Miami 2011: “Mooney vs. Fowle”

I don’t know that I’ve ever attended a screening where the crowd is so into the documentary on screen (well, maybe the Bieber doc). James Lipscomb’s 1962 “Living Camera” episode “Mooney vs. Fowle” played to a crowd mostly made up of people who are in the Drew Associates’ vérité classic, and they understandably treated the film as if it were a slideshow projected at their high school reunion. People all around me talked amongst themselves, pointing out themselves or friends. At first it irritated me that I couldn’t always hear the dialogue from the actual film, but after a while I had an appreciation for what this experience was for everyone there. Most had apparently never seen it.

The doc brings us back to a 1961 football game played in front of 40,000 people at the Orange Bowl. A high school football game, pitting Miami High against their rivals from Edison High. The title refers to the coaches of each, and the film follows them separately, with their real families and their clan of players, in the days leading up to the big event. And then at last it astonishingly chronicles the game from all kinds of angles you wouldn’t expect from even the newly mobile tools of the Drew crew. Today’s television coverage doesn’t come nearly as close to capturing the spirit of the sport and its fans the way Lipscomb does here.

As the game played out on screen, abridged of course, the energetic audience around me would cheer or boo certain plays as if they were watching it live. Has a 50-year-old event ever been met with such passion? And does it help that kids back then were so peppy for school-related activities? During the closing credits an instrumental version of what I guess is the Miami High’s song is played, and the row behind me sang along proudly. I became vicariously “nostalgic” for a kind of high school experience my generation never had, at least not where I come from.

Even without the Rolling Roadshow-like circumstances of seeing “Mooney vs. Fowle” in Miami (the first time it’s been screened there), the doc is a gem. And I tend to be bored with football films, particularly when they’re focused on real-life artifacts (though I enjoyed much of Kevin Rafferty’s “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29″). Though it documents the actual game on the field quite centrally, there is also plenty of footage of the crowd, the sidelines, the cheerleaders and the marching band to keep it broadly, atmospherically engaging.

Before the event we get a peek at general school and teen life of the time, when apparently boys and men alike had no hair (the former all with buzzcuts; the latter balding) and girls and women contrastingly had huge, curled clumps of the stuff. Everyone seems so uniform and pure (the surprising absence of profanity was addressed in the Q&A, with coaches and players admitting to conscious self-censorship around the cameras). At one point during the film, though, I overheard a comment and snicker from some older gentlemen cracking about the cheerleaders, implying that either we were only getting a surface look at seemed innocence or those guys simply hadn’t matured much in five decades.

My favorite moment, however, is from the game: the clock has only 19 seconds on it, but Lipscomb decides not to show the countdown or what’s occurring on the field during that time. Instead he stays on a tight shot of the winning team’s coach up until and through the instance that his players lift him up in celebration. I don’t even think you hear the final whistle, but the cheers from the crowd are probably audible. Regardless of what’s heard on the soundtrack, the visual says everything you need to know at that moment, not just for the game but for the whole story. And it’s the kind of thing only great on-hand, direct cinema-style documentarians tend to achieve.

This screening was an amazing way to kick off my time at the Miami International Film Festival. I could have seen the film under other circumstances — I believe it will be playing in NYC soon, in fact — and I do hope this and other unavailable Drew Associates works get a video release soon. But it’s pretty neat to have had the opportunity to see the film with its many subjects, not just the 80-something Coach Mooney, as were the quarterbacks from each team, but all the reunited Miami and Edison high schoolers who made it out to the event. You have to appreciate the locally significant films that show at regional film fests, especially when they’re as wonderful as “Mooney vs. Fowle.”

About these ads

About Christopher Campbell
I am a blogger for Documentary Channel and Movies.com, where I write the Doc Talk column. I prefer real stories to fake ones. I tweet here: @thefilmcynic

17 Responses to Miami 2011: “Mooney vs. Fowle”

  1. Tony says:

    As a former Red Raider, and one on the late 60’s teams, I would love to see the documentary (and perhaps have a copy)………..is there any plans for the film to go commercial or perhaps viral?

    • Doug Carnes says:

      Tony,

      As a Stingaree and member of the 1960 team that lost to you folks, it is a memory that I carry vividly in my mind. You folks were unbelievable. I can vividly remember looking into the stands at all those red and white dressed folks and feeling like my life was ending. I to would love to have a copy of the film. In our “football meeting room” was a sign over the blackboard which was a history of MHS vs. Miami Edison games. There were only two losses. Our legacy was to be the third loss. Go stingarees.

