Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Kerouac and Cassady – On The Road.

Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road is now also a motion picture. Walter Salles, who did Motorcycle Diaries (about some early travels of Che Guevara), directed and it stars Sam Riley as Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac), Garret Hedlund as Dean Moriarity (Neal Cassady), Kristen Stewart as Marylou (LuAnne Henderson) and Kirsten Dunst as Camille (Carolyn Cassady).

Kerouac finished the book On The Road in 1951 and it was published in 1957. It was based on the travels he took with Cassady and Cassady’s wife at the time LouAnne Henderson and helped define the ‘Beat Generation’ (Kerouac coined the term ‘Beat Generation’).

Cassady was from Denver (as was LouAnne) and though he met Kerouac in New York City they both ended up back in Denver for a time. It was then that Cassady met Carolyn Robinson, whom he eventually also married. She also had a long-time affair with Kerouac.

There are still places you can see that Kerouac and/or Cassady haunted. My favorite is the bar at the corner of 15th and Platte, now called My Brother’s Bar. Kerouac and Cassady (and Carolyn) also frequented the Rossonian (now vacant and boarded up) in Five Points for Jazz. It doesn’t look like it now, it has all been redeveloped, but Larimer Street from 14th Street north was the heart of Denver’s Skid Row in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Cassady and Kerouac spent time there. The Colburn Hotel on Grant Street is where Carolyn Cassady (Robinson) was living while she was going to Denver University and met and began an affair with Cassady. It is also where she found Cassady, LouAnne and Allen Ginsberg, all naked, in bed together. In 1949, Kerouac lived for while in a house he bought (proceeds from the sale of Town and the City) at 6100 W. Center in what is now Lakewood.

So much of On The Road has a Denver focus, but of course no filming was done here. That’s a story we are all too familiar with in Denver and Colorado. On The Road opens in Denver January 18th, 2013.

There is another film that deals with Kerouac, Cassady and Carolyn Cassady: 1980’s Heart Beat, based on Carolyn Cassady’ memoir Heart Beat My Life With Jack and Neal.

In that film, Nick Nolte played Neal Cassady, Sissy Spacek played Carolyn and John Heard played Kerouac. The memoir covers the time from the late forties through the fifties, the film focuses on the early period, concurrent with Kerouac’s writing of On The Road.

Heart Beat was not a great film, but it had a wonderful look – truly evoking the late forties and fifties. It even had a 49’ Hudson (with a Pueblo Tent and Awning canvas water bag hanging from the hood ornament)like the one the three drove.

I remember the film well because I had a small (very small) part. I played a waiter in a scene in a San Francisco restaurant where the three are meeting someone.

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