Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Artie Still Swings on Another Beat

Cleveland Press February 16, 1965

To those of us who grew up listening to those wonderful Artie Shaw arrangements of "Begin the Beguine," "Frenesi," "Yesterdays" and others, it's difficult to imagine the great swing clarinetist as a middle aged, balding business executive.

But he is. Shaw is president of Artixo Productions, Ltd., a film distributing company. He was in Cleveland yesterday talking about films in general, and his first release in particular -- "Seance On A Wet Afternoon." The movie opens soon at the Heights Art and Westwood.

Is he still principally known as a clarinetist?

"Well, just say that I'm known as a musician and a husband," replied the oft-married (eight times) Shaw.

"As for being a celebrity, I managed to survive long enough to achieve anonymity. My name is known, but I can walk down the street without being recognized. Believe me, it's a blessing."

While still in the big band business Shaw made several films. In 1946 he went to RKO (now defunct) with a proposal for three film projects.

"I was going to star Doris Day in one of them, but she wasn't known and no one was interested. I decided to get out of the business."

SHAW MADE his final break with the band business in the early '50's, lived in Spain for five years, returned to the U. S. in 1961.

"By then I began to see the picture industry coming of age. Most films were being made by independent producers. I began working on one myself and was right in the middle of putting it together when I saw some material on 'Seance.'

"I asked for a screening, liked what I saw, was astonished to learn that no one wanted the U. S. distribution rights. So I bought them."

Shaw formed his company last year with veteran film executive Don Getz.

"We've got a distribution setup all over the country, but the returns from "Seance" are paying the way.

"Starting a business like this is like a big crap shoot. Now, in Hollywood, they're saying that Kim Stanley, the star of the movie, is likely to get an Academy Award. If she does, it's worth another million. I'm hip."

"Eventually we'll be making our own pictures. First we have to get a stockpile of money. It's all fantasy until you have the money to do what you want.

"It's like the band business. You had to keep in touch with the audience so that you were free then to do what you wanted. If you need money, you need the audience.

"The band business? I got out of it because I was bored with the life. I was tired of touring. Recording was the only part I enjoyed. I could experiment. It's a good thing too, the records are still supporting me.

SHAW DOUBTS that he will ever find boredom in the film business, calls it the most demanding and absorbing in the world.

In 1952, Shaw published an autobiographical volume, "The Trouble With Cinderella." Next month his second book comes out, a work of fiction consisting of three short novels. It's called "I Love You, I Hate You, Drop Dead!"

"What's it all about?" Someone described it as a literary cocktail -- all about marriage on the rocks. I guess you always write about what you know best."

Shaw spends most of his time now in New York City, owns a home in Lakeville, Conn. He's been married for the past eight years to actress Evelyn Keyes.

"Maybe I should have stayed in Cleveland," he said, growing reflective for a moment. "I lived right here, in this building (the Pick-Carter) when it was the Winton.

"I had been living in Cleveland for three years. I was successful -- had a good band job, was making good money, in love with a girl I wanted to marry. I was 19 and had to make a decision. I decided I had to follow the road. Maybe I'd have been happy here. Or maybe I'd have been miserable wondering what I could have done.

"I guess I might have been miserable anywhere."