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Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08
Page 4
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Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08 - Page 4. July 1980 - August 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. July 29, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/286/show/261.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(July 1980 - August 1980). Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08 - Page 4. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/286/show/261

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08 - Page 4, July 1980 - August 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed July 29, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/286/show/261.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date July 1980 - August 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 33 page periodical
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Page 4
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_562ad.jpg
Transcript l:}=MWiiMm BLUE PERI • I A marriage, a divorce, a renewed friendship and death -BY JANICE BLUE- I saw James Blue on television the other night. There he was, bigger than life, in his last film The Invisible City, giving us the hard facts on Houston's unplanned growth and housing crisis. Seventy-five hours of interviews whittled down to 60 minutes and stronger frame-by-frame than anything on 60 minutes. "This poor lady here. She lives in a garage and she don't have no bathroom. She's a poor lady and she pays $17 a week. No water, no gas, no nothing." an ACORN worker in the Second Ward from The Invisible City (1979) If the Chamber of Commerce were to accuse James of "airing America's dirty linen in public," it won't be the first time for those words. That's exactly what the late Allen Ellender of Louisiana charged on the floor of the U. S. Senate after he saw The March, James' documentary on the 1963 civil rights march on Washington. As I sat there watching images of poverty in this land of plenty and listening to James narrate in his strong, clear, dramatic voice, I found myself waiting for him to reappear on the screen. It was really nice when he did. There was a strange kind of intimacy about it all. Curled up on the couch, I felt like Lauren Bacall watching an old Humphrey Bogart film. James would love the comparison. "I'm a frustrated actor," he'd admit on occasion. "Most directors are," he'd throw in, just to cover himself. It was more than coincidence that he had his film students at the Rice Media Center, one spring day in 1975, rehearse and shoot a scene from Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep. It was supposed to be an exercise in lighting and staging, but James cast himself wholeheartedly in the role of Philip Marlowe, rather Humphrey Bogart. "Was I any good?" "You were terrific." "Do you really mean it?" "I really mean it." Someone once described his profile as a "stage actor's delight — strong jaw and a nose like half a hatchet." Of his enthusiasm before a film audience, another critic recently wrote, "You had the idea he enjoyed hearing himself." "When I think of James, I see him enjoying the hell out of whatever he was doing. He'd get up and say a little something before a movie at the Rice Media Center, and it would invariably make me think I was going to see one of the greatest films ever made. Never mind that he didn't always turn out to be right," recalls Jim Asker of The Houston Post, a Rice student during the early seventies. James loved an audience. He missed the stage from his days as a drama student at the University of Oregon. James' father likes to tell the story of driving from Portland to Eugene, Oregon. A stranger recommended that he and his wife see Death of a Salesman. 'They say this young kid who plays Willy Loman is better than that guy on Broadway, what's his name, Lee J. Cobb," the man said. "Well, that young kid is our son," Harry B. Blue told the man proudly. But James Blue's last public performance would be his most dramatic. He appeared before a group of medical students in a London hospital and told them how it felt to be told he was terminally ill with cancer. No script. No lights. No camera or tape recorder. Three weeks later, on June 14, 1980, he died. But Bogarts and Blues don't die. We don't let them. They have too much stage presence in our lives. "... if some future archeo-anthropologist should take a carbon dating of his remains then the radioactive isotopes will spell out he is here now give or take two minutes..." from a poem by Hellar Grabbi (1965) James was a talented filmmaker, a great documentarian and a revered teacher. He was all of these things. But I hope he is remembered as one of us, someone who lived, loved, struggled and sometimes failed. James was not a marble statue. But I know the temptation. The first time I saw him, early in 1968, he was standing in a corridor at the Smithsonian in front of an Oriental rug exhibit with a group of male friends. From a distance, I thought, "He's the most beautiful person I've ever seen." The hair — those beautiful wild waves. To me, he looked like Michelangelo's David. Like many who knew him I, too, put a pedestal under this mythical sculpture. I was in awe of him. Years later, when we worked to make ours more a relationship of equals, he would sheepishly admit to a friend, "I miss the pedestal." After the shooting of The Big Sleep, I remember asking James, "Now, what would that movie be like without Lauren Bacall?" I was always bringing up examples of couples that worked together. Hepburn and Tracy. Ullman and Bergman. Woodward and Newman. "Why not us?" I was interested in making films before I met James. In 1966, I traveled abroad for one year. I wanted to go to the National Film School of Poland at Lodz, but lost my nerve — whoever heard of women directors in the early sixties? Film people that year in Europe kept saying, "You want to be an actress, not a director." In Italy, I hitchhiked to the Cinecitta Studios outside Rome to see if I could get a job on the set of 77?e Taming of the Shrew and they said, "Go over to the other building. They need a stand-in for Elizabeth Taylor." I admired James' films and wanted to work with him. My friend, Lisa Suter Taylor, now the director of the Cooper Hewitt Museum of Art, understood both the intensity and timidity with which I approached filmmaking. The first thing she told James when she heard we were getting