      • EARL SEDLIK says:

        Doug is absolutely right about it all – except that we played at Thanksgiving in 1959 and graduated in 1960. We starred at that long list of Edison scores everyday at our chalk talk. The team lost in 1957 – but they did not get that score up on the wall yet… in 1958 to 1960. I guess that they may have never updated it because we lost in 1957 and 1959. The film shows the precisely same coaching staff. We did win in 1958 and earned a post-season game against Coral Gables – who had beaten us 13-12 in mid-season 1958 – we missed 2 extra points after coming back from their touchdown on the opening kick-off. We won the post season game and became State champions in front of 34,000 fans. Nevertheless, our class with an even stronger team lost to Edison in 1959.

    • Hi Tony,

      I was at the film festival and I thought it was great and there are dvd’s available. You can go to Miami Edison Alumni web site and there is information there on how to purchase a copy from Drew Associates.

  2. Pingback: Miami 2011: “Magic Trip” « Nothing But the Doc

  3. Doug Carnes says:

    I am a 1960 MHS graduate. We played Miami Edison in 1960 for the state championship. We had NOT lost a game in my 3 years of high school. We tied one game against Miami Jackson (another big rival). We entered the game as a favorite. Within 5 minutes we were losing by at least 14 points. We were beaten by Miami Edison which marked only the 3rd time in school history that Edison beat Miami. As a member of the football team, we all carry that battle scar and have for now 50 years. It was a defining moment in my high school career and taught the meaning of losing. We were humbled and that night Miami Edison owned Miami and taunted us all night. I would love to see this movie.

    • Hi Doug,

      I was at the film festival and I thought it was great and there are dvd’s available. You can go to Miami Edison Alumni web site and there is information there on how to purchase a copy from Drew Associates.

  4. John Garcia says:

    I am a ’55 graduate of Miami Edison and witnessed the first time we Red Raiders first beat Miami High after, as I recollect, 26 years of futility. it’s amazing that such a one-sided series could establish itself asf–at that time–the top rivalry in the state. i’d love to see that film and I can’t wait to nudge Mr. Carnes now that I know he actually played in the game that became only our third victory over the Stingarees. Hey, those we could celebrate were few and far between..

    • Doug Carnes says:

      How strange we should travel all those years and miles only to live in the same town, same community, and same street. Alas, Mr. Garcia jogs by my house on a frequent basis and when he does, I detect a smile of victory on his face. He picks up his pace and tosses a quick glance at an “ole” MHS grad…knowing that he jogs past in victory. But alas, if I’m not mistaken the film shows once again MHS’s continued dominance over the Red Raiders. And, much to my surprise…those Red Raiders aren’t bad folks after all.

      • John Garcia says:

        Obviously, Mr. Carnes vision is failing him in his dotage. That’s not a smile I wear when I jog past his house but a grimace, a reflection of my physical discomfort that doesn’t disappear until the end of what is better described as my “geriatric shuffle.” But he’s on to something i, too, discovered: Miami High folks are darn good people as well.

  5. Paul Craig says:

    Oh how I hope they release this video to the masses.

    • Hi Paul,

      I was at the film festival and I thought it was great and there are dvd’s available. You can go to Miami Edison Alumni web site and there is information there on how to purchase a copy from Drew Associates.

  6. Lisa says:

    If anyone is in the NYC area next week, we will be screening Mooney Vs. Fowle on Tuesday 3/22 at 8pm.
    http://stfdocs.com/films/mooney_vs._fowle/

  7. Harvey Starin says:

    I played in the Miami High Band and the camera crew came to a band practice one evening before the game. Part of the “local cloor.” Its a memory that had faded until I saw this and the trailer for the film. To add to the context bit, Miami High vs Edison was the tradtional Thanksgiving Day rivalry game that had been played for maybe 30 years or more. The Miami High boys PE locker room was emblazoned with the scores for every one of the prior games in large lettering. It let incoming 10th graders (High school was 10, 11 and 12 back then in Miami) know what was really important at their new school. Nothing was more compelling or important than beating Edison. In hindsight, life seemd a lot simpler then.

