In the 80’s, Boston University film professor Ray Carney became obsessed with finding the only existing print of the first version of Cassavetes’ Shadows (1957). He’d read criticism suggesting the early version was “the most frontier-breaking American feature film in at least a decade,” while the second, released in 1959, was “just another Hollywood film.”
Last month in the Guardian Carney recalled that even as he became consumed with his quest he recognized echoes of it in Henry James’ comic academics:
So many of the accounts of what had been in the early version – including Cassavetes’ own – contradicted each other that I joked that the longer the search went on the less I knew. Everything had been much clearer when I began. I teach literature as well as film, and one day in a Henry James seminar I was leading a discussion of The Aspern Papers and The Figure in the Carpet, two comical stories about endless, pointless, maniacal scholarly searches that never get anywhere, when I began laughing so hard that I had to stop the discussion and explain to my students that I had suddenly shockingly recognized my own particular scholarly madness in James’s characters. Was I really just crazy?
Carney’s story, unlike those of James’ maniacal scholars, ends well. Not only did he finally find the print but it “exceeded [his] expectations in every respect.” (Via Long Pauses.)