Friday, June 28, 2024


In late June of 1946, media hype over the first post-World War II test of an atomic weapon was hitting a fever pitch. News of the imminent Operation Crossroads detonation of the “Gilda” bomb at Bikini Atoll on June 30, 1946 (U.S. time zone) screamed from headlines and blared from radio broadcasts. There was even a (true) story about atomic scientists pasting a pinup photo of screen star Rita Hayworth on the weapon they had named after her hit film.

One of the people reportedly listening to the radio coverage on A-Day was a young nurse named Susannah Gregory. The story goes that she became so despondent about the Bomb, that approximately an hour after its explosion, she hurled herself off a Los Angeles rooftop to her death. Accounts of her suicide ran the following day – amid all the other articles about the Able, aka “Gilda,” test. The sad story of Nurse Gregory – captured below in headlines – was in stark contrast to the otherwise celebratory coverage of America’s atomic arms monopoly in action. 







The Los Angeles County Coroner’s section of Susannah Gregory’s death certificate states that an “investigation” was held regarding the circumstances of her demise. A more comprehensive “inquest” was not conducted. I spoke with a clerk at the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office who told me that they still retained a copy of the two-page coroner report. The document was described to me as being very limited: Names; addresses; cause of death; date of death and little more. There is no mention whatsoever of the atomic bomb.

The Los Angeles Times account was far more colorful:

“A 23-year-old (sic) registered nurse, depressed by radio accounts of the atomic bomb test at Bikini, yesterday leaped to her death from the top of the 13-story apartment building at 626 S. Rampart Blvd., police reported.

The woman, Susanah (sic) Gregory of 3755 W. 59th St., broke from the arms of her sister Jane, who had sensed Susanah’s (sic) intentions, and dashed across the roof. Several members of the cast of the musical show, OKLAHOMA! were sunbathing on the roof and saw her jump.

Mrs. R.L. Garlish (sic), an aunt with whom the nurse was visiting, told Police Dets. W.A. Cummings and E.W. Jokisch that Miss Gregory had been visibly depressed by the Bikini broadcast and feared for the future of the world.

The aunt, sister and victim had gone to the roof for a view of the surroundings when the tragedy occurred.”

The “aunt” (who was not related to Ms. Gregory, but who may have been a friend of the family from Illinois) is not quoted or even mentioned in the coroner investigation. She is likely Juanita Garlich [1913-1970] who was married to a Roy Louis Garlich [1910 - ?].

Did the Los Angeles press and the wire services run with the most sensational aspect of Ms. Gregory’s suicide – regardless of the facts – as a tie-in to their Bomb test coverage? Maybe. But it is difficult to confirm the reason or reasons behind her fateful decision because everyone associated with the event is deceased. The police report that might have contained quotations from Mrs. Garlich or Jane Gregory no longer exists. And, as mentioned, the coroner’s “investigation” hardly lived up to its title.

Susannah Gregory’s hometown newspaper in Illinois, the Aurora Daily Beacon, did not reference the Bomb in their front page story on her death. The writer did, however, report that she had been in “ill health since moving to Los Angeles.” Was this a delicate reference to clinical depression? 

The piece headlined “FORMER AURORA GIRL KILLED IN 12 STORY FALL” ran in the Beacon alongside an Associated Press story on the previous day’s events at Bikini:

"Aurora and Batavia friends were shocked today to learn of the death in California yesterday of Miss Susannah Gregory, 22, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Gregory, former residents of this community, in a fall from a twelfth story window (sic) of the Arcady Building, Los Angeles, Calif.

According to friends here, Miss Gregory had been in ill health since moving to Los Angeles with her family last fall. Details of her fatal plunge have not yet been learned.

Born in Aurora, in December, 1923, ‘Sue,’ as she was known here, resided with her parents on Grand Avenue, and attended the Nancy L. Hill School. Even as a child, she established a reputation for possessing a brilliant mind, and she was regarded as one of the most popular little girls on the west side. She had many friends here, whom she frequently visited after the family moved when she was about 12 years old to Milwaukee, Wis., and then to Evanston.

Susannah was graduated from Evanston High School, and in June 1945, from the Presbyterian School of Nursing, in Chicago. She went to Los Angeles following her graduation, and had been working in recent months with her father, who has established a mimeographing business of his own in connection with an advertising agency in the California city.

Susannah was baptized in the Calvary Episcopal Church in Batavia, the hometown of her mother, the former Elinor Burke. Her father is a former West High and University of Illinois athlete, and served as an ensign in the first world war, and with the Merchant Marine in the last war.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday in Los Angeles, and the body will be cremated. Friends have been asked to omit flowers.

Besides her parents, Miss Gregory is survived by an older sister, Jane, and several relatives in Batavia, Chicago and Springfield, Ohio."

