“…Oregon is demure and lovely, and it ought to play a little hard to get. And I think you’ll be just as sick as I am if you find it is nothing but a hungry hussy , throwing herself at every stinking smokestack that’s offered.” Tom McCall
Pollution In Paradise changed Oregon history.
What Profiles in Courage did for John F. Kennedy, and Dreams From My Father did for Barack Obama, this full length television documentary did for Oregon newsman Tom McCall. Four years after it was broadcast, he was governor. Once in office, he moved swiftly and effectively to put in place environmental protections we take for granted today.
In the film, McCall firmly staked out a moral position in the pollution debate and pushed questions of livability to the forefront of public attention. Pollution in Paradise was a tour de force, pressing home the powerful idea that there was no contradiction between jobs and quality of life in Oregon. From the Oregon History Project.
Pollution In Paradise was directed by Skeets McGrew, produced by Richard Ross and written by Tom McCall. This screening is a rare opportunity to experience the force of McCall’s game changing oratory from the big screen. Admission is free and Bill Bradbury, former Oregon Secretary of State, will be there to introduce.
For fans of Oregon cultural history who want to step into the Oregon Movies, A to Z time machine, here’s what else was going on during 1962:
Ken Kesey published his powerful debut novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Richard Brautigan finished the manuscript for Trout Fishing In America, Don Berry published Moontrap. Gary Snyder was writing his second book of poems. James Ivory was making his first feature, The Householder, in India. James Blue had just made his first feature, The Olive Trees Of Justice, in Algiers. Homer Groening, in private practice as a one man ad agency in Portland, is likely to have been in and out of Northwestern, Inc., the sound studio where Paul Revere and the Raiders would record Louie, Louie the following year.
I have two observations:
1. The environmental activism of McCall’s doc is mirrored in the work produced by Kesey, Brautigan, Berry and Snyder. Interest in honoring nature, as opposed to just despoiling her, drives all five Oregon authors: the poets, the novelists, the journalist who would become governor.
2. Look at Eugene’s dominant role as a nurturer of Oregon Cold War era genius! Kesey, Brautigan, Ivory and Blue — all either came from Eugene or attended U of O. This was true of Tom McCall, as well. He graduated from U of O’s school of journalism.
After you see the doc, the next step to understanding McCall is to read Brent Walth’s superb biography, Fire At Eden’s Gate. Running a far distant second is this source of McCall info:
“I am just…wondering, where is the glow of yesteryear? I’m wondering where the heroes went. Gosh, I don’t know how long ago they left. Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say: This is my community, and it is my responsibility to make it better. Interweave all these communities, and you really have an America that is back on its feet, a comfortable nation to live in again. I really think we’re gonna have to reassess what constitutes a hero.” From Tom McCall’s interview with Studs Terkel
My favorite: “There’s a spirit here that says, let’s dare to try things. Let’s see why you can do things, rather than let’s see why you can’t.” Tom McCall
I hereby claim Pollution In Paradise as an Oregon film on the basis of just about every criteria you could possibly name.