I saw Raymie at the Busselton Drive-in when I was around 7 or 8 years old. I loved it. It is one of my most cherished childhood movie memories. Not once have I come across any trace of the film since. Not on TV, not on VHS, not on DVD. Then, a couple of months ago, a breakthrough!
I stumbled upon an “unofficial” Raymie home page: http://www.barthsburgery.com/fanpages/raymie60.htm
I zinged off an email to the Louisiana-based website owner, Troy, who it turns out is part of a web community devoted to preserving and archiving old films and TV series. Raymie is one of the films he has salvaged. He mailed me a DVD free of charge, adding that he had “a great story about the film” – and indeed he did. There’s no one better to tell it than Troy, so here it is, in his words:
A little history about Raymie (1960): Directed by Frank McDonald who did many westerns including some with Roy Rogers. It stars John Agar, Charles Winninger (one of my favorite actors), Julie Adams, and David Ladd as ‘Raymie’.
I remember seeing Raymie (1960) when I was a kid sometime in the late 1960’s. I saw it on television.
I’ve always been a great fan of films and television shows and when the Internet came into widespread use, I found a large community of other people who were fans of film.
With the advent of VHS tapes (and later DVDs) up into the 1990s, most movies had now become available to enjoy. Television shows were a different story. Most television shows have not been released (especially the early shows) and they probably never will be commercially released.
On the Internet, we shared information about old films and remembered our favorites and we created a list of films that were not available. Raymie (1960) was one of those ‘favorite childhood films’ of mine. Check it out on IMDb. From the director and crew, down through the cast members, this is Hollywood Gold!
Based on the research I’ve done, I believe the reason the film was never released [on VHS or DVD] was because of a dispute between the estate of Jerry Lewis and the estate of the Ladd family (and also the studio) over the music rights to the film. None of the parties have acknowledged this fact, so we can’t say for sure. But they have ‘hinted’ that this was the reason.
I began setting up web sites in honor of these old films and television shows to get the word out for anyone who had information about a film or knew where to get a copy. The web sites have been very successful in locating films and receiving information about them.
A little history:
Back in the late 1960’s and 70’s, movies were passed around between television stations on 16mm film. The television stations had a machine called a Telecine that would play the film ‘live’ and broadcast it over the air. Do you remember watching movies during that era and the movie would stop playing and a message would come up on the screen, “Technical difficulties – we’ll be right back”? Usually that would mean the film got jammed (or worse broke) in the machine and the tech had to re-thread the machine and get it started back up. The good old days!
Television station archive vaults would turn out to be a great treasure trove for old films and television shows.
In the early 2000s, a fellow who worked at a television station in New Jersey contacted me and said he had a 16mm print of Raymie (1960) that he had found while cleaning out the station’s archive room. The television station was doing away with the archive room because 16mm films were obsolete. (Movies at that time were being passed around between television stations via video tape. Today movies are passed around via digital transfer.)
To make a long story short, I acquired the film and sent it off to a friend in Michigan where it was digitally transferred. When I got the digital transfer back, I created the master for the DVD. This was back in the early days so this film is mastered in mpeg2. Due to the limitations of mpeg2 (in order to get the absolute highest quality) this film comes to you on two DVD-ROMs. Maybe one day I’ll get the film out and re-master it
in mpeg4 onto one disk.
Hope you enjoy the film as much as we do!
Well, with over 50 years having elapsed since I saw Raymie as a kid, I watched it again last Saturday. Interestingly – actually, some might say depressingly – I have found when re-watching movies I loved as a child that the assessments of my young and old selves generally align! And so it was with Raymie.
I have always had a vivid recall of the beginning of the film. Raymie (David Ladd, son of Alan) scrawls his name in the seaside sand with a stick, and a wave then erases it (a startlingly predictive metaphor, in hindsight!). I put on the DVD and the scene played out just as it had in my head all these years. It was gratifying and reassuring to have a memory of something so distant and special verified like this.
My recollection of the rest was blurred and skeletal, but as I watched, the shape of the narrative and the mood of the film were as familiar as an old friend. Few reading this will have seen Raymie or will ever see it, so I won’t elaborate in detail. It’s a simple, endearing little tale of a fishing-mad kid who spends every spare moment on the local pier. He dreams of catching the legendary Old Moe, a 6 foot barracuda. When he finally hooks the great fish, it dawns on him that the dream was more important than its realisation. He does not want to end Old Moe’s life and destroy the legend, so he cuts his line. That was poignant for me as a child, and again all these years later.
I’ve often pondered on why I was so taken with the film. Sure, I identified with the Raymie character – that was obvious, since I, too, was obsessed with fishing and dreamt of landing The Big One. But why did it stay with me through the decades?
A second viewing 5 decades after the first and I now have my answer: the film is well written, performed and shot, and emotionally engaging. David Ladd is terrific as Raymie, irresistibly endearing. But he’s not a cutsie kid. He’s serious and earnest. He’s lost his father in the Korean War, which adds some pathos. The narrative is well put together. There’s a harmless villain to provide some conflict (a crotchety old fisherman who tries to have Raymie banned from the pier for being a nuisance). There’s a sweet, wise old elder to provide balance, who takes Raymie under his wing. There’s a bit of a love story as a side-serve to the main narrative involving Raymie’s pretty widowed mother and a Lothario whom she tames through valuing herself and refusing to compromise. This is one of several muted moral strands woven into the story. The takeaway values are self-belief, working to make dreams happen, and respect for others regardless of gender, age or colour. But most important of all, the movie has heart.
There’s some hokey stuff that would have sailed over my head as a kid. One of the pier fishermen hooks what looks like a school shark underwater, but in a subsequent cut appears to be a much larger and scarier Great White. Some of the small fish brought up the side of the pier by the fishermen are obviously dead. And poor Old Moe looks like a piece of wood cut to shape! If anything, these low budget elements only add to the charm of the film.
I thank Troy for retrieving Raymie from oblivion, and for his willingess to share his bounty with me. My yearning to be reacquainted with this luminous segment of my childhood aside, I think there is value in preserving cultural artifacts as Troy and his web community are doing. Raymie may be only one of a myriad family films of the 50s/60s and all but forgotten, but it reflects the innocence and values of its time and that’s worth something. Generations pass, but their art provides a permanent record of their view of the world. It matters. Movies and TV series form a vital part of our history and should be preserved where possible. History is our collective memory, our means of gauging change and following our progression to now. Compromise that, and our present makes less sense than ever.
PPS: Great news! Raymie is now available for free download from https://rarefilmm.com/2019/09/raymie-1960/
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