Heart Beat (1980)

R | 109 mins | Drama | 18 January 1980

Director:

John Byrum

Writer:

John Byrum

Cinematographer:

Laszlo Kovacs

Editor:

Eric Jenkins

Production Designer:

Jack Fisk
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HISTORY

       A 15 Sep 1978 DV article reported that producer Michael Shamberg’s interest in “beatniks” inspired him to contact Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady’s widow, while visiting San Francisco, CA. After reading her unpublished 1,200-page memoir, The Third Word, a personal account of her relationships with Cassady and writer Jack Kerouac, Shamberg wanted to develop the material into a feature film. According to a 20 Nov 1978 New West article, Shamberg approached Cassady about her memoir in 1975 and bought the film rights before a condensed version of her manuscript was published by a small Berkeley press in 1976 as Heart Beat: My Life with Jack & Neal. The 15 Sep 1978 DV stated that through an acquaintance, Shamberg teamed up with producer Alan Greisman, also a novice to feature filmmaking at the time, who amassed $40,000 and hired writer John Byrum to work on the script. After interviewing Beat Generation personalities Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the owner of City Lights bookstore, and using Cassady’s memoir as a template, Byrum completed a screenplay after about seven months. Interest from Edward R. Pressman, the film’s executive producer, and subsequent commitments from actors Sissy Spacek and Nick Nolte paved the way for the picture’s $3.4 million budget, financed by Orion Pictures. When the film’s producers were criticized in the early stages of production for deviating from true events, they responded that they did not intend to make a documentary. Their interest was to capture “the spirit of the times” in dramatic fashion.
       Nevertheless, New West reported that the people, including Ginsberg and Cassady, were “outraged” after reading Byrum’s ...