Susannah Gregory’s cremains were buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California on July 3, 1946. There is no grave marker there today because at some point – Forest Lawn isn’t sure – the cremains were disinterred. It is not clear what became of them.*

Jane Mallory Gregory, Susannah’s older sister, died in 1997 leaving no survivors.

Their father, James Henry, died in 1970 and their mother, Elinor, died in 1983.

Rightly or wrongly Susannah Gregory [1923-1946] will forever remain a footnote to the Operation Crossroads “Gilda” atomic test. Rest in peace. 


*I called the cemetery where Susannah Gregory’s mother is buried. There is no record of Susannah Gregory's cremains having been interred with her mother at the time of burial in 1983. I was unable to determine the final disposition of the remains of Susannah’s father and sister.

Nurse, Gloomy Over A-Bomb, Leaps to Death, Los Angeles Times, p 2, July 1, 1946.
Note: The detail in the cited article about cast members from a production of OKLAHOMA! sunbathing on the roof of the Arcady Hotel is plausible because a production of the show opened at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on May 5, 1946. Source: Los Angeles Citizen News, May 6, 1946.

Former Aurora Girl Killed In 12 Story Fall, Aurora Daily Beacon, p 1, July 1, 1946.
Note that the article gets one significant detail about Susannah Gregory’s suicide wrong. She jumped from the roof of the building, not from a window. This fact is confirmed in the death certificate.

Death Certificate, Susannah Gregory, County of Los Angeles, Registrar-Recorder, County Clerk.

Coroner Report, Susannah Gregory, Los Angeles Medical Examiner, via telephone call with clerk, June 7, 2024.

The Arcady, built in 1927, is now known as the Wilshire Royale.

Investigating Los Angeles Police Detectives:

Edwin W. Jokisch [1914-2011] 

William A. Cummings [1906-1975]

Monday, June 17, 2024


 "It's got, of course, arguably, the best film-within-a-film that anybody's ever created. That's certainly unthinkable now that you would stop a film dead for that length of time and show something that deeply deranged." - Steven Soderbergh, filmmaker


A half-century ago this week, Alan J. Pakula’s political assassination conspiracy thriller THE PARALLAX VIEW premiered in the United States. The original reviews were mostly favorable and the box office receipts were modest. Today the Warren Beatty film is widely considered to be a classic - the second entry in Pakula’s “Paranoia Trilogy” (preceded by KLUTE in 1971 and followed by ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN in 1976). In 2021, the film was reissued in a deluxe Blu-ray edition by the prestigious Criterion Collection.

Oddly, the key sequence in THE PARALLAX VIEW that elevates it above the other conspiracy dramas of its era was mentioned by only a handful of critics during its original release in 1974. If you’ve seen the film, you know the sequence. It is the mind-blowing four-and-a-half-minute tour de force of “visual material” that is screened by the diabolical Parallax Corporation for Joe Frady (Beatty) to determine if he has assassin potential. Film Comment later called it “an ingenious montage of primally evocative images…with astutely manipulative music scoring.”

Several years ago, I began researching the history behind this extraordinary piece of filmmaking. I obtained copies of some of the production records and I interviewed one of the key people behind its creation. In addition to reading the original novel and screenplay adaptations, I also reviewed numerous articles, reviews and book excerpts.

This post presents what I have learned about THE PARALLAX VIEW Test Film.


Director Alan J. Pakula [1928-1998] completed principal photography on THE PARALLAX VIEW on July 5, 1973. By all accounts, it was a chaotic production filmed during a three-month Writers Guild strike. In a telephone interview, Pakula’s assistant on the film, Jon Boorstin told me that the scenes of Warren Beatty’s character coming into the Parallax Corporation’s screening room, sitting down and then getting up after the “test” were probably “the very last things that were shot.” Boorstin confirmed to me that it is Pakula himself as the voice of the test instructor who directs Beatty to his chair.

In between these two unremarkable shots was a “big hole” that needed to be filled. Boorstin conceded in his interview that the idea of wrapping a major studio movie with such a huge gap “sounds a little crazy.” Though Boorstin explained, “It was a gamble, but that’s how he (Pakula) played. He’d take risks like that. A lot of his brilliance was in making the most of the situation he was in. He had an impromptu quality.”

The situation Pakula found himself in was partly due to the source material for his movie. The novel, THE PARALLAX VIEW (1970) by Loren Singer and the screenplay adaptations by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Giler all had unsatisfactory “test” scenes. One of the test scenarios, as presented in the screenplays, involved killing a kitten at a bar in front of Beatty’s character in order to gauge his reaction.

Boorstin told me that he is not certain when exactly the call was made to replace the kitten scene with something else. “I was not a party to the decision. I was not part of pre-production. I was hired a few days before shooting started.” He adds, though, that he did write a five-page memo to Pakula recommending other possible “tests” including one based on the Milgram compliance experiment conducted in the early 1960s. 

