANITY FAIR, October 1995
"One studio executive recently said, 'My wife makes me see all your movies. How'd you like to make a real film?' I said, 'What's a real film?' He said, 'Thirty, thirty-five million.' I said, 'Give me $30 million and I'll come back in five years with five films and I guarantee you make a profit.' He said, that's not a deal.' It's all deal-making, not movie-making." --Henry Jaglom, LOS ANGELES TIMES, April 26, 1998
Jaglom and Orson Welles lunched together weekly at Ma Maison for more than 10 years until Welles' death in 1985. Speaking of the effect of Welles' mentorship: " . . . it supported my belief that [you] make a movie for yourself, not for anybody else. In 10 to 15 years, you're going to have to live with it. And nobody knows what's commercial anyway and don't worry about that and just make the best movie you know how for yourself. He was so intent on that. I think that was the greatest lesson I learned. And every other way, we were very close friends. I was spending a lot of my energy, the energy I had left over from trying to put my films together was spent trying to get him financing which I failed to do."
" . . . Orson, you know, never had final cut except for 'Citizen Kane'. And I determine never to not have Final Cut . . . the greatest lesson I could learn up-front was to never give away Final Cut." --Henry Jaglom to indieWIRE.com, June 17, 1998
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