by Gary Comenas
(An earlier version of this essay appeared in Dia's Andy (Dia Art Foundation, NY, 2005))
Andy Warhol filmed more than 400 Screen Tests. According to Gerard Malanga, the Screen Tests were filmed from early 1964 - November 1966 (GM25). They were not referred to as Screen Tests originally - but were more like film portraits. The duration of each Screen Test varies from 2.7 - 4.8 minutes. Some were edited into compilation reels such as The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women and some were compiled into background reels for projection at EPI performances or to accompany a poetry reading event put together by Gerard Malanga. Still images from some of the Screen Tests were also reproduced in the Malanga/Warhol book, Screen Tests/A Diary. The silent Screen Tests lasting less than 5 minutes should not be confused with the full-length films (featuring Warhol's scriptwriter Ron Tavel as the off-screen voice) with the names of Screen Test #1, Screen Test #2 and Screen Test #3 [aka Suicide].
During May 2015, Andy Warhol's Screen Tests will be shown on Times Square’s electronic billboards from about 11:57 pm as part of the "Midnight Moment" series. These will include the following:
1. Rufus Collins (Andy Warhol film cat. rais. no. ST 61)
This is one of two Screen Tests of Rufus Collins. Warhol became friends with the actor during the 1950s and Collins went on to appear in a number of Warhol films during the 1960s, including Naomi and Rufus Kiss, Kiss, Batman Dracula, Soap Opera and Couch. He later went on to appear in the non-Warhol films, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment and The Hunger. He died of AIDS in Holland in 1996. (AD54)
2. Walter Dainwood (ST66)
Dainwood was a friend of Ondine, as well as being a friend of the filmmakers Marie Menken (who appeared in The Chelsea Girls) and her partner Willard Maas (who gave the off-screen blow job in Blow Job). Dainwood appears with Ondine in three of Warhol's films - Three, Couch and Since. (AD57)
3. Bob Dylan (ST82)
Warhol did two Screen Tests of Bob Dylan. Callie Angell writes, "The day Bob Dylan visited the Factory and had his Screen Test shot is a fabled episode in the lore of the Warhol 1960s, most notably as the occasion when Warhol gave Dylan a silver Elvis painting, which Dylan later gave to his manager Albert Grossman in exchange for a couch.... Bob Dylan had significant connections with a number of people at the Warhol Factory; he was a friend of Barbara Rubin's, who introduced him to Allen Ginsberg; he wrote a song for Nico, I'll Keep It with Mine, which she later recorded; his manager Bob Neuwirth encouraged Edie Sedgwick's defection from the Factory at the end of 1965... and he was also friends with Patrick Tilden-Close, the star of Warhol's 1967 film Imitation of Christ." (AD69)
4. Allen Ginsberg (ST115)
Ginsberg had previously appeared in Andy Warhol's Couch with fellow Beats Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso and Ginsberg's boyfriend, Peter Orlovsky. (AD82)
5. Donyale Luna (ST195)
Donyale Luna was the first black model to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine - the March 1966 British issue, shot by David Bailey who would later make his own quirky documentary on Warhol. Luna briefly appears in Andy Warhol's Camp and also stars in a thirty-three minute colour reel titled Donyale Luna. Callie Angell describes it as "a version of Snow White in which she wears bright blue contact lenses and has thirteen young boyfriends." (AD118) Luna died of a heroin overdose on 17 May 1979. Two years previous to her death she had given birth to a daughter named Dream.
6. Nico (ST239)
Nico's career as a heroin-addicted singer has been well documented. Warhol did at least eight Screen Tests of her, including four that were done as background reels for Velvet Underground performances with whom she sang for a short period. Her most famous Warhol film is The Chelsea Girls. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Ibiza in 1988. Her son Ari, who also appeared in The Chelsea Girls, can be found on You Tube under the name of Ari Boulogne.
7. Lou Reed (ST268)
What can you say about Lou Reed that hasn't been said before? He wasn't a particular fan of this site - at least not in the beginning. In 2004 he wrote to a certain superstar and his agent to complain about a high school photo and bio I had on the site at that time:
Hi [censored] and [censored]:
I was looking at your web site and hit a link to warhol superstars which contained pictures of all of us including one of me from HIGH SCHOOL. If you then clicked on me there was a "bio" taken from god knows where that I really dislike and want removed immediately. Are you responsible and if not who is. I would hate to have to get a lawyer to get this done but I certainly will if this is not done promptly. Why would you ruin a friendship by putting up shit like this. Are you quoting that idiot [censored]. I thought you were better than that.