married was, "I'm so glad Janice will finally get to make films." "Oh no," he corrected her on the spot. "Filmmaking is my career. She's going to have to find something else. There can't be two filmmakers in the family. I was shocked and hurt but did not make an issue of it. I thought time would change things. In the early years of our marriage I heard myself say over and over, "No one will work harder for you. Please trust me." Then, I read Zelda, the biography of the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. "Scott had very fixed ideas of what a woman's place should be in a marriage: "I would like you to think of my interests. That is your primary concern, because I am the one to steer the course, the pilot." What then, Zelda asked him, did he want her to do. "/ want you to stop writing fiction." He could not tolerate another encroachment on his literary territory... Scott wanted her to be what he called a "complementary intelligence." That was not at all what she wanted to be... Zelda, p. 274 For a good while afterwards, I signed my letters Zelda Blue. But we made some progress. James bought me a Super 8 camera on our trip to Japan for EXPO '70 and I started shooting vacation films and home movies. One early documentary stands out. To get James to take a break from his film commitments and help with a house project, I shot a film of him building a sundeck on our house in Los Angeles. It was the only way I could think of to get that deck built. I took all my Super 8 gear and tapes and joined James in Kenya in 1972. He was three months into a documentary on the Boran, a traditional tribe experiencing the conflicts of modernization. I was ready to do a "home movie." I went off with my own guide and translator on foot and went out of my way not to get involved in the 16mm project that James and David Mc Dougall were shooting. But as we compared notes at the campsite, two themes emerged. They were tellina their story through three generations of men in the village and I was filming the women. James told me the women didn't want to be filmed. 'They curse us and shout, 'May the wild beast strangle you.' " It was true. In this traditional society, the women could not relate to western men, especially those wearing earphones and carrying a backpack with a 16mm Eclair rigged to it. I discovered that being a woman was the greatest asset in documenting the women in the tribe. They would freely talk about childbirth — in fact, they would squat down and demonstrate how midwives assist the mothers, they would talk about their acceptance of their husbands taking younger wives as they got older and were "used up," and they showed me how they perfumed their bodies with a special incense before lovemaking. When I bought this incense at the market (as a souvenir, of course), the women giggled. Even though I was almost 30 and most of the women married in their teens, they regarded me as a young bride. They would joke and tease me, "Are you married to the tall, skinny one (David) or the old, fat one (James)?" James was in his early forties at the time but they called him "jarso," meaning gray-haired. They called me "elephant feet" and "ostrich legs." They had an uncanny way of zeroing in on your most distinctive features. My Boran experience led me to do films about women and to join the feminist movement. For the next two years as I showed my films around the country, I tried to help other women overcome F-stop anxiety. In the summer of 1973, I was invited to Arden House, a week-long seminar where filmmakers met with public television executives. It was the first time I ever got to ask, "Is it okay if I bring my husband along?" Choosing to do women's films took the pressure off our mutual careers but I always had the feeling James and his friends looked on it as the ladies auxiliary of filmmaking. He encouraged and helped me organize a film festival of women directors at the Rice Media Center. However, when the 12 Sunday nights rolled around, neither he nor his colleague joined the packed audience. They never failed to attend the "real films" that were shown there the rest of the week. Around this time, Estelle Changas, Kay Loveland and I were turned down for our proposal to do a documentary on Sissy Farenthold's 1974 race for Texas governor. Screenwriter Eleanor Perry wrote our letter of recommendation and James thought our proposal was one of the best he had ever read. He loaned us the equipment after Kay and Estelle decided to put their own money into it. James had a sense of justice and for the first time was beginning to understand the problems women filmmakers faced. He freely admitted that godfathers like Colin Young helped his career. In 1975, after I produced Just Like a Woman, a magazine pilot for KPRC-TV, James told me to apply to the National Film School of England which Young now headed. "You need the training. In two years you'll be at the networks," he said. But Young rejected my student application and the pilot I worked on for five months didn't get funded. It was a low period. We separated and I went from film to newsprint. I guess I have Colin Young to thank for Breakthrough. A year ago, two years after our divorce, James and I had lunch together. He talked about his latest project, The Invisible City, a film he was making with his friend, architect Adele Santos. As we were leaving our table, I turned to him and said, "I'm glad you finally learned to trust women," pleased that I could not only say it but mean it. Breakthrough ran a story with dozens of video images when their film came out (September 1979). I told someone on the paper that this story showed as much about the quality of our relationship as it did about Houston's deteriorating housing situation. 'Their shared pasts did not give them grounds for the future, both had admitted that, but it gave them an intimacy that was immune to further alteration." Zelda, p. 351 James and I met and married on the crest of feminism's second wave and we were tossed into the seventies. My emerging feminism was not the only obstacle in our path. I had to deal with the ex- teme possessiveness of many of James' male friends. Our marriage was a threat to their relationship. Several of them went out their way to advise him against marriage. I confronted one of them who simply said, "Well, we're just thinking of Jim's film career. We think getting married will take away from his projects. Why don't you wait until after he does his Mid- HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH