"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Topics: 1960s, 1970s, Folk music, Film, Movies, entertainment news, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, simon & garfunkel, mike nichols, the graduate, catch-22, joseph heller, charles grodin, paley center, nyc, New York, Pop, Music, Entertainment News
Art Garfunkel, 71 years old and still reeling decades later from the breakup of the musical act that made him a household name, is now saying that one of the reasons Simon & Garfunkel broke up was because of Mike Nichols’ 1970 film adaptation of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22.” In the late 1960s, he says, the two were cast in the film, and while Garfunkel managed to hold onto his fourth-billing role, Simon ended up on the cutting room floor, reports the Guardian.
Garfunkel was speaking at the Paley Center for Media in New York last Wednesday, as part of a screening of Charles Grodin’s 1969 Simon & Garfunkel documentary “Songs of America.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, both the singer and Grodin implicated Nichols. Recall that Nichols featured Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” and “Scarborough Fair” in “The Graduate,” his now-iconic 1967 film that won him an Oscar for best director.
“That was the beginning of their split-up,” said Grodin. “You don’t take Simon & Garfunkel and ask them to be in a movie and then drop one of their roles on them.”
Garfunkel agreed, saying, “Chuck [Grodin]‘s gone right to the heart of the difficulty in Simon & Garfunkel when he says, ‘Artie and Paul were cast for ‘Catch-22,’ and Paul’s part was dropped.’ I had Paul sort of waiting: ‘All right, I can take this for three months. I’ll write the songs, but what’s the fourth month? And why is Artie in Rome a fifth month?’” He added, “What’s Mike doing to Simon & Garfunkel?’”
“Catch-22″ was, as it happens, Garfunkel’s feature film debut — the following year he’d appear in a more prominent role, in another Mike Nichols film, “Carnal Knowledge,” starring Jack Nicholson, Candice Bergen and Ann-Margret.
The film — and Garfunkel’s role in it (and presumably Simon’s omission from it) — is the inspiration for one of the duo’s final songs, “The Only Living Boy in New York,” written by the snubbed Simon as he waited for Garfunkel to return from shooting. “Yes, Chuck’s gone right to the heart of the difficulty in Simon & Garfunkel when he says, ‘Artie and Paul were cast for ‘Catch-22,’ and Paul’s part was dropped.’ That, of course, is an irritant of the first order. So I had Paul sort of waiting: ‘All right, I can take this for three months. I’ll write the songs, but what’s the fourth month? And why is Artie in Rome a fifth month? What’s Mike doing to Simon & Garfunkel?’ And so there’s Paul in the third month, still with a lot of heart, writing about, ‘I’m the only living boy in [New York]. You used to be the other one,’” said Garfunkel. He added that the tensions that arose in the aftermath led to their 1970 breakup, which happened after the release of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — though the duo have frequently reunited since.
So far, director Mike Nichols has yet to respond to the allegations by the folk singer.
Kera Bolonik is a contributing writer at Salon. Follow her on Twitter @KeraBolonikMore Kera Bolonik.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)