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       A 15 Sep 1978 DV article reported that producer Michael Shamberg’s interest in “beatniks” inspired him to contact Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady’s widow, while visiting San Francisco, CA. After reading her unpublished 1,200-page memoir, The Third Word, a personal account of her relationships with Cassady and writer Jack Kerouac, Shamberg wanted to develop the material into a feature film. According to a 20 Nov 1978 New West article, Shamberg approached Cassady about her memoir in 1975 and bought the film rights before a condensed version of her manuscript was published by a small Berkeley press in 1976 as Heart Beat: My Life with Jack & Neal. The 15 Sep 1978 DV stated that through an acquaintance, Shamberg teamed up with producer Alan Greisman, also a novice to feature filmmaking at the time, who amassed $40,000 and hired writer John Byrum to work on the script. After interviewing Beat Generation personalities Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the owner of City Lights bookstore, and using Cassady’s memoir as a template, Byrum completed a screenplay after about seven months. Interest from Edward R. Pressman, the film’s executive producer, and subsequent commitments from actors Sissy Spacek and Nick Nolte paved the way for the picture’s $3.4 million budget, financed by Orion Pictures. When the film’s producers were criticized in the early stages of production for deviating from true events, they responded that they did not intend to make a documentary. Their interest was to capture “the spirit of the times” in dramatic fashion.
       Nevertheless, New West reported that the people, including Ginsberg and Cassady, were “outraged” after reading Byrum’s screenplay. Ginsberg found that dialog and behavior attributed to his film counterpart lacked verisimilitude, and portrayed him as moody and arrogant. Ginsberg also found Byrum’s interpretation of Cassady and Kerouac’s journey lacked insight. According to Ginsberg, Byrum attributed their actions to a rebellion against “the conformity of society,” whereas Ginsberg called their journey an exploration of “the universe of the mind.” Without Ginsberg’s cooperation, the filmmakers turned his character into a poet named “Ira Streiker.” Ginsberg also suggested that Carolyn Cassady might not have realized that the sale of the film rights gave filmmakers the ability to alter and embellish the events of her life. He contended that Cassady might not have signed a contract if she had seen a completed screenplay beforehand. Cassady told New West that she wrote several letters to Byrum expressing her dissatisfaction with the script, and even consulted an attorney about breaking the agreement, but decided not be “the villain.” Producers gave Cassady permission to visit the set, which lessened many of her objections. Writer Ken Kesey, who was filming his own documentary of the era, did not want to be portrayed in the movie. Kesey was also concerned that the picture would portray Neal Cassady as “a monster” or as “a marshmallow,” failing to do justice to Neal’s “spirit.”
       The 15 Sep 1978 DV article stated that principal photography began early Sep 1978 in Los Angeles, CA, and was expected to conclude after two months. With the exception of ten days in the schedule, all filming was done in Los Angeles. A 22 Nov 1978 Women’s Wear Daily article stated that interior shots were filmed at the Culver City Studios in Los Angeles. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, filming occurred in forty-nine locations. City Lights bookstore, a downtown Greyhound bus station, the San Francisco Art Institute, a waterfront tavern on Pier 23, and Golden State Park were all used in San Francisco, CA, sequences. A bigger challenge proved to be recreating a San Francisco cellar jazz club in its original neighborhood, which was no longer the center of the jazz scene and was considerably seedier. Production designer Jack Fisk solved the problem by moving to a nearby location, adding neon lights, vintage cars, and false fronts to complete the transformation. Additionally, Fisk and his crew decorated several condemned homes in Los Angeles that were slated for demolition to make way for a new freeway to represent the Cassady’s tract home and the surrounding development.
       According to Women’s Wear Daily, actress Spacek’s outfits as “Carolyn Cassady” began as late forties glamour and switched to drab beige to signify Cassady’s diminished financial circumstances.
      The following acknowledgments appear in the end credits: “Thanks to Oxford Enterprises,” and “Special Thanks to Wally Nicita.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
15 Sep 1978
p. 2
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1978
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Jan 1980
p. 5
New West
20 Nov 1978
pp. 43-49
New York Times
25 Apr 1980
p. 8
Variety
5 Dec 1979
p. 22
Women's Wear Daily
22 Nov. 1978
p. 12
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
BRAND NAMES
A Warner Communications Company Presents
An Orion Pictures Release Thru Warner Bros.
A Warner Communications Company
An Edward R. Pressman Production in association with Further Productions
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Richard Hashimoto
Prod mgr
Bill Scott
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Bob Stevens
Cam op
2d unit photog
Asst cam
2d asst cam
Best boy
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
Still photog
Spec still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Graphics
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop master
Set des
Painter
Const coord
Set dec
Leadman
Leadman
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Stand-by painter
COSTUMES
Men`s ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Saxophone solos
Opening jazz seq orch
Mus eng
SOUND
Bill Kaplan
Prod sd mixer
Boomman
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Creative sd services
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Prod van driver
Craft services
Loc mgr
San Francisco loc mgr
Research
Addl research
Asst to the prods
Exec asst to Mr. Pressman
Personal asst to Mr. Byrum
Post prod asst
Post prod asst to Mr. Pressman
Bookkeeper
Prod accountant
Some still photographs supplied by
Prod asst
Local 40
Extra casting
Extra casting
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
STAND INS
Stuntman
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Heart Beat: My Life with Jack & Neal by Carolyn Cassady (Berkeley, 1976).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
SONGS
"I Love Her Too," vocal by Aaron Neville, music by Jack Nitzsche, lyrics by Buffy Saint-Marie; "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing," performed by The Four Aces, featuring Al Alberts, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.; "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise," performed by Les Paul and Mary Ford, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.; "The Twist," performed by Hank Ballard, courtesy of Gusto Records, Inc.; "Purple Haze," performed by Jimi Hendrix, provided through the courtesy of Interworld, Ltd., distributed by Warner Bros. Records.
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 January 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 Jan 1980; New York opening: 25 Apr 1980
Production Date:
early Sep--late Oct 1978 various CA locations
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Orion Pictures Company
15 May 1980
PA70186
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
109
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In the late 1940s, a struggling novelist named Jack Kerouac and his two friends, Neal Cassady, a former reform school delinquent, and a poet, Ira Steiger, live in Greenwich Village, New York City. One day, Neal invites Jack on a road trip to San Francisco, California. In Iowa, Neal’s girl friend, Stevie, joins them. In San Francisco, Neal visits an old childhood friend, Dick, who is studying at the San Francisco Art Institute. When Dick introduces Neal and Jack to his girl friend Carolyn, she is intrigued because they are unlike any men she has previously known. By day, Carolyn continues art classes, Neal sells blood to pay the rent, and Jack works on his novel. At night, the three friends frequent Bud’s Bop Shop, a local jazz club. As Jack and Carolyn dance, Jack reveals that Ira’s nickname for Neal is “the Adonis of Denver,” hinting that Neal likes to romance men and women, depending on his mood. Back at their apartment, Stevie accuses Neal of having an affair with Carolyn “the debutante,” and Neal makes love to Stevie to diffuse her anger. Meanwhile, Neal does his best to dissuade Carolyn from accepting Dick’s marriage proposal. Later, Jack says that he is ready to move back to New York City, and wants Carolyn to join him. As Jack walks in the rain, he sees Carolyn step into Neal’s car. While Carolyn and Neal make love, Jack hitchhikes back to New York City alone. Stevie leaves Neal for other adventures, while he finds work as a train conductor. Although Neal and Carolyn write to Jack, he ignores their letters. In New York City, Ira presses publisher Mr. ...

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In the late 1940s, a struggling novelist named Jack Kerouac and his two friends, Neal Cassady, a former reform school delinquent, and a poet, Ira Steiger, live in Greenwich Village, New York City. One day, Neal invites Jack on a road trip to San Francisco, California. In Iowa, Neal’s girl friend, Stevie, joins them. In San Francisco, Neal visits an old childhood friend, Dick, who is studying at the San Francisco Art Institute. When Dick introduces Neal and Jack to his girl friend Carolyn, she is intrigued because they are unlike any men she has previously known. By day, Carolyn continues art classes, Neal sells blood to pay the rent, and Jack works on his novel. At night, the three friends frequent Bud’s Bop Shop, a local jazz club. As Jack and Carolyn dance, Jack reveals that Ira’s nickname for Neal is “the Adonis of Denver,” hinting that Neal likes to romance men and women, depending on his mood. Back at their apartment, Stevie accuses Neal of having an affair with Carolyn “the debutante,” and Neal makes love to Stevie to diffuse her anger. Meanwhile, Neal does his best to dissuade Carolyn from accepting Dick’s marriage proposal. Later, Jack says that he is ready to move back to New York City, and wants Carolyn to join him. As Jack walks in the rain, he sees Carolyn step into Neal’s car. While Carolyn and Neal make love, Jack hitchhikes back to New York City alone. Stevie leaves Neal for other adventures, while he finds work as a train conductor. Although Neal and Carolyn write to Jack, he ignores their letters. In New York City, Ira presses publisher Mr. Ogden to accept Jack’s manuscript, but when Ogden rejects it, Ira suggests he and Jack try their luck in San Francisco. There, Ira stays with Neal and Carolyn, while Jack works at dead-end jobs and avoids his friends. Over Chinese food, Ira confesses that he loves Neal. Carolyn becomes uncomfortable and leaves the restaurant. Neal chases after Carolyn, and assures her of his love. Later, Neal has sex with several men in the jazz club restrooms, and then wanders through the seedy part of town. Neal discovers Stevie entertaining a sailor, but he scares him away and makes love to her. Meanwhile, Carolyn becomes depressed and remembers how Jack warned her not to expect too much from Neal. At sea, Jack toils as a ship’s cook, then as a migrant worker while he writes. When Carolyn finds Neal in bed with Ira and Stevie, Neal tries to explain, and Carolyn says that she is pregnant. She slaps Neal and then leaves, but later, convinces Neal to move to the suburbs in anticipation of the baby’s birth, and he proposes marriage. Later, Carolyn invites the neighbors, Bob and Betty Bendix, to dinner, but it is an awkward evening. Meanwhile, Jack refuses to take another dead end job and locates the Cassadys in the suburbs. At a bar, Neal admits that married life is hard. When Jack asks if Carolyn ever mentions him, Neal confesses that she talks about Jack whenever he makes a mess of things, which is often. Neal invites Jack to be a houseguest. Then, the men visit a nightclub, while Carolyn wonders where Neal has gone. When the friends return in the morning, Neal goes to work and Carolyn confesses that she is tired of Neal treating her like garbage, and Jack comforts her. Neal later apologizes, and disappears with Carolyn behind closed doors. Soon, Neal and Jack agree to take turns being Carolyn’s husband. Later, Neal decides to take a trip alone to Mexico, and says that Jack is the only thing keeping the Cassadys’ marriage together. One day, after ten years Ogden telephones Jack with an offer to publish his novel On the Road, based on his road trip with Neal and Stevie. Jack travels to New York City, where he promotes his novel on television. Neal is threatened by Jack’s new celebrity status, despite Jack’s assurances that his success is good for everybody. Carolyn claims that the notoriety of the book turns the lives of Jack and Neal into “an open book.” Soon, Neal and a literary fan are arrested for possession of marijuana. Jack wants to help his friend, but Ogden warns him not to get involved. Neal is sent to prison, but after his release, he joins writer Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters as they tour the country in a bus on a quest to make art out of everyday life. Although Neal and Jack are joined in literary history, in life they drift apart. When Jack returns to San Francisco on business, he hitchhikes to visit Carolyn, and asks her what he and Neal did wrong. She replies that they did nothing wrong, they just did it first.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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