Friday, May 29, 2015

Film Critic Ventures Down the Riverdale Rabbit Hole

The Boston Globe has been all over the topic of Archie's Betty, a documentary screening this weekend locally at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Which doubly makes sense, since the pages of the paper is where it all began.

In 1988, film critic Gerald Peary read a letter in the paper asserting that Archie creator Bob Montana had based the strip's main characters on fellow students at Haverhill High School in Haverhill, MA. He did some research, wrote an April 10th article that year for the Globe's Sunday Magazine. And that was it, until a few years ago.

From a recent report in the Taunton Gazette:
"About three years ago, a guy named Shaun Clancy (pictured, above right, with Peary) contacted me and said that ‘I read your article. It’s great, I love it. But some of the things you said are just wrong,’” Peary said. “And then he told me ‘I know who the real Betty is.’ ”
Inspired by Clancy to re-open the case, Peary, 70, has now completed what he calls his '25-year search' to find out once and for all who the real people behind the iconic characters of Archie are.

Today, Peary is also a professor of communications and journalism at Suffolk University. But growing up, it was all about Archie. From his Director's Statement:

As an Archie-obsessed child, a Jewish boy growing up in the 1950s segregated South, I dreamed of living in the real Riverdale, the All-American, mythic town depicted in Archie comics.
My Boston Globe Sunday Magazine story was the first major article to argue for the validity of the Haverhill-is-Riverdale theory. The character of Archie Andrews seems to be based on a girl-crazy Haverhill High cut-up. Veronica could be the most popular girl at the high school. Betty appeared to be the girl who lived next door to young Bob. I also proposed Haverhillites for Jughead, Moose, Miss Grundy.

If you don't want to spoil the film's surprises, be careful what you read. Peary will be in attendance at Saturday night's screening; Archie's Betty shows again at the Institute twice on Sunday May 31st and again twice on Sunday June 14th.

The late Montana, who passed away in 1975, created the Archie strip in 1941 with writer Vic Bloom. Lifelong fan Peary's documentary had its world premiere in April at the Buenos Aires International Film Festival.

[Archie's Betty Facebook page]

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