Recently, Esquire Magazine published a list of 15 “Forgotten Films”, movies they felt had been undeservedly ignored and required an opportunity to be re-discovered.
Among them is a film I’ll never forget –- because its failure brought down a Canadian film I was in that barely ran through a projector thereafter.
The year was 1973 and the film on Esquire’s list is “Scarecrow”. It had the finest of credentials, a critically acclaimed director, an experienced writer and producing team, as well as Hollywood’s two hottest stars, 1971 Oscar winner Gene Hackman and 1972’s star of “The Godfather” Al Pacino.
The Canadian film it impacted was called “The Supreme Kid”, a first feature for its writer/director, a first time producer, not much money and four relative newcomers onscreen.
The film starred Frank Moore, fresh from playing the lead in the Toronto production of “Hair”. Helen Shaver, making her screen debut. A wonderful Vancouver actor, Don Granbury, and a grizzled vet with two features and a CBS pilot under his belt –- me.
Nobody working on “Scarecrow” had ever heard of us (perhaps still haven’t) and we didn’t know anything about their movie. Yet the two films could have been fraternal twins.
Oh, the stories differ, but the themes and milieu are identical. Both were about drifters and the hobo life. Both explored that world by having an experienced king of the road take a young protégé under his wing to teach him the ropes.
Al and I were the protégés. We even wore the same hat.
“Scarecrow” was released first. And it bombed. Ours was ready a few weeks later. But distributors looked it over and said, “Scarecrow didn’t make any money. Why would we take a chance on this?”
So “The Supreme Kid” got a couple of screenings here and there, won some awards at a few European Festivals and then –- it faded away.
I saw “Scarecrow” in a nearly empty Toronto theatre when it opened. I don’t recall the reviews or why the theatre was so empty. Mostly I remember thinking, “We did a scene like that –– and like that –- and like that one too”.
And I was new enough and naive enough to walk out thinking, “Well, they’re kinda the same. But maybe people will like our version.”
And Esquire’s assessment is correct, “Scarecrow” was undeservedly ignored. Along with the rest of the films on their list, it’s well worth your time and attention.
As for “The Supreme Kid”, who knows. Somebody sent me a glitchy VHS copy pulled from a 16mm print maybe ten years after it was made. For all I know it’s the only remaining copy.
I chose the scene below because most of the rest won’t make a lot of sense unless you know what comes before. It’s also because it was the only shoot day during a month of filming in Vancouver when it didn’t seem to be pouring rain.
And it was fun. I hope it’s fun for you too.