May 2018: Invited Speaker, Women in New Hollywood, Maynooth National University of Ireland. Talk: Joann Carelli, New Hollywood, and Heaven’s Gate, based on Chapter 5 of Film Mavericks in Action.
“Hollywood is a town totally geared to men. There’s something about the personality of the people who choose to meet here. The film industry just attracts money – and power-hungry men.” (Producer, Joann Carelli, LA Times, 22, 2, 1980).
“If there is a precise moment that marks the demise of New Hollywood it is November 19th, 1980 when the full-length version of Michael Cimino’s Heavens Gate (1980) made its now infamous New York premiere. Damning reviews cancelled any hopes of repeating Cimino’s critical and commercial success of The Deer Hunter (1977). For Vincent Canby, it was an “unqualified disaster”, for Roger Ebert it was “…the most scandalous cinematic waste I have ever seen.” A deflated Cimino (1939 – 2016) withdrew the film. However, by 2013 the restored version was celebrated as a masterpiece at film festivals around the world: “…it’s stature as a true wonder-work of American cinemas is now surely beyond doubt” (Collin, The Telegraph, 1/8/2013). That restored version from the Criterion Collection was galvanized by the film’s original producer, Joann Carelli. Over the decades, she had been Cimino’s regular creative partner, overseeing his 1960s New York TV commercials and working eventually as associate producer on their Academy Awards triumph The Deer Hunter. Carelli’s more exposed role as exclusive producer of the epic Heavens Gate – and how that role was perceived by the Hollywood industry and the press – is the subject of this talk. Drawing on contemporaneous news coverage of her role on the film, the talk will suggest that the critical response to Heavens Gate was as much about “St. Joan’s” challenge to the “town totally geared to men” than it was about New Hollywood stylistic and narrative confusions.”
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