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Thor

The Katherine Reed Story (1965) -- could it ever surface?

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Robert Altman made this short film for the birthday of his wife Katherine Reed (or Kathryn Reed) in 1965, and John Williams scored it. That's about it in terms of what we know about it.

It's probably the most obscure item on his filmography (not counting some tv titles) and presumably even harder to find than STORIA DI UNA DONNA (1970).

I wonder, though....has anyone ever tried contacting the Altman state about it? If not, how does one go about contacting the Altman estate?

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That figures, because given the private nature of the film, I would think it resided in the private ownership of the Altman estate -- not in film libraries or anywhere else. If it exists at all. It would also make a release near-to-impossible, of course, but one could at least confirm that it existed or not.

My educated guess is that the film reels are sitting in the attic of one of the six children (since both Robert and Kathryn have passed away). However, one sentence at Altman's Wikipedia entry intriguied me:

In 2009 the University of Michigan made the winning bid for the Altman archives: approximately 900 boxes of personal papers, scripts, legal, business and financial records, photographs, props and related material; the total collection measures over 1,000 linear feet.

So....could it be at the University of Michigan? Or did you try that?

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No I haven't tried there.

I've tried UCLA, Museum of Moving Image, Academy Film Library, Library of Congress, Museum of Modern Art.

A last bit of information I had seen is this (dated from 2010):

"I wound up asking him if he would ever think of releasing his short films, which included things he lent out to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria for a comprehensive Altman retro (Pot au feu, The Katherine Reed Story, etc.). He said they weren’t very good and, no, he didn’t really want them to be released on a laser disc (this tells you how far back this was)."

http://mediafunhouse...e-they-are.html

that's why I started from Museum of Moving image and they guided me to other libraries too.

By the way, their reply was:

"The information you found online is correct - we do show films here, we just don't keep them in our collection"

So, I'll try in University of Michigan too, thanks for the information.

I'll let you know.

Given that i'll approach them stating the nature of my research on Williams, I'm sure they'll reply if they know anything.

(even if they have it, i see a very strict policy about copying etc. So, anyone could watch it probably only if he goes there)

edit: Ok, sent an email and waiting...

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Ok, I already have a "preliminary" answer.

We do, indeed, have Robert Altman's archive. We are investigating whether there are any materials in our holdings related to "The Katherine Reed Story," or any other materials related to John Williams. Hopefully I will be able to get back to you early next week.

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I thought I had a bootleg of this one, but I guess it was just Story Of A Woman and The Screaming Woman.

Are you joking or do you have a boot with STORY OF A WOMAN? The only recording I'm aware of is a brief, crappysounding suite that someone recorded off their TV screen way back when. And the title song, of course.

Ok, I already have a "preliminary" answer.

We do, indeed, have Robert Altman's archive. We are investigating whether there are any materials in our holdings related to "The Katherine Reed Story," or any other materials related to John Williams. Hopefully I will be able to get back to you early next week.

Great to hear that they got back to you, but I wouldn't get my hopes up. It was mostly paperwork they received, according to the Wikipedia entry.

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I thought I had a bootleg of this one, but I guess it was just Story Of A Woman and The Screaming Woman.

Are you joking or do you have a boot with STORY OF A WOMAN? The only recording I'm aware of is a brief, crappysounding suite that someone recorded off their TV screen way back when. And the title song, of course.

Ok, I already have a "preliminary" answer.

We do, indeed, have Robert Altman's archive. We are investigating whether there are any materials in our holdings related to "The Katherine Reed Story," or any other materials related to John Williams. Hopefully I will be able to get back to you early next week.

Great to hear that they got back to you, but I wouldn't get my hopes up. It was mostly paperwork they received, according to the Wikipedia entry.

I'm sure he means that TV rip. There is no clean bootleg of this.

* * *

Well, as I've seen in the university's site in the special collections regarding Altman, it says they have audiovisual material too.

"...and the life and career of film director Robert Altman is richly documented in an extensive archive consisting of business and other records, papers, photographs, audiovisual material, posters, and props."

http://www.lib.umich.edu/special-collections-library/collections

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I'm afraid I have bad news!!

They don't have anything! :(

So, if it isn't there, then only the family could have it I assume...

Sorry to hear that, but it was expected.

Yeah, one of the six children must have it.

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I'm afraid I have bad news!!

They don't have anything! :(

So, if it isn't there, then only the family could have it I assume...

Sorry to hear that, but it was expected.

Yeah, one of the six children must have it.

And maybe they don't even know that they have it, or that it exists!!

