Pull My Daisy

This is the only film the core Beat writers of the 1950's actually created themselves. They participated in the creation of a few, almost all of them hokey failures like the film version of 'The Subterraneans but "Pull My Daisy" was not a hyped-up commercial effort by a Hollywood studio but rather a fun and largely spontaneous experiment, arranged in 1959 by the well-known photographer Robert Frank along with Alfred Leslie. They enlisted the participation of Jack Kerouac, who offered in place of an original screenplay a stage-play he'd never finished writing, "The Beat Generation." The plot is based on an incident in the life of Neal Cassady and his wife Carolyn. They're raising a family and trying to fit in with their suburban neighbors, and one night they invite a respectable neighborhood bishop over for dinner. But Neal's Beat friends crash the party, and that Marx-Brother's-like scenario is the closest thing this film has to a storyline.

We do not see Kerouac on camera, but he provides the voice-over as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, artist Larry Rivers and musician David Amram act out the scenes.

Seeing this film today, the most striking thing about it is that everybody involved seemed to be having fun. It's not an incredibly great film and it certainly doesn't hold together perfectly as either comedy or drama. But it's short and clever and provides a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the major Beat writers at a time when they were still not too trapped by their legendary personas to do something silly in public, just for the sake of doing it.

It's also cool to consider that, along with being ahead of their times as literary figures, Kerouac and Ginsberg and Corso anticipated the 80's/90's film-culture phenomenon known as the "indie"!

Other Beat-related films

Literary Kicks
by Levi Asher