8. Jim Rosenquist (ST284)
Jim Rosenquist was one of three artists (the others being Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein) who Walter Hopps mentions as being similar in "approach and subject matter," which made it clear that "a new direction in art was developing - post Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, both artists who had opened the door for much of Pop." (See here.)
9. Edie Sedgwick (ST309)
Edie's charisma carries on after her death. Warhol did quite of few Screen Tests of her - including one used as material for Gerard Malanga's Screen Test Poems and Screen Tests/A Diary. This one was included in Warhol's compilation film, The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women. Edie died on 16 November 1971 of " acute barbiturate intoxication."
10. Harry Smith (ST314)
Filmmaker and Chelsea Hotel resident, Harry Smith, was also an avid music collector. In 1952 he assembled an 84 track Anthology of American Folk Music. The anthology was reissued by the Smithsonian in 1997 and won two grammies. Unfortunately this was after Smith had died in 1991 after suffering a cardiac arrest in room 328 of the Chelsea.
Warhol edited a number of Screen Tests into compilation reels. These included the full length films, The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys (1964-66) which was never shown publicly, The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women (1964-65) and (allegedly) Fifty Fantastics and Fifty Personalities. Three compilation reels of Screen Tests were also assembled for Gerard Malanga's production, Screen Test Poems. There were also reels of Screen Tests compiled for projection on the stage during E.P.I. performances and two background reels which appear to be shot specifically for projection during the filming of two scenes of The Chelsea Girls.
Forty two screen tests of 35 different "boys" were shot or selected for The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys, according to the first volume of the film cat. rais. which notes that they have mostly been "identified from notations found on the film boxes, on which Warhol or someone else wrote "13" or "Beautiful Boys."
It was, most likely, footage shot for The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys that became the first Screen Tests. Callie Angell notes in the film cat. rais., "The Screen Tests were, in fact, originally inspired by a collection of photographs, the mug shots of thirteen criminals that Warhol found in a New York City Police Department brochure titled The Thirteen Most Wanted. From this brochure, Warhol derived the idea for the first Screen Test films, a series of portrait films to be called The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys. The earliest mention of these films is found in the diary of Kelly Edey, who noted on January 17, 1964: 'This afternoon Andy Warhol made a movie here, a series of portraits of a number of beautiful boys, including Harold Talbot and Denis Deegan and also me.' Kelly's description unquestionably identifies the work as The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys; the specific Screen Tests mentioned in Edey's diary were also labeled '13' by Warhol." (AD13)
Warhol's art assistant, Gerard Malanga, however, claims that the idea for the Screen Tests originated from him:
Sometime in December 1963, a couple of months before our move to the 47th Street Factory, I asked Andy to shoot a roll of movie film framed as a 'headshot' composition that that I could then replicate as a publicity headshot.
The double or multiple-frame reproduction, sprockets and all, as nothing new, but had its origins with Stan Brakhage's Anticipation of the Night (1958) and Window Water Baby Moving (1959), conveying a cinematic quality in reproduction and not meant as an artistic device at all.
After studying the 8 x 10 inch photoprint, which I had chosen form the original footage, Andy and I thought this would be a quick way to continue as a series. The title just came to us, Screen Tests, a homage to an bygone Hollywood era... Many of these portraits were also compiled into other emerging series by Andy, most notably 13 Most Beautiful Boys, 12 Most Beautiful Women and 50 Fantastics."(GMW65)
Gerard's claim is not substantiated by the film catalogue raisonné. It's unclear which specific footage Malanga is referring to as the material for a headshot and what publicity material was produced from it.