Pakula’s goal, as Boorstin understood it, was to “blur the line between killer and reporter.” But the “tests” that Boorstin’s memo proposed may have been too elaborate for a production already under scheduling pressure. Also, as Boorstin said in an email, the scene would have involved the Warren Beatty character in a “staged scenario” as opposed to immersing the audience in the same experience.

Less complicated than devising the final test, but still critical to the plot, was the written Parallax Corporation questionnaire. Boorstin said in an interview for the Criterion Collection in 2021 that it was his first contribution to the movie and that he “based it on the Minnesota Multiphasic (Personality Inventory).”

Pakula revealed to a seminar audience at the American Film Institute in 1974 that it was Boorstin’s faux questionnaire sheets that inspired him to do the examination scene as a short film: “He originally got the verbal tests that we showed (in the film). They were based upon real verbal tests. And I changed them to pictures and still pictures. That was my idea. I wanted to…I thought it would be a wonderful exercise for me to just have the use of still film and sound and music…to tell a kind of story.”  

Boorstin concurs that it was Pakula’s vision to do the Parallax Corporation’s test as a film that Beatty’s character views versus other options. “It was his movie,” Boorstin told me, “He was driving the bus. He was open to learning from other people during the process, but the basic concept was his.”

Boorstin explained the importance of the Test Film in his Criterion interview: "Alan realized this is what the movie was about - this crucial scene which proves to everyone that Warren Beatty is a potential assassin. So, we were talking about this a lot. About how do you create a test you can't fake. And what would it look like and what would it be about. Alan's brilliant idea here was he wanted to put us (the audience) through the same test. And he wanted us to feel the potential in us to be that assassin… So, we had to craft this three-and-half minute experience. And, you know, I was scared shitless, basically. I didn't know...There was nothing."


In the Alan J. Pakula Papers collection at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, California there are folders labeled “Parallax View – Special Sequence” that document the evolution of the Test sequence. There are meeting notes. There are doodles. There are pages devoted to thematically organizing the assembled images. And, most of all, there are numerous pieces of correspondence regarding rights clearances for those images. I reviewed the material for this post. 

On September 19, 1973, Alan J. Pakula; Jon Boorstin; Don Record; and Ben Ashe of Pacific Title and Design met to discuss the “TEST FOR ALAN PAKULA ‘PARALLAX VIEW’ VISUAL TEST SEQUENCE.” A September 21, 1973 memo summarizes the meeting and how “50 visual subjects” will be “tested and photographed.” The memo goes into detail regarding how the images will be shot and processed with optical effects recommendations. Cost: $6,600.

Don Record, one of the meeting participants, was an extraordinarily gifted art director and title designer whose work includes the title sequences for the original PLANET OF THE APES (1968); DOCTOR DOOLITTLE (1967); VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967) and many other films. He is listed in the on-screen end credits of THE PARALLAX VIEW as Consultant Designer.

“We had a meeting with Don Record,” Jon Boorstin recalled in our interview, “and we wound up going with a simpler approach – much simpler than what Record was going for in the meeting.” Boorstin elaborated, “We had a contract with him to do the test sequence and he had a sense of what we were trying to do. Don found some very useful stuff. He came up with the sexual stuff. He found a lot of the images.”

Another document found in the Pakula Papers is a typewritten page summarizing an October 2, 1973 meeting with Record that offers a fascinating glimpse into the early phase of creating the Test Film. In it, Boorstin notes that “Don currently tracking down pics of alcoholism, drug abuse, the good life (incl. positive whiskey stuff), Hitler, from his contacts and library.”

Also discussed in these notes are abandoned ideas such as the “possibility of shooting certain subjects ourselves to get what we need.”

The second half of the page has columns divided into subjects in a “tentative” effort at structuring the Test Film: FAMILY; POLITICS; ALIENATION. Under these column headers are sections that take us from Domestic Bliss; Americana; Loneliness to the Swinging Life; Adulation of Political Heroes; Alcoholism and Drugs to Raw Sex; Riot and Assassination; Corpses and Violence. The notes state that the “…sequence should build in menace.”

Finally, Boorstin adds at the bottom of the page, the following directions:

“While there are not clear-cut separations between sequences, balance should shift as indicated. Pictures should be re-used as much as possible, changing meaning by judicious juxtaposition and use of portions of pictures in different ways (e.g. just hands) or subtle alteration of pics.”

Boorstin also described the creative process behind the creation of the Test Film in his 2021 interview with Criterion:

"Alan and I spent a lot of time talking about what this would be. And Alan's key idea was to use those title cards - Power, Father, Mother, Love - and having the images evolve from being very benign to being very threatening then to being very angry and vengeful." 
"Alan did a brilliant job and I helped him with the choice of images - both finding them and how to edit them and shoot them. I'd go down to Chinatown or I'd look through magazines. I went to the Village Voice and found this picture of a bunch of guys and brought it to Alan and he said 'Yeah! That's great, let's use that!' And then we'd talk about it and we'd go out and find more and it was creative like that."

