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“You are the only intelligent film collector I have ever met,” A 16mm film dealer who had come up to Toronto from The United States said to me in my kitchen in 1981.

The thing is I was not nor ever have been a film collector.

In high school my teachers encouraged me to be a writer. I saw film as the medium in that time print had been. I began to read books on the art, business and history of motion pictures. One day I realized I should be looking at the films I was reading about. When I asked theater owners to show the films I had been reading about they looked at me like I was a one kid communist plot to put them out of business. When I found, in the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, an ad offering 8mm copies of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) and Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS (1927) from John Griggs MOVIEDROME I bought them. With them came Grigg’s catalogue.  I ordered more.

Friends I showed the films too found them boring. When I came to Toronto and people found I had films they wanted to see I was asked to show them. Unlike my “friends” these strangers knew what they were seeing and were excited.

Through those screenings I have met a great many very interesting people. I also made many friends.

One thing I learned early on was that film buffs by and large were not very interesting people. The good thing is that film buffs have never liked me either. You won’t find film buffs at my screenings. Mostly film buffs, whether gay or straight, are sexually dysfunctional people who prefer shadow to substance.

Think that a harsh statement? You won’t after you have read Anthony Slide’s MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION The  Outrageous  History of Film Buffs, Collectors, Scholars and Fanatics.

His words on academics are must reading for every young would be film maker who thinks if you want to make movies you have to go to college, film school or university.

An 18 year old who asked if he could live here took the course at York University in Toronto. I said, “Study here. I will show you everything that matters and more. If you go there they will kill your love of the movies.”

Said the 18 year old, “I will find that out for myself.”

Well, he did and it did. Instead of making movies he’s working as a waiter. The thing is he’s probably better off as a waiter. Certainly, he’s enjoying his life more than people who make movies seem to enjoy their lives.

Slide writes of this complete lack of love for the medium of the movies found among academics world wide and the subsequent murdering of love in the hearts of their students. That won’t stop young people from going to university. As David Mamet wrote in TRUE AND FALSE, “This is a generation that likes to stay in school.” Mamet also states, “Invent nothing. Deny nothing. Stand up. Speak up. Stay out of school.”

Gerald Pratley (  ) ran THE ONTARIO FILM THEATER at  The Ontario Science Center. The first time we had lunch Gerald said, “Reg, you must have a huge fan following.”

I said, “No, I don’t. When I see a fan growing I drive them away. Fans worship people but have no life of their own. When we do something they don’t like they bring out the knives.”

Gerald’s face turned white. He said, “My God, you are right.”

Gerald, of course, had had the knives brought out more than once.

In this book I learned that John Griggs, from whom I bought my first 8mm features, was a failed actor thanks to alcoholism. That, in this book, is a minor failing. Drunk though he may have been John Griggs produced superb copies of the films he offered. Not so with many other people who offered 8mm and 16mm titles.

One of the most important people mentioned in the book is William K. Everson. I met Everson once through Ed Jull and Doug Wilson (with whom I briefly lived). I talked of Everson’s battle with MGM over screening the silent version of BEN HUR (1926) and of how, as detailed in Kevin Brownlow’s book, THE PARADE’S GONE BY, Lillian Gish came to his rescue to testify in court.

The friend I had with me (not a film buff) told me after that he had watched Everson’s face while I talked of that. “It never happened,” said my friend (who also was 18).

Guess what? My friend was right. Anthony Slide writes there was no charge, no trial and no intervention from Lillian Gish.

That brings to light one of the things I swiftly learned when I got copies of the films I had read about. I could see that the descriptions of the films in the books was completely different from the actual films themselves.

One author of a book on animated cartoons got everything wrong. When he came to Toronto I invited him over. I showed him many of the films he had written about. After having seen them he said, “That’s what I get for relying on second hand information. I am going to have to re-write that book.”

One of my favorite stories is when a Judy Garland fan who  could not have sex with her as she was no longer among the living decided to sleep with one of her former leading men. Writes Slide, “Stalking? Yes, but no harm done and the elderly gentleman received the best blow job he had had in years and the star (a misprint here it ought to be fan) had a close encounter with genitalia that had supposedly once been in contact with Judy Garland.”

Slide is quietly comfortable with his own lack of good looks and his sexuality. He does not make an issue of it (nor should he). He writes as someone who has been in the club but never a member of it (which is not to say that he is not homosexual but rather that he lacks completely the attitude that many homosexual film buffs carry. Nowhere does that shine through more than in his writing on David Bradley and Lawrence “Larry” Austin, two men of whom Slide can write little that is good.

I will say that Bradley’s films of PEER GYNT (1941) is pretty good and features a very pretty teenage Charlton Heston (   ) while his JULIUS CAESAR is not too shabby either (, ).

Bradley, we learn, was proud of being the director of THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN chosen as the worst film ever made.

Slide has little that is good to say about film bloggers and, again, he hits the nail soundly on the head for we find much thunder but very little substance in their outpourings. Even the best, which in my view is GREENBRIAR PICTURE SHOWS (   ) is terrified of posting anything that might offend readers as I have found when its host wrote me several times stating what I had written was good but could not go up as people would take offense.

