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'Beat' cinema with Pull My Daisy (Robert Frank/Alfred Leslie)

In Pull My Daisy, directed in 1959 by Alfred Leslie and the photographer Robert Frank, a group of beat characters visit the New York apartment of their railroad worker friend. The film's title comes from a poem written by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, who provided Kerouac with the inspiration for the character of Dean Moriarty in On the Road.

Although arguably a beat sensibility can be found in many films from the 1950s and 1960s, the direct involvement of key personalities associated with the beat movement in Pull My Daisy is unique. Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Peter Orlovsky all appear as themselves, while Larry Rivers plays their host, Milo, and Delphine Seyrig his painter wife. A bishop has been invited for dinner and arrives accompanied by his sister and mother, and the interaction between the more conservative visitors and the beats provide the film with what little plot there is; it is partly based on an incident in the life of Neal and Carolyn Cassady, as detailed in Kerouac's play The Beat Generation. To the beat of David Amran's jazz score, Jack Kerouac's voice-over explaining the characters' behaviour and conversation is both witty and poetic. The film was originally exhibited in a double-bill with John Cassavetes' Shadows (1959), a film with which it has often been compared, perhaps most famously (and unfavourably) in Parker Tyler's 1962 Film Culture article 'For Shadows, Against Pull My Daisy'.

Ingrid Stigsdotter

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Larry Rivers in Pull My Daisy

Courtesy of the artist/Lux
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