Ron Rice
For the American football
American football
American football is a sport played between two teams of eleven with the objective of scoring points by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone. Known in the United States simply as football, it may also be referred to informally as gridiron football. The ball can be advanced by...

 player see Ron Rice (American football)
Ron Rice (American football)
Ron Rice is a former American football safety in the National Football League. He was signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent in 1995. He played college football at Eastern Michigan....

Ron Rice (1935, New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 - 1964, Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

) was an American experimental film
Experimental film
Experimental film or experimental cinema is a type of cinema. Experimental film is an artistic practice relieving both of visual arts and cinema. Its origins can be found in European avant-garde movements of the twenties. Experimental cinema has built its history through the texts of theoreticians...

maker, whose freeform style influenced experimental filmmakers in New York and California during the early 1960s.

The Flower Thief

Rice twice collaborated with future Warhol star Taylor Mead
Taylor Mead
Taylor Mead is an American writer, actor, and performer. Mead appeared in several of Andy Warhol's underground films including Tarzan and Jane Regained.....

, including Rice's first and best-known film, The Flower Thief
The Flower Thief
The Flower Thief is an underground film directed by Ron Rice, shot in 1959 in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, using surplus 16mm film. The film features non-professional actors like Taylor Mead and Eric "Big Daddy" Nord, and Beat poets living in North Beach such as Bob Kaufman.-External...

(1960). Created in 1959 for less than $1,000, it used World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 aerial gunnery 16mm film cartridges donated to Rice by Hollywood producer Sam Katzman
Sam Katzman
Sam Katzman was an American film producer and director. Born into a poor Jewish family, Katzman went to work as a stage laborer at the age of 13 in the fledgling East Coast film industry...

. In 1962, it was seen by a large New York audience as a selection of Amos Vogel
Amos Vogel
Amos Vogel was one of the most influential cineasts in New York. He is best known for his bestselling book Film as a Subversive Art and as the founder of the New York City avantgarde ciné-club Cinema 16 , where he was the first programmer to present films by Roman Polanski, John Cassavetes,...

's Cinema 16
Cinema 16
Cinema 16 was a New York city based film society founded by Amos Vogel. From 1947 until 1963, he and his wife Marcia ran the most successful and influential membership film society in North American history, at its height boasting 7000 members....


Rice commented on his inventive approach:
In the old Hollywood movie days, studios would keep a man on the set who, when all other sources of ideas failed (writers, directors), was called upon to 'cook up' something for filming. He was called the Wild Man. The Flower Thief has been put together in memory of all the dead wild men who died unnoticed in the field of stunt.

In 2005, after muffled dialogue was restored by the Anthology Film Archives
Anthology Film Archives
__notoc__Anthology Film Archives is a film archive and theater located at 32 Second Avenue on the corner of East Second Street in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City devoted to the preservation and exhibition of experimental film. It is the only non-profit organization of its...

, Ed Halter reviewed the film for the Village Voice:
In Ron Rice's baggy-pantsed beatnik
Beatnik was a media stereotype of the 1950s and early 1960s that displayed the more superficial aspects of the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s and violent film images, along with a cartoonish depiction of the real-life people and the spiritual quest in Jack Kerouac's autobiographical...

 artifact The Flower Thief (1960), Warhol superstar in training Taylor Mead traipses with elfin glee through a lost San Francisco of smoke-stuffed North Beach cafés, oceanside fairgrounds and collapsed post-industrial ruins. Boinging along an improvised picaresque up and down the city's hills, Mead teases playground schoolkids, sniffs wildflowers, gets abducted by cowboys in the park, and has a tea party on a pile of rubble with a potbellied bathing beauty... For consummate subcult critic Parker Tyler
Parker Tyler
Harrison Parker Tyler, better known as Parker Tyler was an American author, poet, and film critic. Tyler had a relationship with underground filmmaker Charles Boultenhouse from 1945 until his death...

, Rice's "dharma-bum films
The Dharma Bums
The Dharma Bums is a 1958 novel by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac. The semi-fictional accounts in the novel are based upon events that occurred years after the events of On the Road...

" work by discarding the distinctions between art and life. They "bear resemblance to the lunatic romps of the Marx Brothers, only now the actors are not in comic uniforms, as if the parody were part of real life, not a movie fiction." Today, Mead's Flower Thief uniform—tight hoodie, button-down shirt, three-stripe tennis shoes, and beat-up jeans—can be seen on many an L-train habitué, en route to neo-Bowery facsimilies of post-war cafés, and so the parody has been reversed; such are our own meticulous restorations of the fantasies of other people's youth.


The 28-minute Senseless print was silent, but it played at New York's Charles Theater with Béla Bartók
Béla Bartók
Béla Viktor János Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary's greatest composer...

 music. This was not planned; it just happened to be one of the few LP records in the projection booth. Each showing was slightly different since the record was never synched with the start of the film at the same place. Cary Collins provided background on the production:
Senseless came out of a film that he planned to make at Eric Nord's island. Rice knew Nord from The Flower Thief, and he knew that Nord purchased an island from the Mexican government with the intent of making that island a Utopia. Unfortunately, Nord forgot to find out if there was water on the island, so when Rice arrived on the island to shoot his film, Nord and his crew realized the mistake they had made and had already cleared off the island. The only thing Ron Rice had left from his trip was some footage that he took on his way to the island to meet Nord. When Rice got back from the trip and arrived in NewYork, he pooled together his research and the various episodes he had recorded. He devised a potpourri from what he recorded in Mexico and what he had on file and realized that the film would have no plot nor a continuity of a single mediator. Despite the incredible irony, the creation Senseless was completed in 1962. Rice gave credit to Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas is a Lithuanian-born American filmmaker, writer, and curator who has often been called "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema." His work has been exhibited in museums and festivals across Europe and America.-Biography:...

 for the creation of Senseless, but ironically, Senseless is thought of as Rice's most carefully organized formal film.

The Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man

"The film describes, poetically, a way of living. The film is a protest which is violent, childish, and sincere—a protest against an industrial world based on the cycle of production and consumption."
Alberto Moravia
Alberto Moravia
Alberto Moravia, born Alberto Pincherle was an Italian novelist and journalist. His novels explored matters of modern sexuality, social alienation, and existentialism....

, L'espresso
l'Espresso is an Italian newsmagazine. It is one of the two most prominent Italian weeklies, the other being Panorama. Since the latter has been acquired by right-wing tycoon and politician Silvio Berlusconi, l'Espresso enjoys the reputation of being the main politically independent newsmagazine...


Rice also worked with underground film
Underground film
An underground film is a film that is out of the mainstream either in its style, genre, or financing.-Definition and history:The first use of the term "underground film" occurs in a 1957 essay by American film critic Manny Farber, "Underground Films." Farber uses it to refer to the work of...

maker Jack Smith
Jack Smith (film director)
Jack Smith was an American filmmaker, actor, and pioneer of underground cinema...

, who appears in Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man
Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man
Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man is an experimental film by Ron Rice. It stars Winifred Bryan as the Queen of Sheba and Taylor Mead as the Atom Man. Featured players are Ron Rice, Julian Beck, Judith Malina, Jack Smith, and Jonas Mekas. Rice died before the editing was complete, so Mead finished...

with Taylor Mead, and in Chumlum. Rice was inspired to make Chumlum while working with Smith on the props for Smith's Normal Love. Chumlum also stars Mario Montez
Mario Montez
Mario Montez was one of the Warhol superstars, appearing in thirteen of Andy Warhol's underground films from 1964 to 1966. He took his name as a male homage to the actress Maria Montez, an important gay icon in the fifties and sixties...

, who appeared in both of Smith's films, as well as several of Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol
Andrew Warhola , known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art...

's films. Warhol superstar
Warhol superstar
Warhol superstars were a clique of New York City personalities promoted by Andy Warhol during the 1960s and early 1970s. These personalities appeared in Warhol's artworks and accompanied him in his social life...

 Gerard Malanga
Gerard Malanga
Gerard Joseph Malanga is an American poet, photographer, filmmaker, curator and archivist.-Early life:Born in the Bronx, New York, Malanga graduated from the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan and attended Wagner College on Staten Island...

 also has a role in Chumlum.

Rice's films can still be rented from the Filmmaker's Cooperative. His work paved the way for other experimental filmmakers of the 1960s, including the Kuchar
George Kuchar
George Kuchar was an American underground film director, known for his "low-fi" aesthetic.-Early life and career:...

 brothers. All but forgotten today, Rice was a major figure of the New American Cinema, and his deeply personal, anarchic films are the work of a true cinematic visionary.

Rice was 29 when he died in Mexico in 1964.


Rice's Senseless was the winner of the 1962 Filmmaker's Award at New York's showcase of experimental cinema, the Charles Theater. One of the judges was Variety
Variety (magazine)
Variety is an American weekly entertainment-trade magazine founded in New York City, New York, in 1905 by Sime Silverman. With the rise of the importance of the motion-picture industry, Daily Variety, a daily edition based in Los Angeles, California, was founded by Silverman in 1933. In 1998, the...

columnist Herman G. Weinberg.

Chumlum was selected as one of the 330 films in Anthology Film Archive's Essential Cinema Repertory Collection as chosen by the selection committee of Stan Brakhage
Stan Brakhage
James Stanley Brakhage , better known as Stan Brakhage, was an American non-narrative filmmaker who is considered to be one of the most important figures in 20th century experimental film....

, James Broughton
James Broughton
James Broughton was an American poet, and poetic filmmaker. He was part of the San Francisco Renaissance...

, Ken Kelman, Peter Kubelka, Jonas Mekas and P. Adams Sitney
P. Adams Sitney
P. Adams Sitney , is a historian of American avant-garde cinema.-Life:He was educated in his hometown, at Yale University...



  • The Flower Thief
    The Flower Thief
    The Flower Thief is an underground film directed by Ron Rice, shot in 1959 in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, using surplus 16mm film. The film features non-professional actors like Taylor Mead and Eric "Big Daddy" Nord, and Beat poets living in North Beach such as Bob Kaufman.-External...

  • The Dancing Master (1961) (Unfinished project with Jerry Joften)
  • Senseless (1962)
  • Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man
    Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man
    Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man is an experimental film by Ron Rice. It stars Winifred Bryan as the Queen of Sheba and Taylor Mead as the Atom Man. Featured players are Ron Rice, Julian Beck, Judith Malina, Jack Smith, and Jonas Mekas. Rice died before the editing was complete, so Mead finished...

  • Chumlum (1964)

Further reading

More information about Ron Rice's work can be found in Wheeler Winston Dixon
Wheeler Winston Dixon
Wheeler Winston Dixon is best known as a writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of numerous books on film, as well as a professor who has taught at Rutgers University, New Brunswick; The New School in New York; and the University of Amsterdam, Holland. He received his Ph.D....

's book The Exploding Eye, a history of experimental film in the 1960s.

External links

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