CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite Introduces America to Underground Films and the Velvet Underground (1965)

“Not every­one ‘digs’ under­ground movies, but those who do can ‘dig’ ’em here.” Now imag­ine those words spo­ken in the arche­typ­al so-square-it’s-cool con­sum­mate mid­cen­tu­ry news­cast­er voice — or actu­al­ly watch them enun­ci­at­ed in just that man­ner out on the steps of New York’s The Bridge, “one of sev­er­al small the­aters around the coun­try where ‘under­ground’ films are shown.” The report, which aired on CBS Evening News with Wal­ter Cronkite on Decem­ber 31st, 1965, intro­duced to main­stream Amer­i­cans such avant-garde film­mak­ers as Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, and Andy Warhol — as well as a cer­tain band called the Vel­vet Under­ground.

This six-minute seg­ment spends some time with Piero Helicz­er, film­mak­er, poet, and “once the Jack­ie Coogan of Italy.” As Dan­ger­ous Minds’ Mar­tin Schnei­der writes, “When CBS came a‑callin’ to do its sto­ry, Helicz­er was shoot­ing a 12-minute short called Dirt, fea­tur­ing the Vel­vet Under­ground, and that was the scene Helicz­er hap­pened to be shoot­ing that day. (For some rea­son none of the fel­lows in the band are wear­ing a shirt.)” Schnei­der also quotes Vel­vet Under­ground found­ing mem­ber Ster­ling Mor­ri­son, who cred­its play­ing in Helicz­er’s “hap­pen­ings” with show­ing him the pos­si­bil­i­ties of exper­i­men­tal music: “The path ahead became sud­den­ly clear — I could work on music that was dif­fer­ent from ordi­nary rock & roll since Piero had giv­en us a con­text to per­form.”

I can only imag­ine how the view­ers of fifty years and one week ago must have react­ed to hear­ing these cut­ting-edge film­mak­ers dis­cussing “the nar­ra­tive aspect and the poet­ic aspect” of cin­e­ma, let alone see­ing clips of their works them­selves, right down to a rep­re­sen­ta­tive twen­ty sec­onds of Andy Warhol’s SleepIt even includes a clip from Brakhage’s Two: Creeley/McClure which must have made more than a few of them won­der if their set had sud­den­ly gone on the blink. But even the most staid of CBS’s audi­ence must have come away with a nov­el idea or two worth think­ing about, such as Brakhage’s stat­ed aim of mak­ing movies “for view­ing in a liv­ing room, rather than in a the­ater.” That, per­haps, they could dig.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Three “Anti-Films” by Andy Warhol: Sleep, Eat & Kiss

A Sym­pho­ny of Sound (1966): Vel­vet Under­ground Impro­vis­es, Warhol Films It, Until the Cops Turn Up

Warhol’s Screen Tests: Lou Reed, Den­nis Hop­per, Nico, and More

New Wave Music–DEVO, Talk­ing Heads, Blondie, Elvis Costello–Gets Intro­duced to Amer­i­ca by ABC’s TV Show, 20/20 (1979)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.