There is no record of The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys being shown publicly. The film cat. rais. indicates that there was a screening of at least the Herko footage as an excerpt from The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys during an evening at which Jonas Mekas' film, Award Presentation to Andy Warhol, was also shown, but that the excerpt was "unannounced" on the flyer. (The cat. rais. indicates a James Stoller article and David Bourdon's Warhol biography as the sources for the information but Stoller does not specifically claim that he saw the Herko footage at the awards night and Bourdon does not indicate where he got his information from.) The Village Voice ad for the event did not mention The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys although it did mention The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women:
Village Voice ad, 26 November 1964
Warhol Film Ads
50 Fantastics and Fifty Personalities
This was another compilation that was never shown publicly and may not even have existed. It's referred to by a number of people, including Malanga in the above quote, but there is no record of its existence as a completed film.
Callie Angell writes in the film cat. rais: "Although a film called Fifty Fantastics and Fifty Personalities would be expected to contain portraits of one hundred people, only forty-one Screen Tests of thirty-five different people were found to have been selected for this title, either with their names listed under this title in earlier filmographies, or with their film box notated with the word 'personality' or the number '50.' Given the small number of films actually selected for this title, the series seems to have been something of an afterthought, conceptualized primarily as a way of organizing and exhibiting the large numbers of Screen Tests accumulating at the Factory, especially those not already chosen for The Thirteen Most Beautifuls.
Jonas Mekas' 1970 filmography describes Fifty Fantastics and Fifty Personalities as 'two series of 100-foot portraits' existing in the original only, and lists 'Some of the people filmed: Allen Ginsberg, Ed Sanders, Jim Rosenquist, Zachary Scott, Peter Orlovsky, Henry Rago, Ted Berrigan, Roy Lichtenstein, Gregory Battcock, Barbara Rubin, Daniel Cassidy, Harry Fainlight.' The fact that many of the Screen Tests listed by Mekas do not bear any specific notations for 'personalities' or '50' on their boxes underlines the ephemeral and highly changeable nature of this project." (AD259)
No advertisements, flyers or posters have been found which advertise a screening of this film. Callie Angell does identify a reel that was used as a background reel during E.P.I. performances called "EPI Background," which she suggests should "be considered a possible candidate for Fifty Fantastics and Fifty Personalities... This reel contains prints two 100' rolls from Batman Dracula (1964) as well as Screen Tests of non-EPI people... It is possible that this reel began as a compilation for Fifty Fantastics and Fifty Personalities and was later appropriated for the EPI, perhaps under the title Faces, with a pint of Nico's Screen Test spliced on the end." (AD266) Faces appeared on Village Voice ads for the EPI:
Village Voice ad, 7 April 1966
The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women
The film cat. rais. notes that "Warhol seems to have started collecting Screen Tests for a companion series, The Thirteen Most Beautiful Woman, a month or two after he began The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys... As in the male version the material identified as part of The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women series includes far more films than the title calls for: forty-seven Screen Tests of thirty different women... Unlike The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys, however, several different versions of The Most Beautiful Women were shown in public screenings and also distributed... (AD250) The cast of the film was variable, depending on which Screen Tests were shown and possibly who was in the audience. Bibbe Hansen's Screen Test, for instance, would not have been shown in the 1964 screening announced in the 26 November 1964 ad in the Village Voice above, because her Screen Test wasn't shot until 1965. In a version of the film shown at the home of Sally Kirkland's mother in January 1965 included a Screen Test of Sally. (At the time her mother was the fashion editor of Life magazine.) But Kirkland wasn't one of the Beautiful Women in a version of the film licensed to Warhol's British distributor Vaughan-Rogosin Films, Ltd for broadcast on German television which only included six women.
Screen Test Poems
The cat. rais. indicates that "Judging from notes written on the film boxes, the term Screen Tests did not come into use until the end of 1965 or the beginning of 1966, around the time that Malanga and Warhol began planning their collaborative compilations, Screen Test Poems and Screen Tests/A Diary; only twelve films in the series are actually labeled Screen Test on their boxes." (AD15)
The premiere of Screen Test Poems took place at Cornell University in May 1966 and was billed as "Screen Test Poems by Gerard Malanga... Films by Andy Warhol." Neither Warhol nor Malanga were there. Rene Ricard read Malanga's poems. (AD288) The event was described in the Winter 1966 issue of Film Culture magazine as a program "to bring together the lives of many celebrities and personalities through the combined medias of poetry and film. For each screen portrait that appears on the screen a poem is read aloud, and the film (or films) is projected behind the reader." (AD280) Callie Angell notes that "Warhol's participate in Screen Test Poems was "limited to allowing Malanga to make copies of Screen Test films stored at the Factory, and perhaps paying the lab bills for these copies." (AD280) There is no record of any performance of the Screen Test Poems other than the event at Cornell.
