A Giant Thanks

Marshall Gaddis

I met Marshall Gaddis sometime back in the 70’s, I don’t really remember when or where, except it was in Montana, and it was probably through our mutual friend Dick Lasater.  Memory is a hazy thing, in my case not just from aging cells, but because of a life-time of travels and changed  landscapes and friends scattered around the globe.  Marshall says it was in 1976, while I was still living  in the no-running-water, no-electricity cabin that was home for nearly five years 12 miles, 5 on dirt, outside of Kalispell.  He must be right.   I suppose we crossed paths a few times in the following years, and sometime in the early 80’s I visited him in the rather nice house he was care-taking while holed up trying to write a novel, on the Yuba river in the Sierra foothills to the east of San Francisco. He was doing a radio show also on some local station.  I do recall though at some point in 1983, having sold some films to Channel Four in the UK, having some money in my pocket and going to San Francisco to shoot a nasty satire on Walt Disney.  On arriving I found the fellow I wanted for lead actor, and on whom I’d built my idea, had gone off to UCSD to study philosophy.  Instead of finding someone else, I did something kind of typical for me, instantly changed my thoughts, contacted Marshall off in the Sierras and Roxanne Rogers who was in San Francisco, asked them if they’d like to be in a quickie improvised film, to be shot real fast.  They both said yes, and two weeks later, in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, they met the first time as the camera (illegally) rolled.  We made Slow Moves in the next 3 and a half days (almost all of it – had another day or so later in the City doing pickup shots and re-doing one scene – whole film was done in maybe five days).   I was very happy with the film, which went on to win a prize in Italy in a festival juried by Vera Chytlova, got broadcast on WNET in NYC, and for a $7000 film didn’t do badly at all.  However some of my filmmaker friends thought Marshall wasn’t any good, and advised me not to use him again.  My view is they  didn’t much like Marshall and their prejudice spilled over to his acting.  Not long afterward, having gone to make a film in Butte Montana, I called him up and asked him to come on up and do another lead for me.  He did.  Film was Bell Diamond, which got shown in major indie showplaces, landed on a few best of the year lists, and again showed on WNET.  $25,00.  So much for the advice of friends.  Later on he did a tiny role for me in Rembrandt Laughing, and a supporting one in The Bed You Sleep In.

Marshall in Slow Moves, 1983Bell Diamond, 1985Rembrandt Laughing, 1987The Bed You Sleep In, 1993

Since those times I’ve been good friends with Marshall, even if my itinerant life hasn’t seen me around him that much.  He’s the kind of friend you can bet on in adversity, someone who’d put you up if at all possible if you needed it.   Which is what he did this summer: put me and my cast up in his house in Walkerville, MT., me for 2 plus months and the rest for a month.  We all had a great time.

A few years ago, having come to visit a number of times in the last decades, and with a job situation that permitted him to move out of a So Cal cubicle to working long-distance, Marshall moved to Butte, where he seems to have become a town fixture.  Now he owns the Len Waters Music Store, and a few other National Registry Buildings here – including the former State Liquor Store in Walkerville, up the hill from Uptown Butte.  I joke he’s becoming a real estate mogul here.

This summer, when I decided to make a film in the area – originally I’d thought to shoot in nearby Anaconda, but some changes there and other circumstances changed my mind.  Marshall welcomed me, and then my crew of people – all 5 more of us.  His house became not just our temporary home, but one of our major sets as well.

And then, when fate had it that we managed to wrap up shooting Coming to Terms a week early, and some of the actors were still around, and we decided together to take a shot at another quickie film, Marshall played cinematic hero, and let us yank one of his teeth out on camera.  Now that’s a hero for you.  He was playing a whacked out end-of-the-line meth-head.

I think I can safely say for Ryan and Roxanne and Kate and Steve and Chris, a huge thanks for your hospitality and generosity.   And of course that goes squared for me.  We love you  –  and not in the easy theater-people’s way of saying “love ya” but for real.  For me you are the very best kind of friend – the only kind worth having.

Thanks a million, Marshall.  It’s been great, and without your help I don’t think we would have been able to make these films.  But you know all this.


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