| Acting ~ Film ~ "Tracks"
|TRACKS remembered ... by Cayle Chernin
|With GDTR I was present for an experience in Canadian film making which is still regarded as
seminal. I was also 'there' in a somewhat less happy way for Henry Jaglom's second film in Los
Angeles, TRACKS. I always thought it turned out to be a bit of a mish-mash. Henry hadn't quite
perfected his style of film making, but he was vigilant about it. He could "feel"
if an actor was being "truthful". At one point he screamed at me onset:
"you can't act!" - by then I was so inured to him, I just tried to improvise on.
American Director Paul Wiliams, on-set that day on the train, L.A. to San Diego (I think) Daily
runs, said I was "a brave actress."
Cayle with director Henry Jaglom
It's not the only time I've had my work called brave, I think it means: "you are so foolish, it almost works."
A lot of the footage that did end up in the movie was shot with these daily trainloads of children
of movie Stars, Taryn Power, Topo Swope and many more.
The girls were beautiful and far more deserving of the attentions of Dennis the Menace because they
thought he was just an old weird actor and didn't get sucked in the way I did. I felt like I was
making movie history, that I was having an amazing opportunity to live life to the fullest, to make
the most demands on myself, to soar creatively. I thought Dennis was amazingly dedicated to the
work. He harranged me for hours the first night we shot in New York because when I was leading him
through the crowd in front of St. Patrick’s cathedral on I think the eve of the Easter Parade he kept
walking on my heels. I was "going too slowly," he said, causing him "to walk on my heels." I was leading and
I "wasn't doing it right."
Hurry Up and Wait ...
|Henry said I was absolutely terrible until the one scene that has stayed in the film, and which
was the first scene I wrote when Henry asked me to make changes to the script he'd written for and
with Bob Rafelson 5 years before for Jack Nicolson to star in.
We always referred to it as "the cottage cheese scene." I frankly think I'm terrible.
I can see that I was trying to be Tuesday Weld because these were the responses Henry wanted to draw
out of me, or something - I'll never really know what happpened, if he hated me on camera, I think
the more he hated me the worse I got ...
Dennis didn't help, he was very hard to work with. A bully - you always have to play on their turf, and they try to trip you up all the time,
constant tests to see if you really can hang out with the boys. I was a very willing participant.
Henry thought I was way too willing, but he's the one who put me in the same compartment on the
train with Dennis when we were shooting around corners and trying stuff and getting caught and
almost thrown off the train ... all kinds of excitement and I was lost in the world of Dennis and
"making movies." Let me be clear - It's entirely possible that I was hideous on camera. I'm
less than lovely in the cottage cheese scene that Henry felt was the only thing usable. As droll
and wonderfully aware Randy Spires of Toronto radio station fame once said to me: "You didn't look
like a leading lady." I was so out of it, caught up in living out a mad adventure ... Alice had
indeed fallen down the rabbit hole and was having too much fun hanging out with some wild people.
In other words: I was nuts.
With Dennis Hopper
|I read the original script for TRACKS five years earlier when Eli Rill took me to New York for
my first time - he was someone who helped me to a lot of "first times" - those important times
when it matters so hard.
Five years later, when Henry decided to make the movie with Dennis, as Jack and Rafelson were on
to other things he asked me to do some rewriting on the script, I was to provide scenes between
the character Fran (of Zooey fame) and Dennis' character Jack. Henry was creating an on screen
family like Saliger had created his short stories family and calling her Fran was a tribute to
Just as Tuesday Weld in his first film A SAFE PLACE was his female self, a beautiful, unstable,
feeling woman-child, bewitched, bothered and bewildered and beautiful, I was to be Fran, a kind
of new woman, not to be too confused with New Age, but a feminist, curly-haired "type."
Henry loved calling people "types" but he did it very charmingly.
We shot scenes in Henry's parents' apartment where Dennis, a soldier home from Vietnam escorting
a dead hero's casket, his buddy who he is bringing home to the small New England town that he came
from, acosts me in the apartment and has sex with me, after which I'm much friendlier and then he
screams at me for not understanding the world he comes from - sheltered as I am in wealth and dumps
This is the equivalent scene in the movie where he fucks Taran Power very unromantically in a field,
In the final scene we discover that the coffin is full of guns and ammunition as Dennis comes
up from the grave armed and dangerous to Mei lei a small New England town.
