Director Frank Marshall returns to his musical past with a Carole King and James Taylor documentary – Daily Bulletin

Frank Marshall was in his early 20s, his career as a film producer and director still in his future, when in 1969, inspired by artists such as James Taylor and Carole King, he flew to Europe to pursue the life of an itinerant folk singer.

“I sort of worked my way around Europe, playing in subways and clubs,” Marshall says on a recent video call. “On my guitar, you have your setlist, and most of the songs were James’ or Carole’s.

“Then I got lucky enough to get that call from (Peter) Bogdanovich, and went off to make ‘Last Picture Show’ in 1970,” he says. “And I think the world is much better off for me being in the movie side than the folk-singing side.”

But Marshall, who formed Amblin Entertainment with his wife Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg in 1981, never lost his love of music. There’s an acoustic guitar leaning against the wall behind him as he tells these stories.

And in time, the Oscar-nominated producer of such best picture candidates as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Color Purple,” and “Seabiscuit,” got to know first Taylor, with whom he shared his street busker tale, and then King.

He’d also seen their acclaimed reunion show in 2007 at the Troubadour, the West Hollywood club where Taylor had invited King to join his band for a week of shows in November 1970, an event the two singer-songwriters in 2010 celebrated the 40th anniversary of with a world tour.

“Then, a couple of years ago, James’ managers, who I know very well, said, ‘You know, we have all this footage of James’ and Carole’s tour,’” Marshall says. ” ‘There’s sort of this renaissance of music documentaries, what do you think?’

“And I said, “I’m in. Let me do it,’” he says. “It’s kind of a dream come true for me.”

The documentary Marshall made, “Carole King & James Taylor: Just Call Out My Name,” debuts Sunday, Jan. 2 on CNN, and will eventually make its way to HBO Max.

“To get a chance now to put together a concert film of their tour, nothing could have been better,” he says. “I jumped right in.”

Pieces of the past

Marshall doesn’t know what was originally planned for the footage shot in 2010. “But they obviously thought this was something special,” he adds, noting that 28 of the shows were filmed on either 16-millimeter film or high-definition video.

When CNN Films bought the project, Marshall says he knew he’d have just 98 minutes to work with, given the fixed constraints of the cable channel’s programming.

“So I knew I wanted to get as many numbers in as possible, and I think we got 18 in there,” he says. “So that’s pretty good, even though, you know, there’s 10 that I would have wished I could have had as well, because every one of their songs are so memorable and great.”

Though there was no shortage of film, there were problems to surmount. The film footage, which he wanted to use over video where possible, required syncing it to separate audio of the concerts.

“Also, the stage was revolving, so that meant you’re in this perfect shot, and then they drift out,” Marshall says.

But after settling on the Pittsburgh tour date as the main source for the audio, he and an editor got to work matching pictures to sound and telling the story of the tour, the musicians, and the significance of the reunion.

“I’ve always loved what Marty Scorsese did in ‘The Last Waltz,’” Marshall says of the film on which he worked as a line producer early in his career. “It’s not like a music video. He stays on the performers and he watches the performance, which is what you’re feeling when you’re in a real show.

“So I tried to stay as much as I could in each shot and not make it an editing exercise.”

Occasionally, he breaks into the concert for interview segments with King, Taylor and the band that played with them at the Troubadour in 1970, 2007, and the 2010 tour — guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, bassist Lee Sklar, and drummer Russ Kunkel — as well as Peter Asher, the English musician and producer who suggested Taylor add King to his band all those years ago.

“I think you see the genuine friendship and happiness and joy that they all had on this tour is so apparent in the way they look at each other, the way they perform with each other, including the original band,” Marshall says.

“Lee Sklar says, ‘You know, if I ended my career now I would be happy. This is the most joyous tour I’ve been part of,’” he says, quoting one of the interviews in the film.

“It’s just amazing how wonderful that tour seemed to be for everyone, including the audience.”

Music and film

Marshall, who was born in Glendale and spent his childhood in Van Nuys, grew up in a musical family. His father, Jack Marshall, was a jazz guitarist, composer, and Capitol Records producer. When Marshall was a teenager the family moved to Newport Beach, and it was there his musical ambitions took off.

“It was called the guitar house,” Marshall says of his Newport Beach home. “My dad would open the house up every Saturday and anybody who played any kind of guitar or instrument could come over. He would teach and we would all play together.

“And we became a little group called the Guitar Ramblers,” he says. “Back in those days, everybody wanted to be a folk singer or have a band.”

Jack Marshall produced the group’s 1963 debut, “The Happy, Youthful New Sounds of the Guitar Ramblers,” which featured surf-inspired songs such as “Malibu Caravan,” “Midnight in Madrid,” and “Mother, Please! Let Me Do It Myself!”

But a few years later, singer-songwriters such as Taylor and King were the thing Marshall says he loved most of all.

“Somebody who could play guitar and sing and write those songs was like our hero,” he says. “They really spoke to us. They were songs with stories, and they were soulful.”

Marshall became a storyteller too, with 50 years of movies such as “Poltergeist,” “The Sixth Sense,” the “Bourne” franchise, and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” All of that led in 2018 to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarding him and his wife and producing partner Kathleen Kennedy with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.


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