Invasion of the Beatles fan: Columnist Peter Jones meets pop artist Jann Haworth. Photo by Laura Parker
Oftentimes what is left on the cutting-room floor from a feature story can be just as interesting as what winds up in print. Those outtakes, if you will, were part of the reason I started this column, aptly titled “Left Unedited,” a home for journalistic bonus features.
Last week’s Villager included my interview with Jann Haworth, the award-winning pop artist who co-designed the cover to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. While much of the story focused on one of the most recognizable albums in rock history, there was much more that could have been said about Haworth’s art and background.
Check out her exhibit, “Never the Less,” a retrospective, through Nov. 11 at Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria Campus in Denver.
Much of Haworth’s use of Hollywood iconography came from her father, Ted, an Academy Award-winning art director, whose credits included Sayonara, Some Like it Hot, The Longest Day and Marty, the 1955 Best Picture that proved actor Ernest Borgnine was more than eye candy. (If you haven’t seen Marty, do so. Highly recommended.)
As a child, Jann would often hang around movie sets with her father, mingling with Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe, both of whom she personally selected for inclusion on the Pepper collage. One day, when her father was stumped over how to depict the “pods” in 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the budding teen pop artist was drafted.
When Ted asked the 13-year-old butterfly collector if she knew anything about papier-mache, Jann did what any creative and attention-seeking adolescent would do.
“I lied and I said ‘yeah,’” Haworth confessed. “I knew it was newspaper and flour, water and glue. I didn’t know about the chicken wire. I thought you just clump it together.”
Haworth quickly threw her messy pile of newspapery goo into the oven with vague hopes that whatever came out would look like something that could birth a space alien.
“It went pulaw! And that’s what they used,” she said with a laugh.
No film credit was given.
Kevin McCarthy tempts fate with 13-year-old Jann Haworth’s papier-mache project in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
And what about Invasion’s political overtones? It has been hypothesized that the tale of alien bodily takeover was either a veiled comment on—or a paranoid and self-serving endorsement of—the anti-communist “witch hunt” that at the time was snatching up some of Hollywood’s finest actors, directors and screenwriters onto blacklists.
“I think it’s an unanswered question,” Haworth said of the film’s social motivations. “Walter Wanger was the producer and he was blacklisted. He clearly would have had the brainpower to actually make that kind of statement. [The director] Don Siegel, I don’t think had the brainpower. He was dumb as ditchwater.”
That did not stop Siegel from decades later taking credit for his film’s “brave” anti-McCarthyism allegory—the movie’s studio-imposed happy ending and its portrayal of Hoover’s FBI as heroes notwithstanding.
“I think he was taking credit, just like Paul McCartney’s taking credit for the Sgt. Pepper cover retroactively,” Haworth said with some justifiable snarkiness.
When it came down to it, the pop artist who actually did co-create the Pepper cover with then-husband Peter Blake was never much of a Beatles fan anyway. She prefers the Who, having created costumes for stage productions of that band’s 1969 rock opera Tommy.
“The Beatles are beautiful, but the Who has this edge and I like music with an edge in it,” Haworth said. “The imperfection of it is almost more astonishing. The Beatles’ music is closed. Every piece is finished. There’s no re-entry.”
The artist is even skeptical of Sgt. Pepper, the much-hailed 1967 Beatles album that helped redefine rock music—and rock music album covers—as art.
“It’s middle-class storytelling,” she said.
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