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Pull My Daisy and Social Substance

Pull My Daisy and Social Substance

Frank and Leslie’s Pull My Daisy (1959)[1] is the quintessential experimental ‘beat’ film. Based on an act of a play by Jack Kerouac—who provides the amusing narration—“Daisy” reflects the impulsivity and anti-social spontaneity of the late 1950’s American beat generation.  Initially hyped as impromptu and unscripted—co-director Leslie later revealed that the film was indeed well-planned; nevertheless, the plot of a young beatnik couple having to deal with their drunken poet/musician friends (friends such as young Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, no less) while entertaining a bishop and his reserved family certainly illustrates and fulfills the film’s promise of a social situation gone awry–with comic results.

Underneath and within the antics of Pull My Daisy there are some key beliefs and messages that are typical and reflective of ‘beat’ counterculture. These include: The eschewing of formal education; the entrapment of traditional marriage and the stifling roles of husband/wife; the mistrust of formal, organized religion—and of course, the unnecessary (read ‘ridiculous’) restrictions associated with ‘proper’ social protocol.

In general, Pull My Daisy represents and documents the ideas of civilized society, i.e. laws, domesticity, decorum, order, logic, schedules, tradition, regime, structure—posited against those of anarchy, i.e. asocial views of rebellion, pure creativity, insurrection, bohemian lifestyles, impulsivity, art, lust, the ‘new,’ subversion, chaos.

The film features several symbols or suggestions of metaphor. For example, during the only ‘flashback,’ of sorts, in the film, the Bishop ‘preaches’ to a group of what are essentially members of the Melting Pot: The ‘new’ America—first and second generation Americans; meanwhile, a huge American flag continuously, uncomfortably whips into his face—emblematic of his general discomfort with these ‘new’ Americans with whom he has to deal.

Also, the ‘cockroach’ poem/rant Ginsberg espouses as the camera surveys the rather pitiful, meager domicile and belongings of Milo and his wife serves as commentary on how little of the “American Dream” and “domestic bliss” this young married couple have been able to obtain. Further, for Ginsberg, the place and all within belongs as much to the cockroach family as it does to that of Milo. In the end—all bits and pieces, all the by-products and materiality of American life wind up in the same place—in the earth—possessed by the least of its inhabitants.


[1] Frank, R. & A. Leslie. [Directors], Pull My Daisy, [USA: UK: A], 1959.

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About ageer370

I'm in my final semester as a grad student of media studies, I'm also 'Mom' to my 15-year-old autistic son. My interests are film history--its analysis and criticism; the art of rhetoric as well as cultural history from about the Edwardian period to the present.

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