Below is a list of significant events and films in underground film history between the years 1950 and 1959. Reference key of sources appears at the bottom of the page.
Andy Warhol graduates from the Carnegie Institute in art.
Kenneth Anger moves to Paris.
Un Chant d’Amour
Color and Light No. 1
Amos Vogel publishes his first brochure of “20 Experimental/Rental Films, from Cinema 16.”
Reflections No. 11
Refractions No. 1
Roger Bruce Rogers
Rhapsody Motion Painting III
Celery Stalks at Midnight (B&W)
Robert Breer starts filming while living in Paris.
Stan Vanderbeek goes to Black Mountain School of Art, not to study, but to tend to the school farm and work on painting and calligraphy.
Richard S. Brummer
Color Dances No. 1
Bells of Atlantis
Venice Etude No. 1
Notes on the Port of St. Francis
Jan 6 — April 21: The School Of The Museum Of Fine Arts at Tufts University in Boston holds a series of avant-garde film screenings, including films by Fernand Leger, Jean Cocteau, James Davis and more. View program here.
Oct. 28: Willard Maas, Maya Deren, Parker Tyler, Arthur Miller and Dylan Thomas gather at Cinema 16 to discuss applying poetic styles to filmmaking.
Christopher MacLaine’s The End signifies the end of a highly productive time of underground filmmaking in San Francisco that began with 1946’s The Potted Psalm.
Bop Scotch (1952-53)
Analogies No. 1
The Little Fugitive
Things to Come
Texture of Decay (1947-53)
Appointment With Darkness (1950-53)
Kenneth Anger goes back to California to settle a family inheritance.
Mort D’un Cerf
Thru the Looking Glass
Treadle and Bobbin
Jazz of Lights
The Child’s Hand
Bruce Baillie earns a degree in art at the University of Minnesota.
Kenneth Anger completes a documentary of the erotic paintings of Aleister Crowley, but it is either lost or Anger just refuses to show it.
Mosaik im Vertrauen (1954-55)
Seve de la Terre
Under the Brooklyn Bridge
Writ in Water
Romantic Adventure of Edward (1955, recut 1957, 1965)
Man Is in Pain
The Mechanics of Love
Subject Lesson (1953-55)
Cinema 16 hosts the New York premiere of Kenneth Anger‘s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.
Stan Brakhage, age 23, comes to Hollywood in the fall, hoping to work on Charles Laughton’s The Naked and the Dead, except that Laughton by then was off the project. Instead, he ended up taking odd jobs at commercial filmmaking houses. He also met Sidney Peterson, Kenneth Anger and Curtis Harrington.
What Mozart Saw on Mulberry Street
Lovers and Lollipops
Weddings and Babies
Miracle for Sale Cheap
October 11: Raymond Rohauer is arrested in Los Angeles for screening “obscene” films. The films are Kenneth Anger‘s Fireworks and John E. Schmitz’s The Voices.
Vortex Concerts, curated by Henry Jacobs, begin at the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The concerts ran until 1959 and included footage by James Whitney, Jordan Belson and Hy Hirsch.
Marie Menken returns to film.
Joseph Marzano and George Manupelli begin their film careers.
Bob Pike founds the Creative Film Society in Los Angeles to help underground filmmakers share their ideas and equipment; and to distribute their films.
Although Film Culture was originally hostile to the experimental film scene, the November issue devotes half of its pages to presenting “The Experimental Scene” in a positive light.
A Man and His Dog Out for Air
Recreation I (1956-57)
Recreation II (1956-57)
Toccata for Toy Trains
Dadascope 1 and 2
On the Bowery
Ellen in Window Land (1956-57)
Celery Stalks at Midnight
Multiscreen collaboration with Charles Eames for a Moscow exhibition
February 20: Raymond Rohauer is found guilty in a jury trial in Los Angeles for screening “obscene” films. The films are Kenneth Anger‘s Fireworks and John E. Schmitz’s The Voices.
November 12: The Village Voice publishes Jonas Mekas‘s first “Movie Journal” column.
The fifth Vortex Concert is held at the Brussels World’s Fair.
Robert Branaman, Bruce Conner and Richard Preston begin film careers.
Kenneth Anger screens 2nd version of Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954, recut 1966) at Brussels Experimental Film Festival.
At the international experimental film competition in Brussels, Len Lye won 2nd Prize ($5,000) for Free Radicals.
Opening title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo
February 27: Raymond Rohauer has his obscenity conviction reversed by a Superior Court in Los Angeles. He had been convicted of screening films with homosexual content and a naked woman. The films were Kenneth Anger‘s Fireworks and John E. Schmitz’s The Voices.
Late February: Maya Deren premieres The Very Eye of Night at a retrospective of her work at The Living Theatre. There were then two command performances at the Cherry Lane.
May 5: Jonas Mekas meets Ron Rice for the first time. Rice is anxious to start making movies.
Mid November: Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie’s Pull My Daisy premieres at the Cinema 16 screening series in NYC.
Film Culture establishes the Independent Film Award.
Bruce Baillie enters the London School of Film Technique.
Ed Emshwiller finishes first film.
During the summer, Maya Deren gives a series of lectures in Woodstock, N.Y.
Maya Deren has her essay “Amateur versus Professional” published.
Robert Breer resettles in the U.S. in Palisades, N.Y. after studying art in Paris.
Le Testament d’Orphée
Millions in Business as Usual
Alfred Leslie and Robert Frank
Pull My Daisy
D.C: David Curtis. Experimental Cinema. New York: Dell Pub., 1978.
D.E.J.: David E. James. The Most Typical Avant-garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles. Berkeley: University of California, 2005.
J.M.: Jonas Mekas. Movie Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema, 1959-1971. Collier Books, 1972.
J.S.: Jack Sargeant. Deathtripping: the Extreme Underground. Brooklyn: Soft Skull, 2008. (Originally published: London: Creation, 1995.)
P.A.S.: P. Adams Sitney. Visionary Film: the American Avant-garde, 1943-2000. New York: Oxford UP, 2002.
S.M.: Scott MacDonald. Canyon Cinema: the Life and times of an Independent Film Distributor. Berkeley: University of California, 2008.
S.R.: Sheldon Renan. An Introduction to the American Underground Film. New York: Dutton, 1967.