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Jordan Leondopoulos is NOT John C. Broderick

TODAY'S EPISODE (28 December 2010)

swap.jpgOkay, I can stop worrying about this now. Finally.

Attentive readers may recall that I last wrote about the Jordan Leondopoulos/John C. Broderick identity crisis in October, on the occasion of the home video release of The Warrior and the Sorceress, an 80s sci-fi cheapie the aforementioned Broderick made for Roger Corman. But I've actually been semi-obsessed with the whole affair since 1997, when I was toiling at the (sadly unarchived) TVGuide website; in fact, it all started when a critical colleague over there alerted me to an early DVD (of probably dubious legal provenance) of a film starring Robert De Niro, about which there seemed to be a certain historical confusion.

For those who missed the earlier installments, however, here's a recap of the entire saga.

Our story begins with Sam's Song, a low-budget but artsy 1969 study of soulless rich folks committing adultery in the Hamptons, which was one of the first releases of the then fledgling Cannon Films. it starred the very young De Niro (in his first significant film appearance) as an idealistic aspiring moviemaker who gets to witness the angsty goings-on amongst the yacht club set; Jennifer Warren (later familiar from countless TV appearances, as well as films like Slap Shot and Ice Castles) plays his ultimately suicidal sister-in-law. Written and directed by Jordan Leondopoulos, who subsequently worked as an editor on The Exorcist, it was a handsomely made, if occasionally pretentious and slow moving, little film; De Niro's only moderately interesting in it, if truth be told, and ultimately it made barely a splash.
Cut to: 1979, when the Golan/Globus team who had taken over Cannon and made it briefly an industry powerhouse, remembered that they had a De Niro film in their vault, De Niro of course now being a huge star. G&G hired Broderick to write and direct, on the cheap, a new, and hopefully more commercial, film utilizing the 1969 footage. Broderick came up with a fairly standard for the day Mafia sleazeball revenge fantasy -- in his verson, De Niro's character has been murdered over footage for a porno film, and his just released from prison brother goes off to track down his killer. Shot in about ten days -- with future 80s scream queen Sybil Danning as an unconvincing stand-in for Warren -- the film limped in and out of grind house theaters as The Swap; direction was officially credited to John Shade, a nom du cinema Broderick took from the name of a character in Nabokov's Pale Fire [Not entirely accurate; see below -- Ed.].
In any case, over the years Broderick and Leondopoulos have been constantly mis-identified as each other in various on-line movie databases and filmographies. So I would like to state now, and for the record, that they are, in fact, two different people; I know, because I tracked both of them down for interviews in 1997. Broderick was very funny and self-deprecating about the experience, and he wasn't shy about telling me he thought that Sam's Song was basically faux Antonioni. Leondopolous, for his part, was still obviously miffed -- with good reason -- about what the philistines at Cannon had done to a serious piece of work.
I should add that Broderick -- the real one -- died in 2001; famed album cover and comic book artist William Stout, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Warrior and the Sorceress, has some interesting stuff to say about the late auteur and the experience of the project over here. Over the last few weeks, I've tried to track down Leondopoulos again, but nobody -- including original Sam's Song editor Arline Garson or composer (and electronic music pioneer) Gershon Kingsley, who graciously spent time on the phone recalling the project for me -- seems to know what's become of him; if anybody reading these poor words has any idea, I'd love to hear from you.

Shortly after the above appeared, the Intertubes being the wondrous thing they are, a reader e-mailed me the startling (to me) news that he'd had the very same Jordan Leondopoulos as a fondly remembered professor at St. Johns University in the late 80s, and that as far as he knew said prof was currently employed at CUNY. A quick web search confirmed this, and a few days later I found myself once again chatting with Leondopoulos -- who, I should add, had garnered an Academy Award nomination in 1973 for his work on The Exorcist...


...and was thus legitimately irked that all these years later the work was still being mis-credited to Broderick.

In any case, Leondopoulos was kind enough to clarify a few other points for me,  including the reason he'd been so hard to track down through either the DGA or the Editor's Guild -- he'd more or less turned his back on the film business in favor of academia (and a Ph.D.) by the mid-80s. After our conversation, he forwarded me the following e-mail, which he'd sent to the IMDB in the interest of definitively setting the record straight.

Your review of Sam's Song, dated 9 December 2008. has been brought to my attention. I write with the presumption that accuracy in reviews--if not everywhere else--is superior to inaccuracy. I am Jordan Leondopoulos, now a Professor of English at The City College of New York, CUNY, and in 1968 the one who wrote and directed Sam's Song, a feature film starring Robert De Niro for Cannon Films. Vincent Canby reviewed the film in the 12 December 1980 issue of the New York Times [during a brief run at revival house The Thalia, along with an early film by George A. Romero -- Ed.] Impelled, it would seem, by the rise of De Niro's reputation years later the producers decided to transform and re-distribute the film. They met their contractual obligation to notify me of any planned alteration in Sam's Song. I then learned of the plan for re-editing and re-shooting and heard for the first time the name John C. Broderick. Forthwith I exercised my right to remove or alter my name and selected the pseudonym John Shade, a choice risible to me and Vladimir Nabokov. The transmogrified film was later released first as The Swap and then as Line of Fire. The burden of that work rests squarely on the shoulders of John C. Broderick (now deceased). You have my gratitude in advance for taking necessary corrective steps. To that end, should you require any reasonable assistance from me, I'll be happy to oblige.

Since then, he has also assured me that his editing credit on Michael Wadleigh's Wolfen (1981) -- rendered in the IMDB as  "John C. Broderick...editor: New York (as Jordan Leondopoulos)"-- is  similarly "Wrong. It is I, and should be crew-listed as 'Jordan Leondopoulos...editor: (New York)'."

I should also add that Leondopoulos was as charming as could be when we chatted this time, despite the fact that I had been rather ungracious in my comments about Sam's Song, a work which was, as he suggested (in retrospect correctly, I think),  a more than estimable effort for a first time director during the heady era in which it was made. He also asked to me to mention that he'd never regretted his mid-life career switch, and that he didn't miss much about the movie industry "except, occasionally, the money."



Tags: The Exorcist, Wolfen, Michael Wadleigh, Jordan Leondopoulos, John C. Broderick

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1 Comment

  • the phantom creep on 28 December 2010

    Having endured "The Swap" over at the Internet Movie Database, I can say with certainty that it's not as good as that poster up top.

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