Thus the writing never goes above the schoolboy level.

In the chapter titled SEX AND THE FILM BUFF Slide has little to say as film buffs, in the main, don’t have sex and don’t like it (too messy). One film buff with whom I briefly stayed wailed in the middle of the night, “I’m 75 years old and still a virgin!”

Perhaps he thought that the way to get me to jump into his bed. It wasn’t. I thought of buying him a prostitute but refrained. That was something he had to do for himself.

Slide’s harshest words come for the current generation of internet film buffs. Again here, as throughout the book every word is carefully chosen and wonderfully apt.

These are people who by and large have never had a life and who never will.

This is not say there is not some sunshine in this book. Leonard Maltin, who tends to gush (deservedly) about everything comes off as one of the few in the book it would be neat to know. I can say that Jerry Beck, who is not in the book, is also a swell guy and a generous spirit but such people among film buffs are few and far between.

While the Toronto scene is briefly written about I, personally, am not included despite over fifty years of having been a part of it. That, too, is apt as I’m not a film buff though I work with films and love them.

I love to read more than I love to look at movies which makes me an anomaly as people who like movies don’t read unless it is about the movies. It is interesting to discover that one of the earliest surveys of movie audiences described them as mostly composed of morons.

We do, however, owe a big debt to film collectors no matter how anti-social and obnoxious so many of them were. They saved films Hollywood viewed as junk (which, until recently, was everything not made in the last five years).

Some people who did a lot (namely Forrest J Ackerman whose FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine though generally despised by those who saw themselves as intelligent turned a lot of kids like myself, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and a host of others on to the movies and Henri Langlois whose passion caused him to beg, borrow and steal everything he could) get brief mention.

This is a beautifully produced book on a subject I can’t imagine many people being interested in.

I am. I am glad Slide wrote it. The next time I tell a kid to stay out of film school (which will be many times in the next few days) I can back up my statement with Anthony Slide.

Over the years film buffs told me, “We’d come to your programs if only you would not speak.”

One of my regulars was the author of THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES, Jane Jacobs. After we had shared a few beers in her kitchen she said to me, “The best part of what you offer is what you have to say.” Considering the source, that ain’t too shabby.

Will Sloan, at the time a young student, wrote in The UofT Varsity, “I seldom feel a film’s greatness in film class. I regularly feel it at Reg Hartt’s Cineforum.” That’s a helluva quote. When I put it on a poster Will freaked. “I did not write that for you to use it that way!” he cried. I had written was a sexy little fellow with girls hot for his body. He did not like that, either. He certainly qualifies to be a member of the sexless group Slide writes about which is a shame.

That hot little stud has been eating too many doughnuts. He’s turned into a film buff.

In 1970 in Hollywood I was asked by two police officers what I had done in Toronto. I replied, “I showed films at Rochdale College.”

They said, “Do you mean Canada’s Communist Training Center?”

Right there I knew that if the police in Hollywood, the most out of touch place on earth, knew about Rochdale then Rochdale had to be the hippest place on earth. I returned to Toronto to become part of Rochdale. Rochdale opened its doors in 1968, fifty years ago. It began as an 18 floor student high rise. Along the way it morphed into the boldest experiment in alternate education ever undertaken any where any when. Inside Rochdale the authorities allowed the use of hashish, LSD, marijuana, mescaline and peyote. The higher up we went, the higher we got.

Film buffs said to me, “If only you’d show your films someplace else we would come.”

That is a film buff for you. No balls.

–Reg Hartt 8/12/2018.

“Reg Hartt’s Cineforum is everything Jane Jacobs writes about.”

Not many people got fan letters from Jane Jacobs. I got several. Here are two.

I discovered THE I CHING by chance in 1968. As THE I CHING is about how chance rules our lives this chance discovery was most propitious. It tilled the earth for everything that followed.

The author of this piece from the Toronto Star said, “The people at THE STAR think the films you show are trash.”

THE CINEFORUM is one of the few places on earth where Mickey can be Mickey.

“My father told me, ‘I have hated you from the moment you were born as in that second I realized I had to die,” said Reg Hartt to Michael Valpy who replied, “First born sons.” Hartt knew then this is something common to fathers. It explains much.

Reg Hartt Bernard B. Brown 2 ,

John McElwee’s GREENBRIAR PICTURE SHOWS is one of the very few really good film blogs. His love ours out in abundance. That’s are on the web.


The great films from Hollywood’s Golden Age of Theatrical Cartoons (1920 to 1960) wee cut to bits by scissor happen censors. Many of the very best are banned. In my programs people see them as their creators meant us to.

Bernard B. Brown played first violin in the orchestra which accompanied THE BIRTH OF A NATION during its premiere run in Los Angeles in 1915. On retiring he taught film and film sound at UCLA. For three days in 1980 he taught me.

I came to Toronto from Hollywood in 1970 to become part of the most reviled place in the city, Rochdale College, where I became Director of Cinema Studies. Rochdale had no money to pay me. That was fine because I was standing on Faith. I am still standing on Faith.


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