A year ago Noel Black died at age 77 in Santa Barbara.
He left behind a filmography filled with television episodes – “The Twilight Zone,” “The Baby-Sitters Club,” “Hawaii Five-O” “Kojak” – TV movies and theatrical releases, the most famous being the Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld vehicle “Pretty Poison” from 1966, and “Private School,” starring Phoebe Cates.
But it’s his first film from 1965, his student thesis film from his days at UCLA, that his family wants entered into the Library of Congress’ Film Registry.
“Skaterdater” has the distinction of being one of the first-ever skateboard films, shot at the birth of the sport, where the wheels were made of steel and clay. It went on to be nominated for an Oscar for best live action short, and win the Palmes d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Technical Grand Prize, where it tied with Orson Welles’ “Chimes at Midnight.”
The Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board chooses 25 films each year “showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation,” according to its website. Last year’s selections ranged from Hollywood classics like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Big Lebowski” to rare silent shorts and iconic newsreel footage like V-E Day, May 9, 1945.
Anybody can nominate a film for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” and if turned down, there’s always the next year. The registry accepts votes until September, with the winners announced in December.
“He wanted to do a film on surfing, originally,” said his daughter Nicole Black Gonthier, who co-owns Renaud’s Bakery in town. “But a lot of people were already making surf movies, and then he saw skateboards.”
The 18-minute film is a simple love story, told without dialog, between a young skateboarder and a blonde girl on a bicycle, and a rival boy for her affections who also rolls with his own young teenage skateboard gang. Well, maybe “gang” is too strong a word, despite these 12-year-olds wearing matching windbreakers with logo patches on the chest.
The film is a sweet and innocent reminder of when kids could go out and play until the sun went down. And suburban Southern California is the film’s other character, from the Rolling Hills Plaza in Torrance, to Averill Park in San Pedro, the Malaga Cove Plaza in Palos Verdes, and, in the final showdown, the steep Cypress Street in Lomita.
The young actor who plays the antagonist was Gregg Carroll, who would later be inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame. And another skater in the movie, Gary Hill, is now a well-known video artist. The rest of the cast faded into obscurity until Cynthia Felando of the Daily Breeze reunited them last month.
Ms. Felando is one of the allies of the film, as is Peter Rainer, the Christian Science Monitor’s film critic, who has written about the film’s importance.
The film is easy to find online and the comment sections reveal how popular the film was: Many speak of seeing the film in school, where it was shown to certain classes every year.
United Artists, which still owns the film, packaged it originally with the James Bond film “Thunderball,” exposing many a young mind to this up and coming sport.
Ms. Gonthier has set up the site voteskaterdater.com where you can watch the film, then send a vote of support to the registry.
“Before he died, my dad said, ‘Please promise me that you’ll do anything you can to make sure this movie gets on the film registry,'” Ms. Gonthier said. “It was important to him. He wasn’t the kind of person who went into the movie industry thinking he was going to be famous. I think he just wanted to make a difference.”