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OK, here it is:

http://www.filmswelike.com/store-items/altman

and here's the first 2 minutes of the film:

http://video.repubblica.it/spettacoli-e-cultura/altman-i-corti-ritrovati-the-kathryn-reed-story/182589/181405

I repeat my post from FSM:

Now, about the score:

It seems like something on-the-fly and improvisatory score for a small group of instruments, often making musical references to known pieces and melodies like:
Magnificent Seven
Exodus
lullaby
theme from Batman TV series


and I'm sure other known melodies too which I can't identify.
(there is a march eg. that I have heard again, but I don't know the title)

Also it includes a silent film music passage that Williams reused decades later in 2003.
from jwfan:
‘Silent Film’ Piano Duet
Composed to accompany silent film footage during the “Soundtracks: Music and Film” festival in 2003
Premiered on January 23, 2003 in Washington, DC (John Williams, Piano/Leonard Slatkin, Piano)


Now, a strange thing that I noticed is this:
This is supposed to be a 1965 short film, but used the batman theme (by Neal Hefti) which came out in January of 1966.
Kathryn Reed was born on June 2, so I guess this was supposed to be shown privately on June 1965.
But how could Williams know the theme beforehand?
Maybe it was made in 1966?

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I repeat my post from FSM too:

Wow, that's cool! I never saw that coming. I do have a crummylooking VHS transfer or something (as do you, I know), but hopefully this BR version has much better quality.

As you say, the date of the film (1965) is questionable, given the appearance of the BATMAN theme. So I've thought for a long time now that it came out right after, when the film and theme became such a hit. Perhaps 1967.

There isn't much original music in the film, but there is some. I think this was just a "fun" thing Altman did for mostly private purposes, and he got his pal John to write and perform and arrange the music for no money. You can see the band listed over the end credits, with Williams himself at the piano. Interestingly, there's also a brief image of Williams' album RHYTHM IN MOTION among a stack of LPs at some point.

I've often wondered if the 'silent film' passage is not an original Williams composition, but rather something famous from the time, but if so, I have no idea what it is.

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I've often wondered if the 'silent film' passage is not an original Williams composition, but rather something famous from the time, but if so, I have no idea what it is.

Yes, I have the same hunch.

Even at the time I saw it at the video with Williams, the melody sounded familiar.

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I've often wondered if the 'silent film' passage is not an original Williams composition, but rather something famous from the time, but if so, I have no idea what it is.

Yes, I have the same hunch.

Even at the time I saw it at the video with Williams, the melody sounded familiar.

That whole "Silent film montage" Williams did is clearly modeled on several styles and modes typical of the silent film piano accompaniment music in vogue from the 1910s and early 20s. So it's purposefully sounding similar to several of those pieces.

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Yeah, I know. It could certainly be pastiche (Williams does that well, as we all know). But it could also be an existing piece not composed by Williams. I find it odd that he would re-use an obscure theme from this short film in the "Silent Film Montage" thingie in 2003. Especially since KATHERINE contains so many cameos of famous themes. Untill someone recognizes it, though, I'll live under the assumption that he composed it.

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Shazam is an app where you play a piece of music, it listens to it and then tells you what it is

I doubt that it would recognise a silent film music extract..

Maybe it's used more for famous pop songs?

Shazam is a mixed bag. It is usually spot on with pop songs/commercial music, and surprisingly, with classical music. And on occasion, I'm shocked that it successfully identifies rather obscure pieces such as those from production music libraries.

The biggest problem with Shazam is that it isn't a general music matching program, as I understand it. It identifies specific recordings based on the "musical fingerprints" stored in its database. So even if the "silent film montage" features pre-existing themes, Shazam won't identify them.

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2 hours ago, scarecroe said:

Thanks for posting the clip. Has anyone seen the full short? Does Johnny get a full on-screen credit or title card?

 

Yes. It finally became available as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray release of the documentary ALTMAN (2014).

 

It's a charming little piece; I rewatched it recently for my upcoming article on the Altman/Williams collaboration for a Norwegian magazine.

 

John Williams is credited alongside his band, as "John Williams and the Purple Derbys".

 

This used to be the most obscure and hardest-to-find entry in JW's filmography. Now that honour belongs solely to STORY OF A WOMAN.

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23 minutes ago, Miguel Andrade said:

@Thor You may like to know that before their earlier collaborations, Williams was the session pianist on Leight Stevens' score for The James Dean Story (1957), directed by Altman.

 

Damn, wish I had that little piece of information before the magazine went to press. Oh well. Thanks anyway! At least I think I got their first work together right as director and composer ("The Image Merchants" from KRAFT MYSTERY).

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On 5/17/2019 at 9:42 AM, aescalle said:

Just ordered the German edition of the DVD version (including the same bonus as the Bluray). 

 

Would it be possible for you to post a screenshot of Williams' on-screen credit? I would very much like it for a project I'm working on.

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Which begs the question -- what is a 'purple derby'?

 

Although I have a digital copy of the film, I've been meaning to get the ALTMAN documentary from 2014 that features this short among its extras, but was there something about the DVD never being released, or postponed or something like that?

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3 hours ago, Thor said:

Which begs the question -- what is a 'purple derby'?

 

 

A derby is the American term for a bowler hat (three of which are pictured beneath the 'Purple Derbys' credit!).  My guess is that this credit could have been some sort of homage to the big band era where such band names, distinguished by the musicians' collective attire, were commonplace.

 

My Dad was a jazz pianist (his preferred style was mostly stride piano from the 1920s and 1930s) and he would often get his fellow musicians to wear straw boaters during any gigs, just because it was a jazz thing to have all the band members wear matching hats of some description.

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