‘Today, Father, is Father’s Day’
by Julia Chasman
Not everyone has a father who showed films in their living room while growing up, to a roomful of invited guests. I don’t mean we had a screening room. This was in a large, rambling, West End Avenue apartment, north of 96th Street on Manhattan’s not-so-glamorous (at that time) Upper Upper West Side. Nor do I mean that we watched Super-8 home movies while people were yawning. These were first-run (sometimes) or older, but always interesting feature-length films which my dad projected in 16MM on our home projector. We usually had to stop for reel changes twice, because unlike a projection booth, we had only the one projector.
This is where I saw my all-time favorite movie — The Apartment — in my own apartment! (Maybe that’s why I loved it so much!) Now the secret is — my father worked for the studio. From about 1960 well into the late 1970’s my dad, David Chasman, worked for United Artists, and it so happened that his tenure there coincided with one of the great, great heydays of any studio ever, and certainly it was that fabled studio’s last great hurrah.
But my dad didn’t just work on the movies, he loved the movies, and he knew just about everything about them — and still does, at age 87. In 1960, when The Apartment was released (winning the Oscar for Best Picture, among others), my dad worked in the advertising department. That’s what they called it then; “marketing” hadn’t been invented yet for movies, and this was just one of the ways in which those were the good old days.
My father would then join the production side — later supervising all the production of UA in the UK-Europe, presiding over an unprecedented series of hits both critically and financially, including the three Beatles movies, all the James Bond movies from Goldfinger through On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Pink Panther series, all the Woody Allen movies (starting with his scripts for What’s New Pussycat and Casino Royale) and everything else that was made by UA in Europe during those years.
It was 1965 when my dad told us that we would be moving to London, England! He was moving immediately, and my mother, brother and I were to follow in June, at the end of the school year. After an initial negative reaction, I began to think about the geography; I would be 3000 miles closer to the most important people in my life at that time — John, Paul, George and Ringo. And I might even get to meet them! My reluctance to leave my friends evaporated quickly as I considered the possibilities. My high school was The American School in London, and those years were the most fun anyone ever had at any high school in America — more I bet!
Among my favorite movies from that period were The Knack… and How to Get It, The Charge of the Light Brigade, A Taste of Honey, The Pumpkin Eater, Girl with Green Eyes, Help!, and especially Two for the Road, which my best friend and I saw 11 times at the Criterion Cinema in Piccadilly Circus (now a shopping mall), munching on Black Magic Chocolates and sitting in the first 3 rows, where the tickets were cheaper than anywhere else in the cinema (the theatre is where you see a play — the cinema is for movies).
But I didn’t know that any of these adventures were ahead of me when I watched The Apartment for the first time, or another favorite of mine from those years (and still) The World of Henry Orient, a film which seemed to be about me and my friends and family.
When my father was on the ad side, he worked on the campaigns for the films. Among the posters he designed as an Art Director were those for West Side Story and The Apartment. Later he would do other posters for Billy Wilder, whom he came to know very well, like the one for Irma la Douce, featuring the kind of illustrations that were so popular in those days, and which my father had grown up drawing. One of the best of these was his line drawing for Tom Jones, which is on the poster for that (again) Academy Award-winning film — he designed the poster and drew the illustration they used.
My father taught my brother and me to love movies, travel, art — and popular music too. One of our favorite songs was the Beatles’ “When I’m 64,” and after my parents split up and my mother went back to New York, my brother Jesse and I were on our own with just Dad. The three of us went a lot of places together, and nicknamed ourselves — “Vera, Chuck and Dave,” after the lyrics of that song. I was Vera, and my dad (David) was Dave, and Jesse was Chuck.
Other favorites were anything by the Marx Brothers, and all the songs from their films were in our repertoire, including this one celebrating Father’s Day, sung with perfect false sincerity by Groucho.
Here Groucho sings it on The Dick Cavett Show:
Happy Father’s Day, Dad — you are the one for us!