Jerry Harvey (screenwriter)
Born in Bakersfield, California, a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Harvey first established himself within the film community by programming the director's cut of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch at the Beverly Canon Theater in 1974. Peckinpah himself was in attendance. The film played that day to a sellout crowd.
The very concept of "the director's cut" had no commercial viability until Harvey demonstrated it with this screening. After, as longer versions of such films as Touch of Evil by Orson Welles began surfacing from studio vaults, "director's cuts" became a staple of the Revival House theater-circuit. (In the 1960s and '70s, before the rise of Home Video, "Revival Houses" were the only way to see films as their makers intended.) Harvey's passion for film won him great friendships with such maverick filmmakers and master directors as Robert Altman, James B. Harris, Monte Hellman, and such actors as Peter O'Toole. He brought these relationships to bear on his work at Z Channel, where he became director of programming in 1981. The films whose director's cuts Harvey championed, using Z's as a showcase, include: Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, The Ruling Class with Peter O'Toole, Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, Karel Reisz's The Loves of Isadora. John Ford's Up the River, Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.
A 2004 documentary directed by Xan Cassavetes, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, detailed Harvey's life and accomplishments. Altman and Harris attested to Harvey's great sympathy and inspirational value as a champion of film. Younger filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, and Jim Jarmusch likewise acknowledged the influence of Z on their own work.
The film also chronicles a tragic history with women. Harvey's two older sisters, Mary and Ann, committed suicide in 1975 and 1978 respectively. These deaths, and the inherent despairs which triggered them, haunted and afflicted Harvey—destroying two longtime love-relationships, first with Doreen Ringer-Ross who lived with Harvey from 1973 to 1978, and photographer-filmmaker Vera Anderson, who married Harvey shortly after Ann's suicide in '78, and divorced him in 1984. Harvey's second wife, Deri Rudulph (born December 21, 1949), married him in February, 1986. They remained together until April 9, 1988, when Harvey killed Rudulph with a pistol before turning the gun on himself.
Z Channel, launched in 1974, was one of the first Pay TV services in the U.S. The channel enjoyed tremendous popularity and influence even before Harvey took charge of its programming in 1981. Producer Charles Joffe told filmmaker Xan Cassavetes that the primary strategic reason Woody Allen's Annie Hall won the Academy Award in 1977 is because it had played so frequently on Z Channel during the weeks the awards were being voted on.
Jerry Harvey's first significant coup came in 1982, when studio executive David Chasman alerted him that the director's cut of Heaven's Gate, written and directed by Michael Cimino, was lying fallow in a British vault. Few had seen this version since its one week run in Manhattan, in November 1980. (The film had been so viciously attacked that it was generally believed, even by studio insiders, that Cimino's original version had ceased to exist altogether.) Harvey retrieved this one remaining print and gave it a highly publicized "world premiere" on December 24, 1982. The success of this airing was consequential. Cimino's version was shortly released on home video, where it is now the only version available.
Although Harvey saw to it that "Z" (as it was affectionately known by its subscribers and devotees) kept commercial pace with its rivals HBO, Showtime and The Movie Channel—always showing the latest box office hits—Z's primary appeal to viewers lay in its devotion to films that were passionate, and personal.
- Los Angeles Times, April 11, 1988.
- Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004), a documentary directed by Xan Cassavetes. Produced by Marshall Pirsinger, Rick Ross, and coproduced by F.X. Feeney for IFC Films. Distributed on DVD by Hart Sharp Video.