Berkeley, the Sixties and Me, Part 17 … A BRAND NEW CAREER

Professor Littlejohn's domain

The late Professor Littlejohn’s domain

David Littlejohn PhD was a celebrity at UC Berkeley. He hosted a PBS tv series called “Critic at Large.” He authored books, reviewed art, architecture, opera, film, museums … you name it! … for publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Times (London). He was one of the most highly regarded and best loved professors at Berkeley.

I became aware of Professor Littlejohn about the same time I became aware of the unpleasant fact that I’d reached a point in my college life when I’d soon collide with what I’d always considered “the future.” And as I trod toward that opaque horizon, I realized that I’d be forced to change my lifestyle … irrevocably for the rest of my born days!

So, after giving the matter the serious attention it deserved, I came to the conclusion that the career of beat poet probably wouldn’t pay for the food, or the rent, or the clothing, or the shoes … or, hell it wouldn’t even pay for the shoelaces! So, with less than a year to go, I decided to take the bull by the horns, face reality like a man and change my life’s trajectory!

I decided to become a famous movie critic!

That's it! I'll be a famous movie reviewer!

Simple! I’ll be a famous movie reviewer!

It sounded perfect! After all I loved going to the movies (this was when choosing and viewing movies at home was a far-away fantasy) and I figured I’d probably enjoy writing about them since my friends and I talked always about them endlessly.

“Why that’s it!” I declared. “I’ll be a movie critic!”

That’s when Littlejohn entered my awakening career-consciousness. He conducted a graduate seminar for the Journalism Department called The Critical Review. I figured that sounded excellent for someone looking to be a famous film critic! And though I was an undergrad, the class catalogue clearly indicated that it was open to grad and upper division undergrad applicants, all of whom were to be interviewed and selected by the professor himself.

The size of the line of students waiting to be interviewed surprised me … aspiring young critics spanned the length a long hall and wrapped around a corner, spilling into an exit! The interview itself was, of necessity, short … and I have absolutely no idea what I said to move the good professor to choose me, but I soon found myself sitting in one of the twelve seats at his twice-a-week seminar!

So far, so good!

David Littlejohn, professor extraordinaire

David Littlejohn, professor extraordinaire

The course demands of Littlejohn differed little from that of his Berkeley colleagues … they were all designed by criminally obsessive types who were seemingly unaware that we had a couple of other equally burdensome classes squeezed into the miserly twenty-four hours each day offered!

We read books of reviews by famous critics, from ancient and contemporary. We read books about notable critics. And we wrote a review each week … fiction, drama, architecture, concerts, movies and whatever else the resourceful mind of Littlejohn could dream up.

However, we soldiered on as best we could, but time was limited and precious. Thus, when it came time for a movie review, I chose a newly released work documenting the psychedelic rock scene in San Francisco called  “Revolution.”

That’s when I faced a critic’s worst nightmare The film was an absolute dog! It was awful on just about all levels. The only honest thing I could say about it was, “Don’t go! That’s it! How may ways can you say that? I could find absolutely nothing enlightening or even entertaining to report about the flick … and had no time to see another movie!

What was an aspiring film critic to do … and do quickly?



About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you can spend with them ... Joe
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