They say behind every great man is a great woman. Carolyn Cassady was behind two. Wife of beatnik icon Neal Cassady and lover-muse of Jack Kerouac, Carolyn saw her life story and the memory of the men she loved hijacked by mythmakers. Love Always, Carolyn is the intimate, graceful portrait of a patient matriarch who could never escape the constant wake of her husband’s epic misadventures.
Having been brought up in a sheltered and conventional middle-class home Carolyn is plunged in to a completely unknown world together with Neal and Jack. With a degree in Fine Arts and Drama, Carolyn is aiming for a job opening in Hollywood but instead she finds herself looking after children and unsettled men. Newly wed and with a three month old baby, Neal suddenly leaves Carolyn behind as he takes off on a road-trip together with his best friend Jack. The trip was later fictionalized in Jack´s novel “On the Road” placing Neal in literary history as “Dean Moriarity”, the notorious, drug-using hero.
Tormented by distorted stories about her dead husband, Carolyn makes an attempt to put the record straight in her own book “Off the road”. However, her life seems forever destined to deal with journalists, filmmakers and fans, all wanting a piece of the story of a notorious hero – not the actual man she knew. Carolyn is repelled to see the man she loved trashed and glorified for the wrong reasons. Her three children are not unaffected by their inherited fame. They all carry conflicting feelings regarding the past and their father. John Cassady is in demand as being the son of “the fastest man ever alive”. John is rewarded with public attention but finds himself in a complex situation as he is trying to enjoy the limelight and stay supportive of his mothers mission at the same time.
About the directors:
Maria Ramström, born in 1971 in Stockholm is a freelance filmmaker with a past as a still photographer primarily within the documentary field. She is currently working on her second full length documentary as a director, Maneuvers in The Dark, a story about the world of branding, set in Sweden, China and North Korea. Love Always, Carolyn is her first full length documentary as a director.
Malin Korkeasalo, born in 1969 in Stockholm graduated from from Dramatiska Institutet (University College of Film, Radio, Television and Theatre in Stockholm, Sweden) in 2004 where she studied as a Cinematographer. She is based in Stockholm and works as a freelance filmmaker and cinematographer. She has worked as a cinematographer on a numerous documentaries. Love Always, Carolyn is her first full length documentary as a director.
In Love Always, Carolyn we want to give a voice to a woman, Carolyn Cassady, and her first account version of her life together with Neal Cassady, the man who unwillingly became the iconic hero of the Beat Generation. It is also an attempt to reassess our ideas of and our need for the male iconic hero. A flourishing myth industry seems eager to create – or seduce us to believe in – an imagined utopia where there is fame and fortune for everyone to be found. Through Carolyn Cassady and her children we learn the side effects of the fabrication of a hero and the fleeting condition of fame. Their private memory of a beloved husband and father has been transformed into a public domain and a commodity to trade. Instead of dealing with their own tragic loss they are left to deal with the aftermath of a fictionalized and mythical character of a novel.
Carolyn Cassady was born Carolyn Robinson in Lansing, Michigan on 28 April 1923 at 10:AM CST, the youngest of five siblings. Her parents were educators, her mother a former English teacher, her father a Biochemist. They held strict conventional values. She lived in East Lansing for eight years until moving to Nashville, Tennessee, where she spent 9 winters. Summers were spent at Glen Lake in Michigan. In Nashville, Carolyn attended the Ward-Belmont Preparatory School for Girls. She began formal art lessons at age 9, sold her first portrait at age 14, her second at 16 and continued to paint portraits the rest of her life.
Source: The Neal Cassady Estate
The real genius behind the Beat movement in literature never published a book during his life. He appeared as a main character in many books, though, from ‘Go’ by John Clellon Holmes to ‘On The Road’ by Jack Kerouac to ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ by Tom Wolfe. His free-flowing letter writing style inspired the young Kerouac to break his ties to the sentimental style he’d picked up from Thomas Wolfe and invent his notion of ‘spontaneous prose.’ Without Neal Cassady, the Beat Generation would never have happened.
Neal Cassady was raised by an alcoholic father in the skid row hotels of Denver’s Larimer Street. A car thief with a unique ability to charm strangers, he spent time in reform schools and juvenile prisons and developed the suave instincts of a con artist, although he never seemed to want to con anybody out of more than a ten-dollar bill, a roll in the hay or a good conversation.