"If you could say it in words, you wouldn't have to show the movie. And what's wonderful about this three-and-a-half minutes is you can’t say it in words." 

The other key member of this four-person group was Wilson S.“Willie” Hong Jr. who worked for Don Record almost until Record’s death in 1980. Record’s surviving partner Lollie Ortiz told me in a telephone interview that “Willie was Don’s still photographer and cinematographer and he used him all the time.”

Boorstin recalled in his interview with me that Hong shot images for the Test Film sequence on an animation stand. “I would direct him based on what Alan and I had discussed.” According to Boorstin, in many cases they shot from the actual source image. He told me that the careful viewer can see magazine creases in some of the images in the released film. In an email Boorstin added, “I have fond memories of evenings with him doing the shoots.”   

Alan J. Pakula himself spoke at some length about the Test Film at a seminar held at the American Film Institute in 1974. If, at times, he sounds like a psychology professor, it is because in his high school years he contemplated becoming a psychoanalyst. According to Pakula’s biographer, Jared Brown, the director’s “interest in psychology…only grew over the years.” It makes perfect sense, of course, that THE PARALLAX VIEW Test Film was conceived of by a person with a deep fascination with the human psyche. 

"I worked on that for at least four months. One of the reasons I’m slow was, one, getting the pictures, getting the rights to the pictures, and then playing with them…endless playing with slides. And I’d put one there and one there. And I wanted to use all those mother, father…the most primitive kind of almost elementary school images, childlike images. And there was a story behind that. I mean there is a story through that whole thing. I tried to make it look like a couple of lovers. But on the simplest level, one, it starts out with love…and that fascinated me that you come and they test for hostility, and to find a gunman or a killer’s personality…and the first word is love…and all these happy bourgeois images, and father and all the wonderful ideal fathers we’ve been told we’re supposed to have, and country and that’s just what country is supposed to be, and motherhood, oh, God, it’s just perfect. And everything is all as it should be. 

And then it starts getting into what is for the person involved, or might be. Father becomes possibly a Depression figure, an ‘Okie’ who’s been hurt by society, who’s worked hard and has obviously been destroyed in some way. Many other versions of father come. And mother becomes a kind of broken figure. And then you go back to the start where everything’s happy and the way it’s supposed to be, and then it comes back to what it’s really like for that kind of person.

And honing it all down is the definition of me, one’s sense of one’s self. And it starts out with baseball players and kids on bicycles and they’re all cheery. What we’re all supposed to think of ourselves in the best of all possible worlds. Totally well-adjusted and wonderfully extroverted simple people. And then it goes, winding up with in contrast to that key figure who is the man in the prison cell, actually the man in the prison cell and that hungry child on the bed and then that man in a mental cell huddled on the cot looking down, the impotent, passive person cut off from the world.

And people who are attracted to that kind of violence, the kind of assassination fantasy, very often there’s that great fear of impotence, the great fear of passivity, that great fear of being destroyed by the world. And then we pop back to all the people being happy. And he’s caught in that…and there’s another media image, and that’s Superman, there’s the manic me, that’s the aggressive me as compared to the passive me. And they keep coming back, and you have the choice of of being one or the other. You can be destroyed by the society, you can be left out, you can give in to your sense of impotence…And wanted him to look at that cartoon figure because I wanted it to be the most infantile sense of a super hero fantasy. And everything doesn’t mean what it does anyway. Suddenly you look at those things of Nazi-ism, swastikas…you know, you’re playing around with George Washington, and suddenly there’s George Washington and a swastika at a Nazi Party rally, and there’s Kennedy…and it’s like nothing’s really with us anyway. And it whips you out of the unfairness of this world where everybody has everything, steak and meat and gold and fame and sex and love, and why have I been left out? But you can be Superman or else you can give up and be that, be destroyed. You can be Superman and break out and destroy…and that’s a happy note…and make the world well again by destroying.

And then I played with some other things. I played with the sexual guilt that kind of a man can have where there’s a whole kind of Oedipal thing, where there’s a picture of mother, and suddenly there’s a picture of a boy who looks like he’s opening his trousers. It’s sort of like he’s exposing himself to mother. And using all the love images, and using them in terms of mother, and just examining one of the Oedipal guilts there. And then suddenly the castrating father figure, leaping after him in that kind of shadow on the wall. It looks like a penis shadow, like it’s going to destroy, running after the little boy to destroy him, to punish him [ed. note: this Ralph Crane photograph titled “A Boy’s Escape,” was published in LIFE in 1947]. And then you get the cruel father figures, and then the confusion of father and authority, and authority being father, and if you kill authority, you kill father. So, all of those things are really examined in there. And sexual confusion, and the confusion of sex and violence. You go from the couple making love happily…and it winds up in shooting. You shoot somebody. And I wanted to play it to just keep whipping them up and whipping them up and whipping them up until he breaks through. So the final test is, for somebody taking that test, do you get that excited or not? Do you have that kind of personality that you would get that excited.” 

