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December 1996, Week 5


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Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 10:29:26 -0600
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Forwarded by Jeremy Butler.
______________________________ Forward Header __________________________________
Subject: Calvin Pryluck, 1924-96
Author:  [log in to unmask]
Date:    12/28/96 1:28 PM
I'm sharing with you an obituary I've sent to the UFVA Digest and the UFVA
Calvin Pryluck
 On December 15th, 1996, Cal Pryluck died, just a month shy of turning 72
years old.  Probably the first time Cal was shy about anything.
 I met him in 1969, both of us beginning Ph.D. students at the University of
Iowa.  He was a good twenty years older than the rest of us and, with Dudley
Andrew, assumed the role of master teacher:  Ted Perry and Ray Fielding had
recently left Iowa, and graduate students were led for a year by Dudley and
Cal and a sprinkling of visiting profs-it was an exciting way to learn, the
lunatics running the asylum.  There was Joe Anderson, and Chuck Berg, and
David Bordwell, and Don Fredericksen, Chris Koch, Dennis Lynch, Ed Small,
others.  Cal taught production and talked mostly about theory; we all took
theory courses from Dudley while we wondered about production.  It was the
time of social protest, against Viet Nam, against social injustice in
general, and Cal was a sage guide amidst all the ferment.  I remember the
night after the Kent State massacre, when Cal and I served watch over Iowa's
Old Armory housing the Ph.D. students (and their dissertations), assuming
that the growing protests might aim their incendiary wrath at a building with
such an offensive name.  We spent the night just jawing, gulping coffee to
stay awake, and getting to know each others souls.  He became my uncle, my
older brother, at times my surrogate dad, always my friend and my fiercest
 In the '60s, for a white middle-aged couple of Eastern European heritage, to
arrive in Iowa City fresh from Purdue, with their two adopted
African-American children-well, cultures were bound to clash and demand
reassessment of deeply-seeded prejudice.  Cal and Naomi's strength and
commitment were undaunted and often awe-inspiring.  They were your basic big
city Jews, raised in that era when Marxism was simply Communism, when Sacco
and Vanzetti, the Scottsboro boys, the Rosenbergs were the outward and
visible sign of a deep and insidiously hateful prejudice.  Cal's educational
heritage included the rough-and-tumble New York City school system, NYU,
UCLA, Penn: he'd been there, done that, and was never reticent about sharing
what he had learned.  His "Toward a Psycholinguistics of Cinema," co-authored
with Richard Snow (1967), and "Structure and Function in Educational Cinema"
(1969), outlined the principles of semiology before this perspective gained
any popularity in film studies.  And this highfalutin egghead stuff from a
meat-n-potatoes laborer.  He stood up at a UFVA meeting (then UFPA) and
announced that the absence of Black members in the organization was a
disgrace.  He challenged the gods of academic film and bravely (often loudly)
commented on the lack of clothing for a few of them.  He created "Film
Research in Progress" as a resource and repository for ongoing work, a
predecessor to the list-serves on today's Internet.  His "Ultimately, We Are
All Outsiders: The Ethics of Documentary Filming" (1975) has remained the
definitive statement on the subject.  And his knowledge of cyberspace matters
has been instrumental in moving UFVA into a new age of communication.
 What can one really say about a master teacher, a mentor in the truest
sense?  His students at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and
later Temple University had the chance to be enriched by his wide diversity
of interests and his strong (very strong) opinions.  His colleagues were
challenged by his thinking and his conclusions and his extremely high
standards for proper professional and collegial behavior.  And his friends
were nurtured by his tough love, his candid assessments, his brusque
compassion for them as worthy human beings.  He could often be difficult, but
that's true for all things valuable.
 I never published anything without sending it to Cal first.  This notice
can't benefit from his keen editorial eye, his unabashed opinions, his demand
for a strong lead.  But it has what he always demanded, a love and compassion
for the subject.  When I'd thank him for his critique,  he'd always say,
"Hey, I do what I do."  Yes, and you did it very well, Cal, very well.
-Timothy J. Lyons
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