Oregon Movies, A to Z

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Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)

March 27th, 2012 by Anne Richardson · 3 Comments · 1990's, Oregon film, Oregon film old definition, Oregon location (primary)

Stephen Herek made this time capsule so that people in the future would be able to see what a fully funded high school music program of the mid to late 20th century looked like. Richard Dreyfuss was Oscar nominated for his performance as Mr. Holland, an aspiring composer who ends up devoting his creative energies to his students.

In real life, Richard Dreyfuss began working as an actor at age 15. I don’t know if he graduated from high school. He attended Beverly Hills High.

Mr. Holland’s Opus is set in a fictional school in an unspecified city in an unspecified state. It was shot in Grant High School in NE Portland.

I can personally testify that the Mr. Holland of Patrick Sheane Duncan’s screenplay was not based on Grant’s own music teacher. ( Since writing this post, John Kaza has written in to correct me. See his comments below.) Eugene Kaza was not an aspiring composer, and did not lose himself in his devotion to his students. He was exasperated, distant, responsible, and overworked. I am not the only one of his students who thought of him as the only real teacher, the only one who really saw us, in the entire school.

He sent his own children to Catlin Gable.

Grant at the height of the Baby Boom had over 3,000 students. Mr. Kaza would march the band around the neighborhood so we could practice turning corners. Girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. Wearing skirts meant you had to wear stockings. Wearing stockings meant you had to wear some kind of garter belt or girdle. Katie Davenport rose above all that by going barelegged all year.

Rick LeDoux burned a giant peace symbol into the front lawn as an anti-war protest. The English teacher wore a cape. The Geometry teacher looked lonely. The Latin teacher pointed out all the words in our textbook which did not actually exist in Roman times. In PE, we learned how to hurdle, to swim, and to do the polka.

Inexplicably, they left all this out of Mr. Holland’s Opus.

I hereby claim Mr. Holland’s Opus as an Oregon film on the basis of location shooting.

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Roger Kaza // May 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Actually, only one of Kaza’s six children went to Catlin Gabel (me, for two years.) The others went to public schools in Washington County where he lived.

  • 2 John Kaza // Dec 22, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Actually, I can testify to a moral certainty that my father was in fact the real life Mr. Holland. I remember him coming home and telling us he was almost fired for playing “louie louie” in music appreciation class. He drove a funny little car, a metropolitan, and I was deaf as a child. He not only had an affair with his student, he married her. We came from back east and yes, the teaching job was a last minute temporary job while he pursued his conducting/composing career.
    Hollywood, of course, changed certain facts. The changes mDe no sense. A jazz afficionado a great lover of classical music? Sometimes, but not often. I was named John after Johannes Brahms and yes, they played classical music to me while I was in utero. At the time of the film he and I were estranged. I’m glad we reconciled before his death. He called and sang to me, as the film suggested he do.

  • 3 John Kaza // Dec 22, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    “Mr. Holland’s Opus is set in a fictional school in an unspecified city in an unspecified state”

    Actually, in the opening scenes, you can clearly see the high school lettering “Grant High” as the storyboard it over to jfk. I saw Hollywood board over every local business when they shot another movie in another locale—nothing is left to chance. They knew exactly what they were doing filming tge name of tge high school. They wanted word of mouth to spread that the movie was imdeed about that esteemed music teacher in a town where it rains a lot and they have a big rose festival. Wonder where that could be.

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