And in a Boston Globe interview that was published at the time of THE PARALLAX VIEW’s theatrical release, Pakula said that he wanted to “use as many familiar photographs that we’ve seen in LIFE magazine and grown up with as possible.” The director told the Globe writer that he wanted a “rootedness in American folk images.”


Once all of the images for the Test Film had been selected and shot, it was time for Alan J. Pakula to work with his editor John W. “Jack” Wheeler to weave all the pieces together. Boorstin told me that editing was Pakula’s “very favorite part of filmmaking” and that he was a “very tenacious editor.” “He would fuss over every frame.” Boorstin described the process for me in our interview: “Alan was with Wheeler. Jack would cut it. Alan would talk with him, Jack would recut, Alan would come back. Rinse Repeat - recutting all the time.”

Wheeler’s role, Boorstin said, was “realizing Alan’s vision,” adding that “Jack was a very good enabler.” Boorstin also said that he himself would view cuts on a Moviola with Pakula and offer suggestions.

Pakula also briefly discussed the editing process with Filmmakers Newsletter in 1974. “…I work very closely with the editor. I am obsessed with that, and in THE PARALLAX VIEW more so than before.” In response to a question about whether he did the cutting himself during editing, Pakula said he did not. “No. I’ll sit at the Moviola, not all the time, but a lot. Sometimes I’ll stop and start in the projection room, and other times at the Moviola; it all depends.” 

Of course, the stunning musical score of the Test Film is integral to the completed piece. Pakula spoke highly of composer Michael Small, with whom he had worked on two previous films, including KLUTE, during his AFI seminar in 1974: “And then Michael came in and the music is so crucial. It contributes. Music and sound is so important to me and I always allow room for it in making the film. It must be a sound perception. And in that he started out with a simple Americana and then it just builds into this kind of acid rock hysteria.”

Pakula’s biographer Jared Brown interviewed the composer not long before Small’s death in 2003:

"Working on a tight deadline, Michael Small then composed and recorded music for the sequence in a few days. As he recalls, 'I don't think Alan even heard it. It was just one of these magical events.'”

Small told Brown that he considered his entire score (including the Test sequence) for THE PARALLAX VIEW to be his very best.

It isn’t exactly clear when Small completed his scoring for the Test sequence itself, but according to Lukas Kendall of Film Score Monthly, the final day of soundtrack score recording was February 8, 1974.

The final cut of the Test Film that appears in THE PARALLAX VIEW is four-minutes-and-thirty-seven-seconds and comprises 342 frames from 108 still images with nine title cards.


THE PARALLAX VIEW opened on June 19, 1974 in New York City and in Los Angeles on June 26, 1974. A few critics immediately understood the singular achievement of the Test Film sequence, while some other major reviewers like Vincent Canby of the New York Times completely ignored it. Canby was generally unimpressed with THE PARALLAX VIEW and gave it a negative review.

Here are some quotes from critics in 1974 who were moved to write about the Test sequence.  

Variety’s “Murph.” wondered in his review who exactly was responsible for “the dazzling five minute fast-edited test sequence.”

Cinefantastique’s Dale Winogura called the Test sequence “an affecting emotional manipulation” and compared it to the “trip” in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY: “A direct participation experience that the protagonist goes through as well as the audience. It is a classic sequence…”

The Boston Globe’s Patrick McGilligan described it as “an extraordinary and clinical insert in an otherwise chilling movie.”  

The Hollywood Reporter’s Cynthia Kirk wrote in her review that the “visual test” “becomes the film’s greatest triumph.”

The Atlantic Monthly’s Joseph Kanon called the sequence “extraordinary.”

Newsweek’s Paul Zimmerman wrote that THE PARALLAX VIEW was a “dazzling exercise in montage and melodrama.”

The Boston Phoenix’s Janet Maslin called the Test sequence “crucial” and described it as “an extraordinary series of arch-American slides.”

Gordon Gow in the British film magazine Films & Filming wrote, “The entire indoctrination film is a satire at once disquieting and wry, an incitement to the paranoia that breeds maniacal ‘saviors.’”


THE PARALLAX VIEW Test Film is an original, breathtaking and powerful work of filmmaking, but it was not produced in a vacuum. It is very much a product of its time, but also bracingly fresh to most contemporary viewers.

