Carson Davidson
Home Up Davidson Retrospective Taconic Peaks Ramble

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View Kit Davidson's films 3rd AVE. EL,   Help, My Snowman's Burning Down, Railway with a Heart of Gold,
Variations on An Italian Theme
, 100 Watts 120 VoltsBrake Free, GranitePoppycock, and Woodblock Printer

Carson "Kit" Davidson is an extraordinary filmmaker with a dry wit and self-effacing manner who, into his 80s, is living life well in idyllic southwestern Vermont, at his Taconic Peaks Ramble hiking preserve. Kit, who was born in Washington, DC, composed the following biography, and we've used his words, verbatim...

Biography

After three years involved with World War II and four involved with Antioch College, Carson Davidson arrived in New York bent on making films. Usual story – washing dishes at a Bickford’s Cafeteria by night, knocking on producers’ doors by day. Finally a job with a jaunty outfit called Dynamic Films, doing whatever needed doing. Nobody actually taught him anything, but they answered questions cheerfully, and that’s all that’s really needed.

Fascinated by the 3rd Ave El, he borrowed a company camera and started shooting in his spare time. The resultant film was turned down by every distributor in New York except the last on the list, a crazy Russian who then owned the Paris Theater. He paid for blowing it up to 35 mm and played it for seven months along with an Alec Guinness feature. Actually put the short subject on the marquee—unheard-of then or now. Next film was, “Variations on an Italian Theme,” for Alitalia Airlines. And then another theatrical short subject called “Help! My Snowman’s Burning Down.” Like the El, it was an Academy Award Nominee, and did a number of other splendid things for itself. One way or another he spent upwards of three decades in the documentary and short subject trade, garnering 70 or 75 international awards but never getting even mildly rich at it.  Along the way he also wrote a number of children’s books, four of which were published.

He is married to a delightful lady named Margaret, who has 31 children’s books in print herself, all much better than his. The Davidsons used to live above a pub called Chumley’s in New York, and are now perched on top of a hill near Rutland, Vermont, where they welcome all comers to the Taconic Peaks Ramble, a network of trails leading to quite a few spectacular views, as well as a large Japanese rock and pond garden he has built over the years (for more about the land and how to get there, click on Taconic Peaks Ramble, above). Plans are now being finalized to keep this 420 acre property open as a park, always. 

He is now a medical editor, helping physicians and researchers (most of whom cannot write) to explain their esoteric discoveries in the peer-reviewed medical journals (www.kitdavidson.net). He remembers having been an independent film producer, but not very often.

Additional note from Geoff Alexander:  In a recent conversation, Kit also mentioned that he'd filmed "twenty or thirty" episodes of Candid Camera for Alan Funt, "plus Adlai Stevenson's Western campaign tour for the Democratic National Committee, endless numbers of Indianapolis and stock car races for ABC "Wide World of Sports," endless surgical procedures for various drug companies, and assorted documentaries all across the States, as well as Europe, Israel, Hong Kong, and Japan."
 

Chronological Filmography

Three Hymns Played on the Carillon at Riverside Church (1952) 

3rd Ave. El (1954), Academy Award Nomination in 1955, Golden Reel (highest award) American Film Assembly, Diploma of Merit (highest award) Edinburgh Intl Festival, Chris Award Columbus Film Festival. Music was Haydn’s Concerto in D, played by harpsichordist Wanda Landowska. Davidson was a great fan of Landowska, and the rights to the music were held by HMV, who told the filmmaker that he could use the music, provided Landowska gave her approval. Through her secretary, Davidson discovered that Landowska distrusted filmmakers, had only seen one film in her life (which she disliked), but nevertheless "snapped up an offer of $200, all the money I had at the time," says Davidson.

Ink and Rice Paper (1954) Follows the step - by - step execution of a woodblock print by artist Lowell Naeve from initial sketch to completed edition. (The same film as 'Woodblock Printer')

Variations on an Italian Theme (1961) A tour of Italy, made for Alitalia Airlines. This was done as a reaction to the airline travelogues so usual at the time --- characterized by lots of pretty pictures, all entirely unrelated to one another, and by lots of tourists eating intricate goodies at pricey restaurants.  No real feeling involved in any way.  The intention here was to create a few small incidents, with a few perhaps memorable characters, so that the pretty pictures might involve us on a different and rather more emotional level, thus perhaps sticking in the mind somewhat longer. The film was later blown up to 35 mm and sent out to theaters nationally by a short subject distributor.

Inspector's Badge, The
(1962?) About meat packing, filmed at the First Prize packing plant in Albany, NY.

First Prize Story (1963?) About meat packing, filmed at the First Prize packing plant in Albany, NY. (Not the same film as 'Inspector's Badge')

Help! My Snowman’s Burning Down (1964)  Fourteen international awards, including an Academy Award nomination, and the Special Prize of the Jury, Cannes Intl Festival. An absurdist farce, with music by Gerry Mulligan and Bob Brookmeyer.

Railway with a Heart of Gold (1965)  An account of the Talyllyn Railway, a historic narrow-gauge slate carrier in Tywyn, Wales, and its operation by interested inhabitants in the area who saved it from being sold for scrap. Music by Judd Woldin.

Poppycock! (1966) A wonderful farce, in which two men vie for the attentions of a woman. The eventual winner triumphs through a combination of wit and slapstick. The rotund lead actor was the late Arnold F.T. Kotis, who was Davidson's assistant cameraman while he filmed for Candid Camera. Additional roles were played by actors Don Chastain and Ann Willis. The musical score was by Judd Woldin.

Woodblock Printer (1968) Follows the step - by - step execution of a woodblock print by artist Lowell Naeve from initial sketch to completed edition. The same film as 'Ink and Rice Paper', redistributed.

Brake Free (1970) A film staged on the Mount Washington (NH) cog railway.  Silver Medal Venice Intl Festival, Golden Eagle CINE Washington.

The Wrong Damn Film (1975)

Sigmoidoscopy in the Physician's Office (1975?) A medical training film made for the American Cancer Society.

100 Watts 120 Volts (1977)  The mechanized production of Duro-Test light bulbs is filmed as a dance set to the Third Brandenburg Concerto of Bach, with choreographed filaments, glass, and metal, combining in a dynamic finale. Was picked up by some government committee trying to encourage production of short subjects, and played in theaters nationally.

The Light Bulb Re-invented (1980?) Made for the Duro-Test company, showing the process of making the Mi-T-Wattsaver lightbulb.

Granite (1980) Shows a 25 ton block of granite being burned, drilled, and blasted from the heart of a Vermont mountain, focusing on the machinery used.

40,000 Acres, with View (1984) This film follows a bicyclist on a tour through New York City's immense park system. Made for the NYC Audubon Society. Music was the Oboe Concerto of Mozart.


Carson Davidson's Children's Books (writer)

Fast-Talking Dolphin Scholastic Book Services and Dodd, Mead: ages 8-11 (a dolphin lives halfway up a mountain in New England, and tends to speak in anapestic tetrameter.  320,000 copies to date)

The Adventures of Puss in Boots
The Adventures of Thumbelina
The Adventures of Snow White

(Scholastic; these are three multiple-ending adventure books, expanding the original stories with a series of new fairy tale concepts.  For ages 3-8)


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