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Early in last night Law School Forum on the American Cinema, David H. Susskind '42 insisted that Elinor Hughes, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Perry, Susan Strasberg and Robert G. Gardner, comprised a "non-establishment panel."
As moderator, Mr. Susskind tried to sustain the critical approach. "The movies represent a shotgun marriage of business and art," he jabbed, "in which art suffers. The power remains in the hands of the big studios, and they are more interested in stars, hits and money than in good films."
Mr. Perry, who directed David and Lisa, cited the film's success in arguing that serious and risky films can be produced economically, and thus without the endorsement of Hollywood's old guard. He acknowledged, however, that "if the Time magazine critics and one or two other people had reacted differently, we would have died in New York.
The author of the David and Lisa script, Mrs. Perry, disputed her husband have good that film across anyway," she smiled. "I don't how, but he would have."
Under Mr. Susskind's control, the discussion assumed the chatty quality of his television show, "Open End." He look on almost all the panelists in minor arguments. At one point he faulted Marlon Brando's diction, and Miss Strasberg, which trained Brando, challenged: "They don't teach anyone to mumble, I'll take you on in non-mumbling any day."
As the vox populi, Miss Hughes warned that American audiences are too glibly dammed by intellectuals. When Mr. Susskind attacked Hollwood's "psychotic" emphasis on stars, the Herald critic observed that the highly successful West side story included none in its cast, she scolded, "unless you can back them up."
Mr. Gardner, Director of the Film Study Center, anticipated a new genre of documentaries and personal, inexpensive studies made possible by small cameras and tape equipment. He mused about a film that would record 24 hours in the life of a typical married couple.
But Mr. Perry, who with his wife is contemplating a film on American marriage, questioned its value. "Art must ultimately be a distillation. You have to choose what is significant, what symbolizes a state of affairs." He hoped that television would siphon off a segment of the audience, leaving a more demanding group to support the cinema.
Mr. Perry spoke with feeling about the director's role. "In the end a film is the director's like a novel is a novelist's. It's his as an individual, and when he's working it's not an audience or a potential backer he must satisfy, but himself."
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