The style of rapidly cut photomontage or kinestasis was percolating in film schools by the mid-1960s. LOOK AT LIFE, George Lucas’s first student film at the University of Southern California in 1965 is an example of the form that, in a very basic way, anticipates elements of the PARALLAX Test Film.

But it was Chuck Braverman’s AMERICAN TIME CAPSULE that really popularized the style of kinestasis. The short film was first broadcast on THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR on CBS on the Sunday before the 1968 presidential election. It proved to be such a hit with viewers that the show ran it again the following month. Braverman went on to create many other photomontage short films including the dystopian title credit sequence for SOYLENT GREEN which was released the year before THE PARALLAX VIEW.

I reached out to Braverman to ask him if he recalled what his reaction was to the Test Film in THE PARALLAX VIEW when he first saw it. He replied by email: “My reaction was that I wish I had been asked to produce the montage. I enjoyed it and now plan on watching the film again as I have not seen it since it was first released.”

There were a couple of other notable short political films that preceded PARALLAX that have a similar thematic feel. In the controversial Barry Goldwater campaign film CHOICE (1964), archival clips and stills of wholesome, patriotic America are juxtaposed with images of riots, vice and corrupt politicians. The film ends with rapidly cut clips interspersed with title cards that read “CHOICE” with a white background (for Goldwater’s Republican America) and a black background (for Lyndon Johnson’s Democratic America).

The NIXON NOW (1972) campaign commercial with a theme song by the Mike Curb Congregation (“Reaching out to find the way to make tomorrow a brighter day…Nixon now, Nixon now… He showed us how…”) celebrates Republican candidate Richard Nixon as a savior figure. It has a very PARALLAX vibe to it, but without the dark complexity, of course. 

I sent video links and asked Jon Boorstin about these last two films as well as the Lucas short. He replied via email: “Those campaign films are intriguing. I don't recall seeing either one, though they certainly resonate. Whether that was just what was in the air or something we'd seen I can't say. The Nixon one might well have been seen. Don't forget with no video yet, seeing things was a hit and miss matter. I think I'd remember the Goldwater film. That is chilling.” 

Boorstin said he had never seen the George Lucas student film before viewing from my link. He added, “Interesting to contrast his frenzied efforts to impose meaning on his images with Alan J. Pakula’s approach.”

The one film sequence that is sometimes referenced in direct comparison to the PARALLAX Test Film is the scene in Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) in which Alex (Malcolm McDowell) undergoes cinematic violence aversion therapy. The image of a tortured-looking Alex with his eyes cranked open has become iconic.

But the comparisons are misplaced as Boorstin explained in his Criterion interview:

“The key scene is the scene where they show Malcolm McDowell being brainwashed by the combination of images and sound which is essentially similar to ours. But if you look at that as an example - it's a well-made movie, a beautiful movie, and that's a great scene, but it's a different thing. You cut to the character, you cut to a piece of the movie he's watching. You cut back to the character. And it's really not about what it is doing to us, it's about what it is doing to him.” Boorstin added, "Alan (Pakula) said, no, no shots of Warren Beatty being agonized or being tested or reacting to the thing at all."

Boorstin elaborated on these differences in an email:

“I maintain that the brilliance of AJP's choice is that we aren't watching Warren take the test, we are taking the test ourselves, unmediated and uncut. So we feel the emotions as they are aroused in us, not only in Warren. The underpinning of the film, and what makes it different from others, is that AJP is finding the emotional connection between the journalist and the assassin, and then with us. In Pakula's tale, the assassin shares personality traits with the killer, and we see those same traits in ourselves as we take the test.” 


Near the end of the 1974 American Film Institute seminar with Alan J. Pakula, an audience member asks, “How did the Warren Beatty character score on that test? I never understood that?”

Pakula responds that it was a “mistake” not to have included a “segment” that explains how the Beatty character scored on the Parallax Corporation’s test. But he then goes on to explain why it was absolutely not necessary to include such a scene.   

“…I should have had it in. But I also find that when in doubt, make a bold leap…in films. But sometimes you can explain so much, and where’s there a film…I always felt that PARALLAX depended on a certain kind of hypnosis to work. And if you stop to explain to such an extent that you break the hypnotic rhythm of the film, you make it more believable on an intellectual level and the thing that may pull that audience emotionally can fall apart.”  

Fifty years later, it seems beyond question that Pakula’s decision not to buttress the meaning of the test sequence with some awkward follow-up scene was the right one. It was the crux of his entire film and it needed to stand on its own.


Items that I collected during my research that did not really fit in the main post.


Warren Beatty did not promote THE PARALLAX VIEW in the media when the film was released in June of 1974. Jon Boorstin told me in our interview that he does not know what Beatty thinks of the film.

I was able to find one very brief quotation about the movie from Beatty from “Film Night with Tony Bilbow,” BBC 2, October 30, 1975:

BILBOW: A film you didn’t produce, but I suspect was important to you nevertheless is THE PARALLAX VIEW.

