Monday, August 13, 2012

Oakland Filmmaker Answers Call of Jack London

A long time ago, Hollywood took a crack at the life of author and adventurer Jack London, coming up with an unremarkable 1943 biopic starring Michael O'Shea. In the next year, Oakland area documentary filmmaker Chris Million hopes to remedy the lack of a proper film legacy with his full-length documentary Jack London: Twentieth-Century Man.

After meeting the last surviving daughter of The Call of the Wild author at a writer's conference in the early 1990s, Million began researching London's life. He soon realized that there was not only an incredibly rich template for a documentary waiting, but also that most of his subject's life could be tied to the Bay Area.

Million plans to examine many aspects of London's life – sociologist, trailblazing photojournalist, champion of Hawaii's surfing and, of course, author. There's also this rather fascinating element from the man's life, a precursor to much of what is now on TV:

Thanks in part to his own relentless self-promotion, London was the twentieth century’s first modern celebrity, creating a myth of himself as a superman adventurer that persists to this day. His travel exploits were reported regularly in major newspapers and magazines across America. He did advertisements, endorsing products ranging from cigars to grape juice. He made deals with early Hollywood to market his stories in the new media of film, the first mass-market writer to do so. He was arguably the first member of what is today called the cult of personality.

Through his filmmaking efforts, Million has become something of a London expert. He chaired the Jack London Society panel at the 2012 American Literature Association convention in May; spoke about the long documentary-making process at a board meeting of the California Writers Club in Oakland in June; and plans to make a presentation at the next annual fundraiser for the Jack London State Historic Park at Glen Ellen in Sonoma County.

Two financial low points for London involved his most famous work The Call of the Wild, for which he received $2,000 rather than what would have amounted to millions in royalties, and his dream home “Wolf House.” After pouring every cent he was making into the latter project for two years, the home burned down just before he and his companion Charmian Kittredge were scheduled to move in.

[Jack London: Twentieth-Century Man]

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