A fun story about hunting down the lost original version of Shadows, Cassavetes brilliant first feature:
Because Cassavetes made most of his movies outside the studio system and financed them himself (paid for from the salary he made acting in other directors’ films), he was free from the constraints that limit Hollywood film-makers. He could take as long as he wanted to shoot his projects, spend as much time as he needed to edit them and, if he was so inclined, reshoot or re-edit them as much as he wanted. The result was that at various points in their creation, most of his works — including Faces, Husbands, A Woman Under the Influence and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie — existed in wildly differing versions.
The film we spent the most time talking about was Shadows. Cassavetes’ first feature, generally regarded as the beginning of the American independent movement, had had a vexed history. The film-maker in effect made it twice, filming an initial version in 1957, and screening it in the autumn of 1958 at New York’s Paris Theatre for invited audiences. But, dissatisfied with the response, Cassavetes reshot much of the movie in early 1959, replacing approximately half of the footage in the original print with new material. In late 1959, the so-called “second version” of Shadows premiered.