The Connection (1961 film)

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The Connection
Poster of the movie The Connection.jpg
Directed by Shirley Clarke
Produced by Lewis M. Allen
Shirley Clarke
Written by Jack Gelber (based on his play)
Starring Warren Finnerty
William Redfield
Music by Freddie Redd
Cinematography Arthur J. Ornitz
Edited by Shirley Clarke
Release dates
May 1961 (Cannes)
3 October 1962 (NYC)
11 February 2012 (Berlin)
Running time
110 min.
Language English

The Connection is a 1961 feature film by the noted American experimental filmmaker Shirley Clarke. The film was Clarke's first feature; she had made several short films over the previous decade.


Based on the play The Connection by Jack Gelber, the film follows a young filmmaker who attempts to film junkies waiting for their heroin dealer to arrive.

Most of the actors from the original stage production reprised their roles for the film: Warren Finnerty as Leach, Carl Lee as Cowboy, Garry Goodrow as Ernie, Jerome Raphel as Solly, Barbra Winchester as Sister Salvation, and Henry Proach as Harry. All the musicians from the original stage production appeared: Freddie Redd (composer, piano), Jackie McLean (alto sax), Michael Mattos (bass), and Larry Ritchie (drums). Non-original cast members James Anderson and Wlliam Redfield took the roles of Sam and Jim Dunn. The character of Jaybird was cut from the film, that role essentially shifted to an off-screen camera operator, J.J. Burden, voiced by Roscoe Lee Brown.

The film is significant in the history of film censorship, as Clarke and producer Lewis Allen had filed suit to be able to show the film in New York. (The film had already premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1961.) In that era, in New York, the State's Department of Education had a vote on the State's film licensing board, and they voted to deny a license, mainly on the grounds that the word "shit" was used repeatedly during the film, even though it was mostly used to refer to drugs.

The case went all the way to the New York State Court of Appeals (the state's highest court). The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the intermediate level Appellate Division, which had held that while 'vulgar', this usage could not be considered obscene. Ultimately, the film was not a success at the box office.

Release of restored version[edit]

On May 4, 2012, Milestone Films released a version of The Connection restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.[1]


  • Lauren Rabinovitz, Points of Resistance: Women, Power & Politics in the New York Avant-Garde Cinema 1943-71 (2nd ed.) University of Illinois Press, 2003
  • The Connection Company v. Regents of the University of the State of New York 17 A.D.2d 671 (1962)

External links[edit]