There were three compilation reels of Screen Tests for projection during the Screen Test Poems performance. Callie Angell describes the reels as containing prints "of thirty-one Screen Tests of twenty-five people, numbered 1-31 on the heads of the originals, and arranged in numerical order; Reel 1 begins with one double portrait film of Malanga and Mary Woronov, and Reel 3 ends with another portrait of the pair. Seventeen of the Screen Tests and twenty-one of the people in Screen Test Poems appear in Screen Tests/A Diary as well." (AD280)
Screen Tests/A Diary
Kulchur Press published Screen Tests/A Diary in April 1967 - a little less than a year after Screen Test Poems performance at Cornell. According to Callie Angell, "Warhol's involvement with Screen Tests/A Diary seems to have been at least in its initial stages, more truly collaborative than Screen Test Poems." (AD288) The book consisted of enlarged frames of fifty-four Screen Tests (negative film frames reproduced as positive images). An image from a Screen Test appeared on the right-hand page while on the left hand page was a poem by Malanga about that person. (AD288)
Some of the Screen Test images from A Screen Tests/Diary are reproduced in Gerard Malanga: Screen Tests, Portraits and Nudes 1964-1996, credited in the following manner: "A Collaboration by Andy Warhol and Gerard Malanga (shot by Malanga)." Although the Screen Tests/Diary was a collaboration, the actual Screen Tests are credited to Warhol in the film cat. rais. They are not listed as collaborations. As Callie Angell notes in regard to Screen Tests/A Diary, "there seems to have been a fairly clear division of labor between Warhol and Malanga, or at least at first: Malanga's job was to produce the text by writing poems about the people whose Screen Tests had been selected for the book, while Warhol was to provide images from his films." (AD289)
EPI Background Reels
The EPI Background reels were Screen Tests that were projected onto the stage of the EPI performances. The film Faces has already been noted above as a possible Screen Tests compilation. Callie Angell notes, "A total of seven background reels have been found in the collection... Only one of these reels, EPI Background: Original Salvador Dali (ST367) contains original material: four original Screen Tests of Salvador Dali (ST68), Nico (ST237), Sterling Morrison (ST223) and Lou Reed (ST262)... The remaining EPI Background reels contain print material only. (AD265)
Background Reels in The Chelsea Girls
These are described in the film cat. rais. as "Two background reels, composed of silent, black-and-whte 100' rolls, Eric Background: Toby Short (1966) and 3 Min. Mary Might (1966)" which "seem to have been shot specifically for projection during the making of the Their Town and Eric Tells All sequences in The Chelsea Girls... The cat. rais. goes on to note that "Several apparent Screen Tests, or Screen Test-like films, from these Chelsea Girls background reels have been catalogued as individual Screen Tests..."(AD287)
Prior to Warhol's 1964-66 film portraits being labeled as Screen Tests, the only films that were titled as "Screen Tests" were three full length movies - Screen Test No. 1 and 2 and what is sometimes referred to as Screen Test No. 3 (or Suicide).
Left: Ronald Tavel in 1969 with cast members of his Obie award winning
play Boy on a Straight Back Chair (after he left Warhol's Factory)
In 1978, author Patrick Smith interviewed Ronald Tavel (the scriptwriter for many of Andy's early films) and Tavel mentioned three Screen Tests which he referred to as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. (PS572) No. 3 (as referred to by Smith) was actually a film called Suicide. The Tavel Screen Tests lasted approximately 66 minutes each, much longer than the short one reel Screen Tests that Andy and Gerard Malanga did. (SG146) At the time, the shorter Screen Tests were considered to be film portraits rather than Screen Tests. Tavel later recalled that "Andy never referred, in the three years I worked with him, to the three minute portraits as Screen Tests."
Screen Test #1
Screen Test #1 was shot on 23 January 1965 at the Factory. The subject was Philip Fagan, Andy Warhol's boyfriend at the time.