  8. EARL SEDLIK says:

    I had the honor of seeing the documentary with my brother Jay, MHS, ’55 and sports editor of the Miami High Times & a Band Member! Everything is precisely how I remembered it – including the common serious injury when the A-team scrimmaged against the Murphy squad. I’ve seen teeth being spit out, broken legs, and my own forehead split-open. The is touching and sensitive piece captured it all including the very classy Coach Mooney, who, when given the opportunity to talk to the refs simply said, “Call it tight or call it loose, I don’t care. Just call it the same for both sides.” Win or lose that night, he won the Mooney vs. Fowle comparison. He won that day and he won our devotion – win or lose. The biggest fear I experienced is watching the Edison school kids chanting, “We’re gonna beat…. Miami High!” Over and over again!

    I played against Edison in ’58 (won) & ’59 (lost). The loss lasts forever. At our fiftieth reunion, the image of winning was so strong, that most actually thought we won. WE KNOW THAT WE LOST! Most telling image in the film is the comparison of the Pep Rallies. At Edison, the coach led the program from the stage. At MHS, as was always the tradition, the players were featured on the stage, made speeches, and received “personal player” cheers from the cheerleaders. The Coaches rarely attended the Pep Rallies and NEVER attended the “GET MAD” meetings – as was accurately depicted. Even so, we lost in ’59 at the end of an undefeated season. In ’58, we had lost to Gables in mid-season, but earned a post-season re-play after we beat Edison and then beat Gables in the PBA game in December.

    Yes, the chalk-board room had the score of eery Edison Game right above the blackboard. we looked at that everyday and dreaded being one of the few teams to lose to Edison. We lost so badly in 1958, that the fumble i recovered made photo news in the Miami Herald the next day – nearly 50 years later, at a guardianship hearing for my elderly Aunt Ida, the judge looked up and said, “Are you the Earl Sedlik who recovered the fumble in the Edison game?” The judge, Arthur Rothenberg, was a classmate who idolized the team and all the teams of that era. In support of our plea, he took plenary custody of Aunt Ida, saying, “Any Aunt of Earl Sedlik’s is an aunt of mine.”

    THIS MOVIE CAPTURES ALL THE DRAM OF THAT ERA AND THE REAL PERSONALITIES OF THE DAY – WHAT A WONDERFUL TIME CAPSULE!

  9. EARL SEDLIK says:

    I had the honor of seeing the documentary with my brother Jay, MHS, ’55 and sports editor of the Miami High Times & a Band Member! Everything is precisely how I remembered it – including the common serious injury when the A-team scrimmaged against the Murphy squad. I’ve seen teeth being spit out, broken legs, and my own forehead split-open. The is touching and sensitive piece captured it all including the very classy Coach Mooney, who, when given the opportunity to talk to the refs simply said, “Call it tight or call it loose, I don’t care. Just call it the same for both sides.” Win or lose that night, he won the Mooney vs. Fowle comparison. He won that day and he won our devotion – win or lose. The biggest fear I experienced is watching the Edison school kids chanting, “We’re gonna beat…. Miami High!” Over and over again!

    I played against Edison in ’58 (won) & ’59 (lost). The loss lasts forever. At our fiftieth reunion, the image of winning was so strong, that most actually thought we won. WE KNOW THAT WE LOST! Most telling image in the film is the comparison of the Pep Rallies. At Edison, the coach led the program from the stage. At MHS, as was always the tradition, the players were featured on the stage, made speeches, and received “personal player” cheers from the cheerleaders. The Coaches rarely attended the Pep Rallies and NEVER attended the “GET MAD” meetings – as was accurately depicted. Even so, we lost in ’59 at the end of an undefeated season. In ’58, we had lost to Gables in mid-season, but earned a post-season re-play after we beat Edison and then beat Gables in the PBA game in December.

    Yes, the chalk-board room had the score of eery Edison Game right above the blackboard. we looked at that everyday and dreaded being one of the few teams to lose to Edison. We lost so badly in 1958, that the fumble i recovered made photo news in the Miami Herald the next day – nearly 50 years later, at a guardianship hearing for my elderly Aunt Ida, the judge looked up and said, “Are you the Earl Sedlik who recovered the fumble in the Edison game?” The judge, Arthur Rothenberg, was a classmate who idolized the team and all the teams of that era. In support of our plea, he took plenary custody of Aunt Ida, saying, “Any Aunt of Earl Sedlik’s is an aunt of mine.”

    THIS MOVIE CAPTURES ALL THE DRAMA OF THAT ERA AND THE REAL PERSONALITIES OF THE DAY – WHAT A WONDERFUL TIME CAPSULE!

  10. Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website?
    My blog is in the exact same niche as yours and my users would truly benefit from some
    of the information you provide here. Please let me know
    if this ok with you. Many thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: