Thursday, December 15, 2011

Farewell "Monkees" co-creator Bert Schneider

The son of the president of Columbia Pictures, Bert Schneider was born into entertainment. As a twenty-year old he entered the business officially, transporting film cans for Screen Gems. By 1965, he was developing a network television series with his buddy Bob Rafelson for the company. “The Monkees” was to be one of the most profitable and controversial projects of the ‘60s, cashing in on The Beatles’ popularity while also introducing hippie ideology and anarchic surrealism to primetime. While the hipsters derided Schneider’s “pre-fab four,” and avoided the band's brilliantly avant garde film Head (1968), they praised the second film his and Bob’s independent studio, Raybert Productions, unleashed in 1969. Once again hippie ideology and Rock & Roll were at the heart of Easy Rider, but the public found antiestablishment sentiments much more convincing coming from Dennis Hooper and Peter Fonda than Mike, Micky, Davy, and Peter. Following another major critical and commercial success with Five Easy Pieces, Schneider and Rafelson formed BBS Productions with a third partner, Bert’s childhood friend Steve Blauner. The trio continued making innovative independent films that inspired a new crop of filmmakers to embrace the gritty, naturalism that defined ‘70s cinema.

As Rafelson settled into his role as big shot movie director, Schneider focused more and more on politics, and his movie work grew sparse. Yet he continued to make major impressions as producer of the Oscar-winning, Vietnam documentary Hearts and Minds (1974) and Terence Malick’s reflective classic Days of Heaven (1978). Schneider dropped out of the movie business after producing Broken English in 1981. The ongoing popularity of “The Monkees”, Easy Rider, The Last Picture Show, and his other major achievements kept his name alive in the movie, T.V., and pop history books. Pop experimenter, cinematic trendsetter, Bert Schneider died this past Monday of natural causes in L.A. at the age of ’78.
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