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Still Talkin'

February 18, 1996

It is interesting that Kenneth Turan's recollection of the ending of "Taxi Driver" is the scene he mentions ("The Meanest Street," Feb. 11") and not the additional 10 minutes or so that were seemingly tacked on to demonstrate that Travis Bickle had experienced some sort of catharsis and, additionally, clue the audience in to some larger issue.

A lot of Martin Scorsese's early films had this unfortunate element: the bad ending syndrome--as if he didn't trust his creation.

I've always thought that "Taxi Driver" should have ended with a freeze frame as the camera pulls up when the police are entering the room after the bloodbath. Fade to black, have the music swell and roll the credits.

Am I alone here?


Los Angeles


Turan's excellent re-examination of "Taxi Driver" reminded me of one haunting element thathas stayed with me since the second time I watched the film back in the '70s. It was one of Travis Bickle's very first passengers: a rich drunkard flanked by two female hookers whose face was never clearly shown on the screen.

Could it be that that passenger actually was the candidate who eventually became Bickle's target? If so, it offers an intriguing juxtaposition between that ride and the scene where the candidate hops into Bickle's cab acting like the ultimate politician. Was that, in fact, the basis for the rage and mania of DeNiro's character? What a perfect excuse to go see the movie again.


Los Angeles


Turan mentioned the wonderful music of Bernard Herrmann. What never has been mentioned is who played the alto sax solos, which were a very important part of that score.

I had the pleasure of playing those solos 20 years ago. In those days, it took practically an act of Congress for musicians to receive credit for their contributions. It is more common these days to see one's name mentioned during the never-ending credits, so I am taking this opportunity to blow my own horn (so to speak).


Woodland Hills


Some people who know me have asked if I was the model for Travis Bickle. Frankly, I don't know.

Back when I was just out of the Marines and was living in a seventh-floor walk-up in Manhattan, I was doing a lot of acting in way the hell off Broadway plays. One of these plays was "Glamour, Glory and Gold," written by a trans-something-or-other named Jackie Curtis. Also in the play were Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn; these three were later to be memorialized in Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side."

Also in the play was Robert De Niro. As I remember, I was cast as some kind of right-wing killer in the mold of Lee Harvey Oswald. In those days, I wore my old Marine field jacket everyplace and I had Marine short hair and attitude.

Anyway, the last time I saw De Niro was in the Village and he mentioned that he had just done some film. Shortly thereafter, I split for the Coast and took up residence in the Haight-Ashbury, where I continued my unremarkable film career--if you look real close and know who you're looking for, you'll see me riding a chopper and stealing Woody Allen's wife in "Play It Again, Sam."


Costa Mesa


Turan's offhand comment regarding the restoration of "Taxi Drive"--"aside from usual tidying up of the negative"--is a disservice to the efforts of a number of talented technicians. This work is not accomplished at a "One-Hour Photo." The technology and effort used to restore "Taxi Driver" is every bit as sophisticated and difficult as the work that went into Martin Scorsese's latest film, "Casino."

For the record, I would like to clarify that the score was not remixed, since it was originally recorded in three-track stereo. The film's soundtrack was remixed in surround stereo incorporating the original three-track stereo score and surround stereo dialogue and effects under Scorsese's supervision at Chace Productions.


President, Chace Productions Inc.


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