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Movie Man John Carpenter’s Swan Song for 2011

Barbara Stanwyck classic set for Dec. 10 viewing

This Saturday, Dec. 10 will be the Movie Man’s final showing for 2011. In fact, it won’t be until next April that John Carpenter will be bringing more of his Classic Films to the Bar Harbour Library.

On Dec. 10 at 2 p.m., movie fans will be able to view the Christmas classic, Remember the Night starring Hollywood legends Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.

“Crying is assured as you’ll see how the love for our fellow man is increased at holiday time,” Carpenter said. In the film, Brooklyn native Barbara Stanwyck is reduced to petty shoplifting, while turning herself in to MacMurray, an embattled district attorney who puts his career on the line so that Ms. Stanwyck would not have to spend Christmas in jail.

Prior to the film, the ubiquitous Betty Boop will make an appearance with a sing-a-long special for the Christmas season.

Since Carpenter won’t be showing films again until the spring and since this year marks his Fifth Anniversary of bringing classic movies to Massapequa, the Movie Man looked back on this successful time in his long film career.

“The happiness that I have brought to so many people gave me the chance to bring good, clean, family entertainment back into their lives,” Carpenter told The Massapequan Observer. “It has been an honor that I have lived for. We have brought back unification to an entire community in Long Island.”

Turning Massapequa Into a Cultural Mecca

For the past five years, Carpenter has been bringing long-lost classic films back to life, all to the delight of movie fans from Nassau and Suffolk counties, and from New York City’s outer boroughs, too.

The journey started when this Queens native followed his parents out to Long Island to make Massapequa his home. More than that, he has made the village the Classic Films Capital of Long Island, hosting highly popular viewings of movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age of the 1930s, all of them complete with the commentary, background, and insight that only he can provide.

Carpenter has spent a lifetime in film. While growing up in Jamaica, Queens, he began collecting old movie in super 8mm and by age 13, he was making ones himself with his friends.  At Jamaica High School, he found himself the star of school stage plays and musicals, with teachers declaring he had a voice resembling a mixture of Howard Keel’s power and Bing Crosby’s vocal personality.  After graduating from Queens College, it was off to the big city, where Carpenter was starring in Off Broadway musicals and comedies. At the same time, he still made amateur silent and sound movies that were inspired by the works of men he terms as “America’s true Kings of the screen,” Charley Chase, Fred Astaire and Buster Keaton.  

While his career in Manhattan was taking off, Carpenter’s parents moved from Jamaica to Massapequa. Carpenter’s latest success was a run of The Bard of Broadway, where he played Shakespeare and wrote much of the musical’s score. By now, Carpenter was well on his way to completing his first professionally made and budgeted film. Then fate intervened. Tragedy struck, even though Carpenter would not view the events in such terms. One day, he was in the village, visiting his parents. While waiting on the corner of Broadway and Clark Boulevard to cross the street, two cars slowed down to a stop seeing the green had turned to a yellow light. The first driver halted at the yellow and beckoned John to cross. John stepped into the street but the Mazda behind him was impatient and seeing a still yellow light to go through, zoomed around the stopped car in front of him and plowed into Carpenter, smashing his left leg and causing his head to crash through the windshield, eventually throwing Carpenter across the street.

When the ambulances arrived, Carpenter was in such serious condition, that it appeared one of his legs would have to be amputated. In addition, he suffered such a severe head trauma that he was in a coma for two full months. In all, Carpenter spent five months at Nassau County Medical Center and later at the Southside Hospital, where he recuperated from head injuries.

While in an extended rehabilitation period, Carpenter had his own revelation. Surrounded by people who had suffered similar bad breaks, Carpenter noticed there was no self-pity at all around him, just ordinary people determined to get back, as much as possible, to the business of life. And so, Carpenter acquired the same determination. All that culminated in new bursts of creativity. His first film on the comeback trail was Late to Lunch, an independent film that he completed in the basement of his parent’s Massapequa Park home. Carpenter would drag his disabled body to the basement to complete the editing of his movie and with the help of his father, Carpenter, when he was able to walk again, went into the city to once again utilize his contacts he had made to help his film to be shown theatrically. Late to Lunch was a silent comedy made in the style that predominated in the 1920s. The film found a helpful fan in the person of longtime television legend Joe Franklin. The two became friends and Franklin regularly invited Carpenter to appear in his popular WOR radio show. Not only that, Franklin volunteered to serve as the host of Carpenter’s second theatrical masterpiece and award-winning documentary, Smelling Like A Rose.

This effort was inspired by Carpenter’s recovery from his accident and the rewards found in living each day. Now, Carpenter travels throughout both Nassau and Suffolk counties, where he lectures before rehab support groups, brain injury associations and any other venue where uplifting stories are needed to inspire recovering patients.

For that work and for his ongoing movie viewings at libraries not only in Massapequa, but also in East Meadow and Lindenhurst, Rep. Peter King awarded Carpenter with a Congressional citation for not only rising above adversity, but for showing that laughter and faith in oneself truly is the best medicine.  

Both State Assemblyman Joseph Saladino and Nassau County Legislature Peter J. Schmitt have also recognized Carpenter’s role as a cultural ambassador.

“You are providing an excellent service to the community in showing these films,” Schmitt recently wrote. “In a time where big budgets and special effects dominate the movies, it is nice to go back to a period where a good script, inspired acting, and excellent cinematography ruled the screen.” 

Today, libraries in Long Island are now packed with movie fans, as Carpenter imparts an encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood’s Golden Age, reminding viewers young and old that sensationalism is not what is needed to make a movie a hit.  For John Carpenter, it appears that the best is yet to be.