To The Film Industry In Crisis

“Motion Picture Industry. It’s You I love!”,wrote Frank O'HarainThe Film Industry in Crisis, published in 1957, while Hollywood was caught the aftermath of the pandemic that swept the world that year. That influenza virus, nicknamed Asian Flu, killed 1.1 million worldwide, and 116,000 in the United States. Here is the entire poem.

Poem by Frank O'Hara

Not you, lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals with your studious incursions toward the pomposity of ants, nor you, experimental theatre in which Emotive Fruition is wedding Poetic Insight perpetually, nor you, promenading Grand Opera, obvious as an ear (though you are close to my heart), but you, Motion Picture Industry, it's you I love! In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love. And give credit where it's due: not to my starched nurse, who taught me how to be bad and not bad rather than good (and has lately availed herself of this information), not to the Catholic Church which is at best an oversolemn introduction to cosmic entertainment, not to the American Legion, which hates everybody, but to you, glorious Silver Screen, tragic Technicolor, amorous Cinemascope, stretching Vistavision and startling Stereophonic Sound, with all your heavenly dimensions and reverberations and iconoclasms! To Richard Barthelmess as the 'tol'able' boy barefoot and in pants, Jeanette MacDonald of the flaming hair and lips and long, long neck, Sue Carroll as she sits for eternity on the damaged fender of a car and smiles, Ginger Rogers with her pageboy bob like a sausage on her shuffling shoulders, peach-melba-voiced Fred Astaire of the feet, Eric von Stroheim, the seducer of mountain-climbers' gasping spouses, the Tarzans, each and every one of you (I cannot bring myself to prefer Johnny Weissmuller to Lex Barker, I cannot!), Mae West in a furry sled, her bordello radiance and bland remarks, Rudolph Valentino of the moon, its crushing passions, and moonlike, too, the gentle Norma Shearer, Miriam Hopkins dropping her champagne glass off Joel McCrea's yacht, and crying into the dappled sea, Clark Gable rescuing Gene Tierney from Russia and Allan Jones rescuing Kitty Carlisle from Harpo Marx, Cornel Wilde coughing blood on the piano keys while Merle Oberon berates, Marilyn Monroe in her little spike heels reeling through Niagara Falls, Joseph Cotten puzzling and Orson Welles puzzled and Dolores del Rio eating orchids for lunch and breaking mirrors, Gloria Swanson reclining, and Jean Harlow reclining and wiggling, and Alice Faye reclining and wiggling and singing, Myrna Loy being calm and wise, William Powell in his stunning urbanity, Elizabeth Taylor blossoming, yes, to you and to all you others, the great, the near-great, the featured, the extras who pass quickly and return in dreams saying your one or two lines, my love!

Long may you illumine space with your marvellous appearances, delays and enunciations, and may the money of the world glitteringly cover you as you rest after a long day under the kleig lights with your faces in packs for our edification, the way the clouds come often at night but the heavens operate on the star system. It is a divine precedent you perpetuate! Roll on, reels of celluloid, as the great earth rolls on!


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