Shadows (1959 film)

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Jc shadows.jpg
Directed by John Cassavetes
Produced by Maurice McEndree
Nikos Papatakis
Written by John Cassavetes
Starring Ben Carruthers
Lelia Goldoni
Hugh Hurd
Anthony Ray
Release dates
November 11, 1959
Running time
78 min. (1957 version)
87 min. (1959 version)
Country United States
Language English

Shadows is an improvised film about interracial relations during the Beat Generation years in New York City, and was written and directed by John Cassavetes. The film stars Ben Carruthers, Lelia Goldoni, Hugh Hurd, and Anthony Ray (Tony in the film).

Many film scholars consider Shadows a milestone in independent cinema of the United States - a genre in whose fans' circles the film has become legendary. In 1960 the film won the Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival.


Cassavetes shot the film twice, once in 1957 and again in 1959. The second version is the one Cassavetes favored. Although he did screen the first version, he lost track of the print, and for decades it was believed to have been lost or destroyed. The 1957 version was intended to have the jazz music of Charles Mingus on the soundtrack, but Mingus failed to meet various deadlines set by Cassavetes. The contributions of saxophonist Shafi Hadi, the saxophonist for Mingus's group, proved to ultimately be the soundtrack for the film.

Alternative version[edit]

In 2004, after over a decade of searching, film scholar Ray Carney announced he had located the original 1957 version of the film.[1] This print had apparently been screened only a few times before being mislaid.[2] Carney says his find includes a complete credits sequence which shows it is a final version, not a rough assembly.[3]


Film critic Leonard Maltin calls Cassavetes' second version of Shadows "a watershed in the birth of American independent cinema". The movie was shot with a 16 mm handheld camera on the streets of New York. Much of the dialogue was improvised, and the crew were class members or volunteers. The jazz-infused score underlines the movie's Beat Generation theme of alienation and raw emotion. The movie's plot features an interracial relationship, which was still a taboo subject in Eisenhower-era America.

In 1993, Shadows was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


  1. ^ Carney, Ray (February 2004). "The Searcher". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  2. ^ Carney, Ray (2004). "Lost and Found Department: Chasing Shadows". Ray Carney. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  3. ^ Carney, Ray (2007). "Letters from students and artists, announcements of events and screenings, and miscellaneous observations about life and art". Ray Carney. p. 60. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 

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