Noir Television: “Johnny Staccato—Directed by John Cassavetes”

Sunday, Apr 24, 2022 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
John Cassavetes wearing dark suit, white shirt and dark tie

UCLA Film & Television Archive presents free screenings at the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum.

Please review our required COVID-19 precautions and updated admission policies.

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Made possible by the John H. Mitchell Television Programming Endowment. Co-presented by the Film Noir Foundation.

In-person: Brian Light, Film Noir Foundation.

Internationally-renowned as a pivotal figure in the development of American independent film, John Cassavetes' pioneering career notably began on the small screen. With dynamic appearances as an actor on early anthologies, including You Are There (1953), and later starring roles on prestige programs such as Playhouse 90 (1957), Cassavetes earned both steady work and critical notice on television. However, by the late 1950s, Cassavetes’ creative energies were focused on breaking free of commercial frameworks via a passion project that would mark his feature directorial debut. By 1958, that unfinished film had enveloped Cassavetes’ time and attention in a long process of continued revision. Low on resources and expecting a child with his partner, actor Gena Rowlands, an opportunity emerged that would place Cassavetes squarely within the restrictive confines of the tube—a starring role in Revue Studio's NBC crime series with a Beat sensibility, Johnny Staccato (a.k.a Staccato).

Weary of the artistic compromises inherent to working in television but determined to impose a measure of creative control, Cassavetes signed to play the titular Staccato, a streetwise jazz musician with "more ambition than talent" who moonlights as a private eye. Centered in a smoke-filled underground club in Greenwich Village, the single-season detective series distinguished itself with downbeat elements of film noir, hepcat dialog, and stellar guest casts (including Academy Award-winner Cloris Leachman and noir veteran Elisha Cook Jr.). Boasting gritty New York exteriors and inventive camera work, the three Cassavetes-directed Staccato episodes offered here showcase the star's trademark intensity as an actor while providing insight into the development of a major artist in the midst of altering cinema with the release of his landmark film Shadows in 1959.
 

Johnny Staccato: “Evil”

U.S., 10/29/1959

Private eye Johnny Staccato (John Cassavetes) takes on a nefarious preacher (Alexander Scourby) that holds the parishioners of the local mission in his sway.

DCP, b&w, 30 min. Production: Revue Studios. Executive Producer: William Frye. Producer: Everett Chambers. Director: John Cassavetes. Writer: Richard Carr. With John Cassavetes, Alexander Scourby, Elisha Cook Jr.
 

Johnny Staccato: “Night of Jeopardy”

U.S., 1/21/1960

Staccato (John Cassavetes) must find a violent counterfeiter’s (Frank DeKorva) engraving plates to prevent the murder of a hostage (series regular Eduardo Ciannelli).

DCP, b&w, 30 min. Production: Revue Studios. Executive Producer: William Frye. Producer: Everett Chambers. Director: John Cassavetes. Writers: Richard Carr, Everett Chambers. With: John Cassavetes, Frank DeKorva, Eduardo Ciannelli.
 

Johnny Staccato: “Solomon”

U.S., 2/11/1960

A pacifist leader (Cloris Leachman) accused of murder and her high-powered attorney (Elisha Cook Jr.) entangle Staccato (John Cassavetes) in a web of deceit.

DCP, b&w, 30 min. Production: Revue Studios. Executive Producer: William Frye. Producer: Everett Chambers. Director: John Cassavetes. Writer: Stanford Whitmore. With: John Cassavetes, Cloris Leachman, Elisha Cook Jr.

Digitally scanned by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from original 16mm network prints. Use courtesy of NBCUniversal. Special thanks to Michael Daruty, Jeff Greenspun, Eddie Muller, Alan K. Rode.

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