EMPIRE 'by Andy Warhol and John Palmer'

mekas_warhol_empire_premiere_flyer.jpg

Well this looks very nice. It's an original flyer for the premiere of Andy Warhol's film Empire, being sold by (or at least with the approval of) Jonas Mekas. It will be signed and shipped with a personalized letter of authentication. Which is a nice touch. Otherwise it's not clear to me what the going rate is for such ephemera, whether $1,300 for an 8.5 x 11 handout is ripoff or a steal.

Empire was made on July 25, 1964, but didn't premiere until March 6th, 1965. It was a Saturday, and the screening began at 8:30. [Does that mean it ran in real time? Not quite. Filming at 8:06 and ended at 2:42. Screening the film at 16fps draws it out to 8h5m.]

What's interesting to me is the credit, "by Andy Warhol and John Palmer." Palmer was an assistant to Jonas Mekas, and he is credited with the idea for Empire. [The 18yo had been using the Bolex his mom bought him to shoot the newly lit Empire State Building from the roof of Film Culture's offices on Park Avenue South.] Mekas pitched the project to Warhol and eventually helped run the camera, but it was Palmer who made the movie possible by securing the office in the Time-Life Building and the high-capacity camera needed to shoot nonstop for 6.5 hours.

Palmer's early equal billing on Empire has not survived the Warholian glare. MoMA's collection entry for Empire namechecks Mekas, but not Palmer; the film is credited solely to Warhol. It would be nice to straighten that out, History.

In her Screen Tests catalogue raisonné, Callie Angell wrote that Warhol "gave" Palmer co-director credit "because it was Palmer's idea to make a film of the [newly] floodlit skyscraper, because Palmer worked on the film, and also because his mother, Mary Palmer, donated money to get the film out of the lab."

john_palmer_screentest_253_angell.jpg
ST253, John Palmer, 1966, image: Screen Tests catalogue raisonné

He posed for Screen Tests along with his then-wife, Factory star Ivy Nicholson. Their daughter Penelope was three months old in 1966 when she became the only baby to sit for a Screen Test.

Though he went on to co-direct the tragicomic Edie Sedgwick film Ciao, Manhattan, Palmer's subsequent IMDb credits are primarily as a camera operator. I wonder if there are stories to hear, or perhaps more uncirculated flyers to procure.

UPDATE: Oh, it always gets better. greg.org reader Terry Wilfong sent a heads up for Palmer's interview with Steven Watson in Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties. They talked about making Empire, including the lab's refusal to return the film without payment in full:

[Palmer] called Warhol from a phone booth. "Ohhh, John, I don't have any money to pay for thaaaat," he said. "It will just have to stay in the lab." Palmer suggested he could try to get the $350 from his mother; if so, he would have to appear on the credits as codirector. The phone went silent for fifteen seconds, Palmer recalled, and than "Andy, in a voice I never heard and will never forget, said, 'Now you're learning.'"

very rare original World Premiere bill for Andy Warhol's EMPIRE 1964 [ebay]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: January 21, 2016.

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