In the summer of 1970, out on the central Oregon coast, Paul Newman and company filmed a cinematic adaptation of Ken Kesey's epic 1964 novel, Sometimes a Great Notion. The final installment in Matt Love's Newport trilogy, Sometimes a Great Movie chronicles the film's production with an array of first-person accounts, photographs, and newspaper clippings of the time. A large portion of the book is composed of these local stories wherein coastal residents recall their interactions with actors and crew alike, providing a very personal, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the effects of movie making on a community.
As a narrative thread woven throughout the book, Love attempts to track down corroborating evidence of the now-legendary story regarding Paul Newman (apparently never without a can of Olympia beer), a chainsaw, and the eventual fate of an innocent pool table. Sometimes a Great Movie, in turn, focuses not only on the production process of the film, but also upon Kesey and his masterful book, the creative differences that led to the firing of the movie's original director, the actors and actresses themselves, the logistics of finding a suitable filming location, the film's critical reception, as well as its current commercial status (languishing, with no plans for a DVD release, as one of many films deserving to be brought back into print).
Kesey's novel, of course, far surpasses in scope, storytelling, and overall magnificence the film adaptation, but the movie does indeed feature moments of real excellence. It is far from a perfect piece of cinema, and many of its misfires are given careful consideration by Love. His book is as much a celebration of the novel and its legacy as it is a document of that singular 1970 summer in Lincoln County. Many of Sometimes a Great Movie's anecdotes are the result of dedicated research, serendipity, and the willingness of Love's interviewees to recall events now over four decades old.
Matt Love's commitment to unearthing and sharing forgotten, neglected, and seldom-told tales of Beaver State history never fails to inspire. His love for all things Oregon is evident in so much of his writing, and his curiosity and passion to find her next intriguing story are quite commendable. Sometimes a Great Movie is a fitting tribute to a decent film based on a better book, and lovers of cinema, Kesey, and Oregon history will find much to cherish. It will be all the more successful if it compels even a few people to actually (and finally) read the brilliant novel that made it all possible. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In June 1970, the biggest movie star in the world traveled to the Oregon Coast to film an epic novel about a defiant family of loggers written by a home grown counterculture hero. The star was Paul Newman. The author was Ken Kesey. The story was Sometimes a Great Notion
and it has a fanatical following in the Pacific Northwest.
What ensued was a wild working vacation between Hollywood and Oregonians involving beer, sex, scotch, loggers, beaches, and perhaps, a spectacularly vandalized pool table.
In Sometimes a Great Movie: Paul Newman, Ken Kesey and the Filming of the Great Oregon Novel, author Matt Love documents the legend of that magical summer and presents over a 125 never-before-seen photographs, including many in color.
About the Author
Matt Love is the author/editor of eight books about Oregon, including, the best selling Far Out Story of Vortex I, Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon's Sesquicentennial Anthology, and Gimme Refuge: The Education of a Caretaker. He writes the "One Man's Beach" column for Oregon Coast Today and the "On Oregon" blog for Powells. In 2009, Love won the Oregon Literary Arts' Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his contributions to Oregon history and literature. He lives in South Beach and teaches English and journalism at Newport High School. He's currently working on a novel about teaching in a public high school.