Mary Ellen Bute: Pioneer Animator captures the personal and professional life of Mary Ellen Bute (1906–1983) one of the first American filmmakers to create abstract animated films in 1934, also one of the first Americans to use the electronic image of the oscilloscope in films starting in 1949, and the first filmmaker to interpret James Joyce's literature for the screen, Passages from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, a live-action film for which she won a Cannes Film Festival Prize in 1965.
Bute had an eye for talent and selected many creative people who would go on to be famous. She hired Norman McLaren to hand paint on film for the animation of her Spook Sport, 1939, before he left to head the animation department of the Canadian Film Board. She cast the now famous character actor Christopher Walken at age fourteen as the star of her short live-action film, The Boy Who Saw Through, 1958. Also, Bute enlisted Elliot Kaplan to compose the film score of her Finnegans Wake before he moved on to compose music for TV's Fantasy Island and Ironside.
This biography drawn from interviews with Bute's family, friends, and colleagues, presents the personal and professional life of the filmmaker and her behind-the-scenes process of making animated and live action films.
Prologue: My Art Mother Chapter 1 Early Education: The Lavender in the Shadows Chapter 2 Yale University 1925–1926,Floating University 1926–1927, Houston Debut 1927–1928, and New York 1929–1930 Chapter 3 Abstract Animation (1934–1953) Chapter 4 The Boy Who Saw Through Chapter 5 Passages from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, 1965 Directed by Mary Ellen Bute: The Inner Essential Picture Chapter 6 Thornton Wilder's Skin of Our Teeth Chapter 7 Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking: The Odyssey of Walt Whitman, A Builder of the American Vision and Final Days Chapter 8 Cecile Starr: Champion of Women Filmmakers Acknowledgements Chronology Mary Ellen Bute and Theodore J. Nemeth, Jr. Filmography Bibliography Colour Plates
In writing this biography, Smyth Basquin has made a facet of film history glimmer in a new light. Bute led a fascinating life, and her films, until recently, had been widely overlooked. Kit Smyth Basquin not only has been thorough with her research but also has donated her collected materials to the Beinecke Library at Yale University (167). The book is an essential addition to the field of animation studies, vastly increasing the available information about Bute. It serves as both an acknowledgement of her contributions to cinema and a testament to the rewards of finding one's own way amid hardships.~Tom Klein, Film Quarterly