John Korty

Recent Press

John Korty, Director of "Miss Jane Pittman", Is Dead at 85
He was best known for a series of ambitious television movies that examined racism, disability and other social issues.

By Neil Genzlinger NY Times.
March 24, 2022

John Korty, a director best known for ambitious made-for-television projects, including the 1974 film "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," which won nine Emmy Awards, died on March 9 at his home in Port Reyes Station, Calif. He was 85.

His brother, Doug Korty, said the cause was vascular dementia.

"Miss Jane Pittman," a CBS presentation based on the Ernest J. Gaines novel in which a Black woman recounts more than a century's worth of memories, featured an acclaimed performance by Cicely Tyson as the title character. John J. O'Connor, reviewing the film in The New York Times, called it "a splendid night for television."

"John Korty's direction is cool and restrained," he added, "never underlining and always avoiding what could easily be mawkish."

The Emmys the film won included one for Mr. Korty for best directing of a single program, comedy or drama.

Mr. Korty also won both an Oscar and an Emmy for "Who Are the Debolts? And Where Did They Get 19 Kids?," a documentary about a couple whose many children included hard-to-place adopted ones with disabilities or other challenges.
Full article in the NY Times

John Korty, the father of Marin movies looks back
"FOR AN ACADEMY Award-winning director who inspired George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola to join him in creating "Hollywood North" in the Bay Area, John Korty deserves to be a lot better known than he is.

But fame has never been high on his list. He doesn't have a wall in his West Marin office with photos of himself with all the movie stars he's worked with. Unlike some other successful directors, he doesn't display his awards in a special case for everyone to see. He'd rather use them as bookends.

As he says, "I've always been too self-conscious for that stuff."

Maybe that's why, in his 50-year career, he's never had a major retrospective. That changes this month, when the Rafael Film Center celebrates his extraordinary body of work starting Nov. 10 with the premiere of the just-completed "John Allair Digs In!," a musical portrait of Marin's original rock 'n' roller. …" - Paul Liberatore
Full article in the Marin Independent Journal

Oscar-winning Marin filmmaker John Korty dies
Oscar-winning filmmaker John Korty died at his home in Point Reyes Station. He was 85.

Marin IJ March 15, 2022

Mr. Korty died March 9. He was known for his independent films, many made in Marin during the rise of the Bay Area filmmaking scene known as the "New Hollywood."

Mr. Korty moved to California in the 1960s. His independent film "Crazy Quilt," released in 1966, won critical acclaim and drew young filmmakers George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola to Northern California to visit Mr. Korty's Stinson Beach studio. Mr. Korty later established a studio that operated for 20 years in Mill Valley.

Mr. Korty projects included television films such as "Go Ask Alice" and "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," for which he won an Emmy award for direction and a Directors Guild of America award. His animated shorts were featured on episodes of "Sesame Street."

Mr. Korty won an Oscar alongside Dan McCann and Warren L. Lockhart, and an Emmy for outstanding individual achievement for an informational program, for the documentary film "Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?" released in 1977.
Full article in the Marin Independent Journal

After 50 years in film, John Korty is still true
"…Despite the unwavering plea from Hollywood to abide by its rules and conventions, Korty has not relented. And although his directorial career has been nothing short of prolific, he has not let his age interfere with his vision, either.

“I have no intention of retiring,” he said. “In fact, my ace in the hole is if I end up in a wheelchair, it will be great for animation! I can sit there in that wheelchair and make animated films until I drop dead. In the best of all worlds, my ambition is to make my very best film the year before I die. It would be great to go out with the knowledge that you have finally made the ultimate film.”
- Ryan Jacobs
Full article in the Pt. Reyes Light

The Controversy About Twice Upon a Time
After years of misinformation circulating online, perhaps this screening at the CineFamily in LA was a good time to straighten things out.

 Yes, there are two versions of the film, with the same visual content (it was not re-edited) and almost the same soundtrack. The only difference is that one has about 15 instances of profanity and the other has none. The misinformation is about which is the original. It happens to be the “clean” version. Here is the chronology:

 I organized a limited partnership in the 1970s to raise $150,000 to develop an animated feature film. Besides funding the screenplay, the money was for the creation of the visual style, the animated characters and a ten-minute sample reel to show potential production studios. My enthusiasm led me to promise the investors something highly unusual---a film that would appeal to all age groups.

 Children would love the characters and action, adults would enjoy the cleverness of the dialogue and young people would be drawn to the experimental nature of the animation. It was a worthy goal and a sincere promise but very difficult to deliver in spite of my legal obligation.

 Two years later, we showed the sample reel to my friend, George Lucas, who immediately took us to the Ladd Company, where a deal was struck to produce it in my Mill Valley studio. Another three years was required before we presented the finished film to Alan Ladd, Jr. and it was scheduled for distribution. But first, a couple of sneak previews were held.

 They had dire consequences. People walked out, mostly the 15 to 25-year-olds who thought the whole film would be like the early sequences in Frivoli, childlike and sweet. I had to take a job directing a live action film (to pay studio rent and salaries) and my business V-P, Bill Couturie, was left to deal with the situation. He was very afraid that the film would get a PG rating.

And so, without telling me, he brought back the actors and re-recorded their dialogue in a few scenes adding profanity. A new print was made with this track and it was sent (possibly without Ladd company people even seeing it) to Portland and Seattle for the first bookings. The right hand evidently did not know what the left hand was doing because it was also double-featured with SECRETS OF NIMH---an innocent film made for very young children.

More dire consequences. Parents had brought their kids to see two nice little films and they were suddenly hearing “shit” and “asshole”. They stormed out with their families and demanded their money back. When word of these events got back to the Ladd Company, they simply pulled the film from distribution. Its entire nationwide release was killed by fifteen words.

 There was nothing I could do. You are everyone’s friend at a studio before your picture opens (it might be a big hit) but once it flops, they don’t even speak to you in the hallways. Five years of hard work and good ideas went down the drain in a matter of days. I was totally depressed by the situation. If we had said, “Hey, why not distribute it and play up the profanity?” they would have had us committed.

 A few years later, the HBO deal was made and, again, the print sent to them was probably not checked in advance. So the doctored version was cable cast. Families turned it off, but a small (very small by TV standards) audience of young people caught it and decided it was great. They also decided that it must be the original version and I must be the crazy puritan who censored it when the VHS and LD copies were made.

 The rumor that I personally threatened HBO and WB about any of this is laughable. These are BIG corporations and I had zero clout by then. I had to resign myself to the events and get on with my other work. If you really want a copy of the “adult” version, I suggest you pressure WB to release a DVD with both versions on it.

Movies for Television
The Autobiography
of Miss Jane Pittman
"...possibly the finest movie ever made for American television." - Pauline Kael

Deadly Business
"A real sleeper...One of the season's niftiest dramas tightly written by Al Ramus expertly directed by John Korty and energized by first-rate performances. A good old-fashioned, no-nonsense movie, intriguing and suspenseful from start to finish."
Los Angeles Times

Getting Out
"pitch perfect in its depictions of people on the despised rim of society....wallopingly good performances by Rebecca DeMornay and Ellen Burstyn. The film is directed by John Korty.... a good many notches above the average television movie."
New York Times

Deadly Matrimony
"Director John Korty's TV movies are always exceptional...a gripping tale of good against evil in which evil seems to hold all the cards. Korty pulls the knot very tight, generating industrial - strength suspense without resorting to cheap scare tactics."
Washington Post

"Made by TV's most consistently impressive feature director—John Korty—Deadly Matrimony is tough and real throughout....(it) has the bad luck to be about the zillionth true crime story of the current TV season, but it also happens to be the very best."
San Jose Mercury

Redwood Curtain
"The finest work of all, though, is probably that of director John Korty....Korty is the best dramatic director regularly working in television. He directs like B.B. King play blues guitar. There are no pyrotechnics or fast flurries of notes aimed at impressing audiences by overwhelming them. With Korty, everything is understated, honed and distilled. The technique is almost invisible."
Baltimore Sun

First Reviews of The Crazy-Quilt

"Top Ten of 1966!"
" 'Crazy Quilt' is the sleeper of the year." "… it is Mr. Korty's cinematic terminology-narration, sparse dialogue, a beautiful score, and his superb photography - that triumph." "A rarity on any age and experience level!"
Judith Crist,

"Director John Korty makes his debut exploring the very meaning of life and love … with wit and high good humor.. . Hilarious!" "A happy achievement!"

"CRAZY QUILT is great. It's fey, fresh, funny, genuine, touching … a delight. It's the movie we've all  been waiting for. The whole seminar loved it to a man.
Elodie Osborn, 1965 Flaherty Film Seminar

'Executed with complete professionalism, 'The Crazy Quilt' is also fresh, heady and invigorating, a sort of modern American 'Jules and Jim.' "

 "This is a marvelously well made little film, remarkable for its simplicity and cool humor." "This is the neatest picture of its kind since 'David and Lisa'  …"

"U. S. cinema has seldom produced a picture as sophisticated in style as 'Crazy Quilt.' Director Korty speaks an ultra-modern language of film with a fluency that refuses flamboyance; every part of his art is resolved in the whole of this work." "A deliberately minor masterpiece."