Handout received this sad news from filmmaker CJ Gardella, regarding the death of professor and film collector Gene Stavis, who was interviewed by Handout in 2012. CJ sent this memoriam in Gene’s honor.
My dear friend Gene Stavis has passed away. I regret sharing this news, but want to take a moment to share a little about him for those that knew him or maybe didn’t.
He LOVED film. He discovered a lost student film by Orson Welles at a library in Greenwich, CT. called “The Hearts of Age.” He confronted him over the phone while he was at a hotel in Las Vegas, “excuse me Mr. Welles, I have a film that belongs to you.” Welles: “It’s a fake, burn it.” Gene: “But Mr. Welles, you’re in it.” He worked with Henri Langlois at the Cinémathèque Francais in the 1970’s. Langlois asked him, “Stavis? Is that short for something?” Gene: “Stavisky.” The name of the notorious French gangster immortalized by Jean-Paul Belmondo. Langlois: “I knew there was a reason I hired you.” Gene served as the American representative for the cinémathèque and travelled with Langlois while he was in the states to accept his honorary Oscar. Gene got to meet the likes of Jean Renoir, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Groucho Marx and many more. He said Parisians would often take he and Langlois for brothers. Gene would screen movies in his apartment from his collection of 2000 16mm film prints for everyone; a screening of “The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T.” for the kids in the building or a print of “Little Caesar” for Douglas Fairbanks Jr. He was the end all of film knowledge and above that he was one of the most earnest, standup human beings I’ve had the privilege of knowing for the past 12 years. Our friendship began with Ernst Lubitsch. He showed me every Lubitsch print he had in his collection, including “Broken Lullaby” Lubitsch’s only foray into drama and allegedly James Dean’s first onscreen appearance. From there we became fast friends. We worked together to put legs under the SVA Theatre, Gene’s own cinémathèque!! His love was sharing films before an audience. It was his passion. He loved the splash of the movie studio logo on the red curtains as they parted to reveal the screen. He enabled me to make my own movies and fed me lunch and showed me movies when I was broke. I love the man and will miss him dearly. It’s not often that someone of such genuine originality and humor comes down the pike. He was a person of great humanity and wisdom.
Above picture: Gene (center) with Langlois & director George Stevens.