[Marxism] Dan Talbot, Impresario of Art Films, Is Dead at 91

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 1 09:02:07 MST 2018

NY Times, Jan. 1 2018
Dan Talbot, Impresario of Art Films, Is Dead at 91

Dan Talbot, one of the most influential figures in the world of 
art-house film as an operator of Manhattan theaters — including Lincoln 
Plaza Cinemas, which is scheduled to close on Jan. 28 — and a founder of 
the film distribution company New Yorker Films, died on Friday at his 
home in Manhattan. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by Ewnetu Admassu, the general manager of 
Lincoln Plaza.

Manohla Dargis, co-chief film critic for The New York Times, summed up 
Mr. Talbot’s impact in a 2011 interview with him at the Cannes Film 
Festival, where in his 80s he continued to see four to six films a day. 
She described his theaters as places where “generations of moviegoers 
have had their minds and worlds expanded, and even blown.”

Mr. Talbot was always realistic about the narrow appeal of his product. 
In 1987, interviewed during a Public Theater retrospective, “The Age of 
New Yorker Films,” he described his chosen field as “a very financially 
masochistic business.” In fact, he told Ms. Dargis (and others) what he 
thought of the term show business: “It’s not a business. It’s a casino.”

And he acknowledged that the audience for art-house films was both small 
and static. “It’s an elite, college-educated, well-traveled group, and 
it’s very determined,” but it isn’t growing, he told The Times in 1981.

Mr. Talbot chose to trust his own tastes. “When I look at movies, I 
don’t think of the box office,” he said in the same interview. “If it 
appeals to my aesthetic sense, if it has some artistic foundation, I 
take a chance with it.” And that system worked.

He introduced American moviegoers to a whole universe of European 
filmmaking, including the French New Wave and the postwar German 
auteurs. One of his greatest successes was Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 
“The Marriage of Maria Braun” (1979), about one German woman’s struggles 
after World War II, which ran for a full year.

Mr. Talbot’s boldest moves included “Point of Order,” 188 hours of the 
1954 McCarthy Senate hearings, edited to 97 minutes; “Shoah,” Claude 
Lanzmann’s almost nine-and-a-half-hour interview-based documentary about 
the Holocaust, which aired on PBS after half a year in theaters; and a 
1960 release of “Triumph of the Will,” Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous 
propaganda documentary about the 1934 Nazi Party Congress.

Daniel Talbot was born on July 21, 1926, in the Bronx. His father, 
Israel, worked as a textile jobber. His mother, the former Jeanne 
Frances Charak, owned a fabric and notions shop.

After graduating from New York University with a literature degree, Mr. 
Talbot worked in publishing and film — as a book editor, as East Coast 
story editor for Warner Bros. and briefly as film critic for the 
pacifist magazine The Progressive. After a year living in Spain, putting 
together a collection of essays titled “Film: An Anthology” (1959), Mr. 
Talbot returned to the United States and the opportunity that became the 
New Yorker Theater.

Mr. Talbot and his wife, the former Toby Tolpern, learned that the old 
Yorktown Theater, on Broadway between 88th and 89th Street, was 
available. They renamed the theater the New Yorker and reopened it in 
March 1960 as a revival house, presenting “Henry V” with Laurence 
Olivier and “The Red Balloon” as their first double feature. By 1962, 
business was so good that the couple bought the lease. By 1964, Mr. 
Talbot was being interviewed for The New York Post by a young writer 
named Nora Ephron, who described his theater as “a raving success”

It all seemed easy. “The theater had a policy of no policy,” Ms. Talbot 
wrote in “The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes From a Life at the 
Movies,” her 2009 memoir. “We thought of it as our living room, playing 
movies we wanted to see.”

The theater branched out into first-run foreign and independent films 
and presented retrospectives of the work of both actors and directors. 
The New Yorker’s lobby guest book was signed by the city’s creative elite.

New Yorker Films was founded in 1965 after the Talbots saw a movie they 
loved at the New York Film Festival. It was “Before the Revolution,” a 
romantic drama from an unknown 23-year-old Italian director, Bernardo 
Bertolucci, and the only way they could screen the film at the New 
Yorker, they learned, was to agree to distribute it.

By the mid-1970s, the couple were devoting themselves full time to 
distribution, Ms. Talbot recalled. New Yorker Films’s hundreds of 
credits included “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (1972), “Tampopo” (1985), 
“The Boys of St. Vincent” (1992) and “My Dinner With Andre” (1981). The 
company ceased operations in 2009 but was later revived under new owners.

In the intervening years, other projects had come along. Two more Upper 
West Side theaters came and went. And the theater that became Mr. 
Talbot’s final legacy began a 37-year-run across the street from Lincoln 

Lincoln Plaza Cinemas opened in April 1981 with three screens (later 
expanding to six). Mr. Talbot described it as “a supplement on a 
year-round basis to the New York Film Festival.” The first film that 
played there was Federico Fellini’s “City of Women.” The theater’s 
current features include “Darkest Hour,” a British drama starring Gary 
Oldman as Winston Churchill; “1945,” a black-and-white period drama from 
Hungary; and “Loving Vincent,” a Polish-British coproduction about the 
life of Vincent van Gogh.

It was revealed in mid-December that the real estate company Milstein 
Properties, which operates Lincoln Plaza with the Talbots and Gaumont 
Films (a French studio), would not be renewing the theater’s lease.

In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1950, Mr. Talbot is survived 
by three daughters, Nina Talbot, Emily Talbot and Sarah Tanzer; and four 

Although he had been ill for some time (in May he did not attend Cannes, 
where he had been an enthusiastic regular since 1967), Mr. Talbot 
continued to be involved in the industry. He wrote an article, 
“Fragments From the Dream World: Reminiscences of a Film Distributor and 
Exhibitor,” for the spring 2017 issue of Cineaste.

On the Friday afternoon before Christmas, he even dropped by Lincoln 
Plaza to catch a movie. “He watched the Haneke film,” Mr. Admassu said 
in a telephone interview, referring to the German-Austrian director 
Michael Haneke’s “Happy End.” “And he asked how business was.”

Mr. Talbot disliked cinematic pretentiousness. He told Ms. Ephron that 
his work should never be viewed “with solemnity.” In the 1981 Times 
interview, he insisted that his programming choices had never been 
intended to shape audiences or advocate any ideology. They were chosen, 
he said, just to “demonstrate the full glory of movies.”

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