September 1, 2013
One Day When I Was Lost

One Day When I Was Lost

September 1, 2013
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James Baldwin’s incursion into Hollywood to work on a film script of Malcolm X’s life was, by all accounts, a disaster. Baldwin reluctantly agreed to work on the script at a volatile time in his own life and in history – Martin Luther King was assassinated while Baldwin was writing – and he felt pulled in a number of different directions by the film’s would-be producers, by the Black Muslims, and by other black revolutionaries keen to have a hand in the film version of Malcolm’s story. According to biographer David Leeming, “Because of his work on the film Baldwin…closely identified with Malcolm and thought of him as a soul mate” (295), so the breakdown in his relationship with the filmmakers was personal as well as artistic. Columbia pictures wanted a sanitized and carefully controlled version of Malcolm’s life, and Baldwin claimed that he would tell Malcolm’s story “my way or not at all.” After a legendary standoff, Baldwin’s script, edited by Arnold Perl, was sold to Warner Brothers, made into a documentary that was never screened publicly, and buried. Baldwin published his version of the script as One Day When I Was Lost (1972) and moved on. He wrote in The Devil Finds Work, ‘“I would rather be horsewhipped, or incarcerated in the forthright bedlam of Bellevue, than repeat the adventure” (115).

Two decades after the publication of One Day When I Was Lost, five years after Baldwin’s death, Spike Lee released his movie Malcolm X with characteristic hype. …Through all of the discussions over the movie’s significance, controversies, strengths, and weaknesses, Baldwin’s name has rarely been mentioned. Because Lee had used the Baldwin-Perl script owned by Warner Brothers, Baldwin’s estate did not want Baldwin’s name on the credits, and Arnold Perl, who died in 1971, a year before Baldwin published One Day When I Was Lost, is listed as the screenwriter (Weinraub, 1).

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— Quentin Miller, “Lost and Found? Baldwin’s Script and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X”

August 2, 2012
Happy Birthday James Baldwin!

(James Baldwin & Marlon Brando)

"It is a pity that we won’t, probably, ever have the time to attempt to define once more the relationship of the odd and disreputable artist to the odd and disreputable revolutionary; for the revolutionary, howerver odd, is rarely disreputable in the same way that an artist can be.  These two seem doomed to stand forever at an odd and rather uncomfortable angle to each other, and they both stand at a sharp and not always comfortable angle to the people they both, in their different fashions, hope to serve….Ultimately, the artist and the revoultionary function as they function, and pay whatever dues they must pay behind it because they are both possessed by a vision, and they do not so much follow this viosion as find themselves driven by it.  Otherwise, they could never edure, much less embrace, the lives they are compelled to lead.  And I think we need each other, and have much to learn from each other, and, more than ever, now."

-No Name In The Street

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Filed under: James Baldwin 
March 14, 2012

James Baldwin: Love & Rage & Hope

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Filed under: James Baldwin