Description If any motion picture could be considered a sleeper and a sadly neglected work of art it would be this film. It marked the first musical to be shot on the MGM sound stages since the 1950's. Pennies is set in the Great Depression of the 1930's, based on Dennis Potter's mini-series originally done for the BBC; with a new screenplay by the author. The film has many high points, but one of the best is Christopher Walken's solo dance number, which garnered praise from both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Walken rehearsed two months on it, while Astaire would rehearse all his dance routines in his RKO films from six weeks to two months with his alter ego Hermes Pan (1909-1990).The look of the film is remarkable, based partly on the photos of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange discussed in my first essay on photography. Production designer Ken Adam was also inspired by the look of Edward Hopper paintings. (Hopper is looked at in my essay on art.) And Pennies was shot by that modern master of brooding light Gordon Willis.The singers mouth the lyrics from original '30's songs, including The Street Singer Arthur Tracy (1899-1997) title tune, lip-synched by dancer Vernal Bagneris as golden pennies cascade from above. The cheery lyrics and the often bleak look of the film caused some critics to complain.@2009 David Lee Guss Neo-film noir, Pennies From Heaven, 1981, lightning, monsoon summer storm, Casa Grande, Arizona, 2004
David Lee Guss, Caaa Grande, Arizona Member Since November 2009 Artist Statement I first became obsessed with photography and motion pictures while growing up in post WW2 Manila in the Philippine Islands in the late 1940's/early 1950's. Film noirs were a particular influence.
But my first love remains the theater. I acted in numerous amateur productions from 1958 to 1978. In 1979 I earned a MA in drama from the University of Arizona; earlier getting a BA in English from the University of Minnesota, where I co-founded and ran for four years the first film society on campus. While at the U of A, I studied with the master black and white photo essayist W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978) the last year of his life. I am the last person cited in Jim Hughes' definitive biography of Gene, as I wrote about attending his final class days before his death.
I still consider myself an amateur photographer as almost all my work displayed here has been self assignments. After graduating from an announcing school in Minneapolis in 1964 I began employment as a news anchorman/booth announcer/writer/still photographer, at the now defunct KXAB TV in Aberdeen, South Dakota, without having taken a journalism course or ever have taken a photograph. I bluffed my way into the job. Being essentially my own boss of a one man news team, I could repeatedly blunder and bury my numerous mistakes. There I began my thematic, photo essays as stories for broadcast in black and white slide form. I found photography much more rewarding than being a media celebrity.
After an abortive try at the Peace Corps I landed at KVOA TV in Tucson, Arizona in April 1967 as a news editor/cinematographer. I continued with the photo essays now shot on negative film, and printed/ rephotographed with 16mm film. My only on air appearances were when I did "stand-uppers" or interviews.
Since then I have spent decades as a teacher of arts related subjects (acting, film making/history, creative writing, art history, literature and photography, English, etc. in various community colleges, universities and prison facilities in Arizona.
My images, with the captions and descriptions, speak for themselves. I am presently building a website (vanishingamericanwest.com) which will feature my photo essays and short films.
My photo essays are in numerous archives/museums in the US and Europe. I am the only living photographer who has his own archive at the University of Arizona Special Collections Library: http://aao.lib.asu.edu/ViewRecordFrame.jsp?record=0000001158
My prize winning short films/videos have been screened at festivals in Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan. Malta and Spain; and on many US cable systems.
Since 1994 I have lived in an adobe house in Casa Grande, Arizona.