A friend named Hal Chase left Denver to enroll at Columbia University, and Cassady traveled to New York to visit him in December 1946. It was here that he met Kerouac and Ginsberg. Ginsberg immediately fell in love with him, and Cassady, who had a hustler’s instinct to be whatever the person he’s with wants him to be, began a sexual relationship with Ginsberg, balancing it with the numerous heterosexual relationships he enjoyed more. At the same time, he persuaded Kerouac to teach him how to write fiction.
Soon he and Kerouac began the series of cross-country adventures that would later become ‘On The Road’. They raced aimlessly across the U.S.A. and Mexico, with Cassady setting the agenda. Kerouac began writing about their adventures even as they were taking place, but he could not find a style that fit the content, and put the project away in frustration.
He picked the project up again later, after a series of letters from Cassady gave Kerouac the idea to write the book the way Cassady talked, in a rush of mad ecstasy, without self-consciousness or mental hesitation. It worked: ‘On The Road’ became a sensation by capturing Cassady’s voice.
Cassady married several women and fathered many children (much of this activity is discussed in ‘On The Road’). He finally settled down with Carolyn Cassady in Los Gatos, a suburb near San Jose, where he worked as a brakeman on the Southern Pacific railroad. He remained close friends with Ginsberg, Kerouac and many others from the Beat crowd, although he never profited from their eventual success. Kerouac wrote in ‘Desolation Angels’ of the strange way he felt when Cassady dropped by his apartment after the first advance copies of ‘On The Road’ arrived:
When Cody said goodbye to all of us that day he for the first time in our lives failed to look me a goodbye in the eye but looked away shifty-like — I couldn’t understand it and still don’t — I knew something was bound to be wrong and it turned out very wrong …
In the 1960’s, as Kerouac withdrew into alcoholism and early middle-age, Cassady began an entirely new series of road adventures, this time with young novelist Ken Kesey in Jack Kerouac’s place. When Kesey organized a trip to the New York World’s Fair in a psychedelic bus named ‘Furthur,’ Neal Cassady was the madman behind the wheel. This trip is chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.’
When Kesey and Cassady were in New York, a party was organized for the purpose of introducing Kerouac to Kesey. But Kerouac and Cassady had been changing in opposite directions, and the meeting did not go well, especially after Kerouac, offended by somebody’s frivolous treatment of an American flag, solemnly rescued the flag and folded it.
After a night of hard partying in Mexico in 1968, Cassady wandered onto a deserted railroad, intending to walk fifteen miles to the next town. He fell asleep on the way, wearing only a t-shirt and jeans. It was a cold rainy night, and Cassady was found beside the tracks the next morning. He was in a coma, and died in a hospital later that day. Kerouac would die a year later.
Neal’s unfinished autobiography was published as ‘The First Third’ after his death. Some of his letters, such as the one Kerouac called ‘The Great Sex Letter,’ were also published.
Jean-Louis “Jack” Kerouac was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation.
Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. His writings have inspired other writers, including Ken Kesey, Bob Dylan, Richard Brautigan, Thomas Pynchon, Lester Bangs, Tom Robbins, Will Clarke, Haruki Murakami.
Kerouac became an underground celebrity and, with other beats, a progenitor of the Hippie movement,although he remained antagonistic toward it. In 1969, at age 47, Kerouac died from internal bleeding due to long-standing abuse of alcohol. Since his death Kerouac’s literary prestige has grown and several previously unseen works have been published. All of his books are in print today, among them: On the Road, Doctor Sax, The Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody and Big Sur.
Title: Love Always, Carolyn
Release year: 2011
Length: 70 min
Directors: Maria Ramström, Malin Korkeasalo
Producers: Margarete Jangård
Executive Producer: Fredrik Gertten
Editor: Bernhard Winkler, Stefan Sundlöf
Editor consultant: Åsa Mossberg
In co-production with SVT – Hjalmar Palmgren, Film i Skåne – Joakim Strand and Film Stockholm/Filmbasen – Ulf Andersson-Greek. With the support of The Swedish Film Institute – Film Commissioner Tove Torbiörnsson and Konstnärsnämnden (The Swedish Arts Grants Committee). In association with YLE Teema – Ritva Leino and FilmCentrum Stockholm. With the support of the MEDIA Programme of the European Union.
(In selection) HOTDOCS Toronto 2011, Tempo Dokumentärfilmsfestival Stockholm 2011, Tribeca Film festival 2011, Chicago International Film Festival, 2011.