In addition to Screen Test #1 Warhol shot 107 Screen Tests of Fagan from 6 November 1964 to 9 February 1965. The idea was to film him every day for six months. They split up after three months so the film was not completed.
"He [Warhol] had an assistant then, called Philip Fagan, who was an incredibly good-looking Irish boy - "Black Irish" - who hung around him all the time, and they used to bake cake together and all this sort of thing... He was so beautiful: Philip." (PS480)
According to Ronald Tavel (in regard to the full-length Screen Test #1 which should not to be confused with the Six Months project), Andy told Tavel to "sit and ask him (Fagan) questions which will make him perform in some way before the camera. You will not be on camera, but we'll hear you talk. The questions should be in such a way that they will elicit, you know, things from his face, because that's what I'm more interested in rather than in what he says in response." (PS160)
"Screen Test was the most intimately filmed of our combined efforts, and is the most intimate portrait we have of any of Warhol's lovers. It introduces my off-camera character called, "Tester's Voice," a disembodied examiner intent on humiliating the auditioner; and whose exasperation and vehemence grow when the intended victim becomes unimaginative in response, reticent, evasive, or withdrawn. In the first reel, Philip is reminded of an unpleasant incident that puzzled him, his shoplifting of a pair of red panties he'd convinced himself he intended as a gift to a girl... Screen Test enters a second phase when the Tester seems to be entertaining an infatuation with Philips's close-up itself... But Philip... grows suspicious, distrustful, and taciturn...
One afternoon a few weeks later I found Andy spraying white, pink, and red primaries on the petals of the poppy flower silkscreens... He looked up at me long enough to say, "Philip likes you. But he doesn't like anyone else. I don't think he understands what we're doing here. I asked him not to come back." (Ronald Tavel/04.pdf)
Screen Test #2 was shot on February 7, 1965. The subject was Mario Montez who also appeared in Warhol's Harlot, Mario Banana, Camp, Hedy (aka The Most Beautiful Woman in the World and/or The Shoplifter and/or The Fourteen Year Old Girl), More Milk Yvette (aka Lana Turner) and The Chelsea Girls ("The John" segment). Mario had been an underground film actor, appearing in Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures (1962) and Normal Love (1963). In addition to making underground films, Jack Smith also played the part of Dracula in Warhol's Batman Dracula. Mario Montez was the first transvestite used by Andy, although Mario did not live his normal life in drag.
During the film, Ron Tavel tells Montez that he is auditioning him (as a her) for a role in their new film - The Hunchback of Notre Dame and asks him to repeat words/phrases - like repeating the word "diarrhoea" in a very emotive fashion - or describes scenarios and asks Montez to give him a look that expresses various "themes" in the film. Montez is hilarious as she attempts to make facial expressions to convey the emotions, often not understanding what Tavel is after (although he doesn't make it easy for him as her). At one point, Tavel tells him to take her cock out, which he presumably does, although it is not revealed on camera, which remains on his face.
The film which Patrick Smith describes as Screen Test #3 but which was actually Suicide was described by Smith as "the Technicolor close-up of a young man's wrists that have been slashed many times, and the youth's monologue concerning each of his 19 attempts at suicide." (PS160) During the filming, the subject of the film freaked out and threw a basin of water at Tavel:
"There was a basin of water on the floor, and the basin was catching the water which I would pour on him each time he went through a suicide, and at one time he picked it up... and threw the whole basin on me. So, we stopped the camera, and Warhol said, 'Do you want to just stop?' And I said, 'No,' like a regular trooper." (PS486)
According to Tavel, the actor sued, threatening that "if this is ever released, you'll all go to court." (Ibid) Consequently, the film was never shown in public, although there were private screenings. It was filmed on March 6, 1965. The actor was identified as "Rock Bradett" in the film cat. rais.
According to the film cat. rais., "No prints were made of Suicide, and the film was neither released nor preserved." (Tom Kalin, "Suicide, 1965," in John G. Hanhardt (ed.), The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne 1963 - 1965, p. 301. The volume is the second volume of the cat. rais. - the first was devoted to the Screen Tests and was authored by Callie Angell who later died by suicide.)
(2005, rev. 2015)