BEATTY: It was a film relating to the possibilities of conspiracies in assassinations and politics in the United States. And you’re right, I didn’t produce it, and it’s a film I respect. It’s subject that is going to be reopened, it’s a very important subject and it’s part of the entire reopening process that’s taking place in the United States now on the entire fabric of the last 25 years of our life as a nation.


The following quotes are from an archival video interview with Alan J. Pakula included in the 2019 documentary, ALAN PAKULA: GOING FOR TRUTH.

"And I had in mind a certain kind of psychological test that would define and attract an assassin and whip him up and whip his blood pressure up."

"The whole idea of this film, if there was a cautionary tale in this film and indeed there was a cautionary tale for the '70s, is that 'Beware hiding behind all sorts of patriotic symbols that seem all American. That can whip you up into a frenzy of excitement, can be ideas that are not American, that are not democratic, that are not free.'" 

"What is the genius of this country? What defines this country? Our ideas of great, the great 18th century ideas of the Enlightenment, which is freedom and democracy, and that, indeed other things can be hiding behind them and we can all be manipulated."


Alan J. Pakula commented briefly on THE PARALLAX VIEW in a 1995 AFI interview included on the Criterion reissue of the film.

"(Warren Beatty's character goes) a test to weed out people who would be potential assassins against people who would not be. So, I designed this kind of free association test sequence which is all stills and is designed to whip you up into a kind of frenzy of rage if you are one of the people left out of the society. One of the tragic people who is one of the unknowns in the society - people society doesn't care about. This was a fascinating sequence."

THE PARALLAX VIEW PRESS BOOK (Paramount Pictures, 1974)

Paramount Pictures’ promotional press book does not explicitly mention the Test Film sequence, but Alan J. Pakula is quoted. Some of his comments below are clearly about the Test Film.

"Talking about 'The Parallax View' while in New York City to map out the advertising and promotional campaigns for the film, Pakula noted that in his new film "the personal relationships are certainly secondary to the melodrama and mystery. The picture deals with a paranoiac delusion that turns out to be a total reality." "It deals with a paranoiac delusion that turns out to be a total reality." "It deals with a character, played by Warren Beatty, who imagines the worst and suspects the worst. He imagines the most bizarre kind of plots and the truth turns out to be worse than anything he could have imagined."

THE PARALLAX VIEW "demanded a style which while seeming real and unstylized would nonetheless have a sense of the surreal to it. It would give me a chance to attempt a kind of visual comment on our society. On the way we live and our values without ever discussing it." "One of the reasons I was attracted to 'The Parallax View' was that it was the least literary things I've ever done. It depends on visual storytelling. While it is based on Loren Singer's book, I felt it could only be a movie." "The fascinating thing about melodrama is that you're playing with the most infantile emotions of an audience. Scaring people, terrorizing them. Using film to do that is fascinating." "When you're cutting a film, you're manipulating emotions. It's very easy to horrify somebody if you want to show a corpse being mutilated. I'm not talking about that - that's a form of pornography actually. Real terror does not come from any ghoul but out of the audience's fantasy terrors. In a sense I'm saying, 'how can I scare myself? How can I surprise myself." "It's been said that in making a film that manipulates other people's fears, directors are really dealing with their own childhood fears. For a man who dream a great deal, as I do, controlling dreams by cutting them is an incredible thing."


Special thanks to Jon Boorstin for taking the time to discuss at length his work on THE PARALLAX VIEW. His insights regarding the production of the Test Film were invaluable in writing this post. Watch Jon’s Academy Award nominated short documentary EXPLORATORIUM on YouTube

Visit Jon’s website to learn more about his writing and film work.

Thanks to Lollie Ortiz for speaking with me about her late partner Don Record and his friend and cinematographer / photographer, Wilson S. “Willie” Hong Jr.

Thanks to Chuck Braverman, Steven Brower, Alan Andres, Tim Goldsmith, Scott Saslow, J.G. Michael.


Steven Soderbergh comment regarding THE PARALLAX VIEW Test Film is from the documentary, ALAN PAKULA: GOING FOR TRUTH (2019).

The PARALLAX VIEW Test Film on YouTube: 

The reference to the Alan J. Pakula “Paranoia Trilogy” is from Richard T. Jameson’s article, “The Pakula Parallax,” Film Comment, September-October, 1976.

Date of Alan J. Pakula completing principal photography on THE PARALLAX VIEW is from Variety, July 6, 1973.

All quotes from Jon Boorstin are either from my telephone interview with him from June 12, 2023 or from the video entitled PULLING FOCUS: CONSTRUCTING THE PARALLAX VIEW produced by Elizabeth Pauker which is included as a supplement to the 2021 Criterion Collection Blu-ray reissue of THE PARALLAX VIEW. All quotes are identified in the post. Quotes from Boorstin’s emails to me are cited separately.