It was about the soldiers back from Vietnam who weren't heros like in the other great Wars. They
were schmucks - trained killers in a bad war.
With Dennis Hopper
|TRACKS was very important in my development as an actor and a person. It sent me screaming home
from Hollywood, unfortunately a bit late rather than sooner. It was a trial by fire working with
Henry, Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell on a train that for me derailed when we pulled into L.A.
and Henry started really shooting the movie. I was part of the warm-up and the boys had a lot of
fun with me and vice versa. Dean actually came onboard in L.A. and we were the Three Muskateers,
only they did okay and I got left on the cutting room floor.
I subsequently landed in New Mexico as Dennis' guest which resulted in me finally
devloping a healthy respect for 'something larger than my own feelings' at about 3 a.m. in the
middle of a New Mexican road ..in other words I grew spiritually from having been in a dangerous
place. I don't recommend this method of spiritual enlightenment, or acting but I like to think,
since I did it, it worked for me. I'm pretty sure I learned something. I'd already been in GOING
DOWN THE ROAD, LOVE IN A FOUR LETTER WORLD and thought I was ready to make my Hollywood debut and
I wanted to do in in Tracks.
Continuity Still: with Dennis Hopper
|I had seen A SAFE PLACE - Tuesday Weld, Orson Wells, Jack Nicolson -- in New York at a screening when Eli Rill and I stayed with Henry and his then girl-friend the extraordinary Barbara Flood. Eli brought me to a New York I had only dreamed of, but unfortunately Henry saw the chink in my sophisticated manner, he saw the little girl in love with her teacher, a Daddy's little girl. He had my number and he swept me away from Eli and towards him and California.
Henry's way of assembling the components, working off cards and creating scenes with actors through
various directorial techniques including some he picked up from Machiavelli, still had some
wrinkles. In my case I was the scapegoat in the trio of me and Dennis and Dean. Henry threw us
together, he knew they were both crazy, so I was the only one he could control, and through me he
would control them, which of course is a laugh in itself ... I was way out of my league.
Let's put it this way:
It was the best and the worst of times ... these guys
played hardball, "ya wanna hang around with us, we'll supply the rope…and yes we will
kick ya while you're down, what better time to kick ya!"
Continuity Stills: with Dennis Hopper
|New York, the first day of shooting, Henry and his crew were way up in his parent's Central
Park Apartment shooting down at me and Dennis in the park ... Over the walkie we hear: "ACTION" and Dennis jumps up on the park bench and I am totally frozen, my knees locked. I can hear Henry screaming, "Tell her to do something ... natural!" I couldn't move. Dennis said, "Come up on the bench with me." I couldn't move ... Henry's disappointment was visceral, I could feel it in the dead air coming from the walkie.
Then Dennis said, "Let's run into these pigeons" ... which I couldn't do, any more
than I could go out on the cliff in GOIN' DOWN THE ROAD in the scene at Scarborough Bluffs. Running
into a sea of pigeons seemed insane to me, so I held back as Dennis dragged me into their midst
scattering them. I was hardly Henry's Audrey Hepburn, more Ethel Mertz.
||I came to think of my ignominious Hollywood movie experience, as "survive and stay
alive in '75," advice from Nick Ray, the director of "Rebel Without A Cause." Ray told this to me
and Rosie Shuster when we took him out to dinner at Imperial Gardens to pick his brain because
Rosie was about to direct me and Michael Margotta in her first short film: PAPER LIFE.
I returned from four years in Hollywood in 1976, post TRACKS, Henry Jaglom and Dennis Hopper
notwithstanding, I did survive. In a lot of ways this really was my naive "season in hell" aka my
early twenties, from which I eventually managed to drag myself back to Toronto, a sadder but wiser
girl - well there was still some distance to go to get to wiser but I had logged all the experience
I needed to be able to get there.
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