Two happy memories for Northwest film folk. Two success stories.
The first was that of Rob Thompson, an Eastside resident laid up for a few weeks in the early Seventies (accident? illness? don't recall). He whiled away his convalescence watching old cowboy movies on television (obviously, that was a more enlightened era in local TV programming!) and eventually started thinking about building a screenplay around the grinding-out of such product. He wrote it and, miraculously, sold it. Made a nice little picture, though the picture—Hearts of the West—didn't make a dime. Thompson, however, went on to make a good living as a script doctor.
Hearts of the West came out in 1975. Five years later, in autumn 1980, it was selected as one of the films to look at in an epic screenwriting symposium initially proposed by Jeff "The Dude" Dowd, subsequent inspiration for the Jeff Bridges character in The Big Lebowski. The University of Washington in its infinite wisdom had just cut Cinema Studies out of the biennial budget, but the course went through as a class for nonmatriculated students. One hundred eighty-four of them signed up, and came for three three-hour sessions a week that included screenings, workshops, and visits from such Dowd-invited luminaries as John Sayles, Irvin Kershner, Joan Micklin Silver, Jonathan Demme, the Airplane! triumvirate, and producer Tony Bill, who'd bought Rob Thompson's screenplay. As the NPR ladies say in the "Schweddy Balls" sketch, good times.
Hearts of the West will be shown on Turner Classic Movies this coming Friday, Nov. 4, at 9 a.m. West Coast time, 12 noon Eastern. Here's the program note from the "Marvelous Modern Scripts" screening. —RTJ