I read the source novel:  

Loren Singer [1923-2009], “The Parallax View,” Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970. The “Test” scene in the novel is called an “Interview” and it involves the journalist character (named Graham, not Frady) going to a hotel for two tests that culminate in a bizarre eye exam involving word association.

 I read the following screenplay drafts:

THE PARALLAX VIEW by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. [1923-2014], Undated.

THE PARALLAX VIEW by David Giler [1943-2020], First Draft, February 13, 1973.

The Alan J. Pakula quotes in this post are, unless otherwise noted, from “The American Film Institute Seminar with Alan Pakula,” November 20, 1974.

Parallax View – Special Sequence folders, Alan J. Pakula Papers, Margaret Herrick Library, Beverly Hills, CA.

Biographical information on Don Record [1936-1980]:

Steven Brower, “Don Record: Hollywood’s Other Lost Title Designer,” Print, October 20, 2015

Telephone interview on June 1, 2023 with Don Record’s surviving partner, Lollie Ortiz.

Biographical information on Wilson S. “Willie” Hong Jr. [1934-2016]:

The Montana Standard, December 2, 1956.

The Montana Standard, September 7, 2017.

Telephone interview on June 1, 2023 with Don Record’s surviving partner, Lollie Ortiz.

Jon Boorstin email on June 6, 2023 to Bill Geerhart re: shooting images with Wilson S. “Willie” Hong Jr.

Alan J. Pakula quote is from Patrick McGilligan, “’Parallax View,’ Grips Audience,” Boston Globe, June 28, 1974.

Editor John W. “Jack” Wheeler [1931-2015]: Palm Springs, CA Desert Sun obituary, December 15, 2015.

Alan J. Pakula quote on editing is from Andrew Bobrow, “Interview with Alan J. Pakula,” Filmmakers Newsletter, September, 1974.

Composer Michael Small [1939-2003] information and quote are from the biography “Alan J. Pakula: His Films and His Life” by Jared Brown. Back Stage Books, 2005.

THE PARALLAX VIEW soundtrack scoring recording completion date was confirmed to me via a June 1, 2023 email from Film Score Monthly founder Lukas Kendall who said FSM had obtained the data from the American Federation of Musicians. The date is also included in the Film Score Monthly liner notes to their 2010 release of the MARATHON MAN and PARALLAX VIEW soundtracks:

The exact length of THE PARALLAX VIEW Test Film and the number of images and frames used in it are from David Levine’s “The Sight of Blood Does Not Make Me Sick or Afraid” [Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies/LUMA Foundation, 2017] which contains a thorough analysis of the Test Film:

Film reviews referenced:

Vincent Canby, “Screen: Villains Abound in ‘Parallax,’ New York Times, June 20, 1974.

Murph., Variety, June 19, 1974.

Dale Winogura, Cinefantastique, Winter, 1974.

Patrick McGilligan, “‘Parallax View’ Grips Audience,” Boston Globe, June 28, 1974.

Cynthia Kirk, the Hollywood Reporter, June 14, 1974.

Joseph Kanon, “The Parallax Candidate,” Atlantic Monthly, August, 1974.

Paul Zimmerman, “Needle’s Eye,” Newsweek, July 1, 1974.

Janet Maslin, “Film: Ain’t That Pakula,” Boston Phoenix, June 25, 1974.

Gordon Gow, Films & Filming, December, 1974.

Information on George Lucas’s student film was derived from:

Charles Champlin, “George Lucas: The Creative Impulse,” pp. 18; 90., 1997 (Revised and Updated Edition), Harry N. Abrams

Steven Travers, “Coppola’s Monster Film,” p. 33, 2016, McFarland & Co, Inc.

George Lucas's LOOK AT LIFE (1965):

Articles that mention kinestasis or photomontage in relationship to film schools:

ee cummings Show Scheduled, Los Angeles Evening Citizen News, May 6, 1966.

Kevin Thomas, “12 Student Films Presented at USC,” Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1968.

Information on Chuck Braverman and his film work was derived from:


Video interview with Chuck Braverman

Television listings, Lima News (Ohio), December 15, 1968.

Article on Braverman and his role in popularizing kinestasis: “Kinestasis Latest Madison Avenue Darling,” Broadcasting, March 24, 1969.

SOYLENT GREEN (1973) opening title sequence by Chuck Braverman:

Chuck Braverman June 21, 2023 email to Bill Geerhart re: THE PARALLAX VIEW Test Film.

CHOICE (1964), Goldwater campaign film: 

NIXON NOW (1972) campaign film:

Jon Boorstin May 31, 2023 email to Bill Geerhart re: campaign films.

Jon Boorstin June 3, 2023 email to Bill Geerhart re: George Lucas student film.