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Deconstructing Dad: An Anxiety of Influence

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Perusing a photo of his father in a boat on his honeymoon, smile wide and happy, in his documentary Deconstructing Dad, noted film editor and director Stan Warnow says ruefully, I never saw him this way. Filling in the Freudian gap might be reason enough to make this film, but there's also the fact that dad, Raymond Scott, was famous. Really? Who was he? You might well ask. In this film's informative and entertaining trajectory, a workaholic emerges behind the made up name, the nose job, and the trophy wife: A genius in the entertainment field, you could say, who as a dad was M. I. A.

Warnow Sr. made his, eh, name as a music composer, arranger and leader of the Raymond Scott Quintette in the 1930's; his compositions were adapted for Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies classics starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig in the 1940's; he was head of CBS radio music from 1942 to 1944, and musical director for Your Hit Parade in the 1950's, but his real passion was for sound invention, creating electronic instruments such as the Clavivox and the Electronium. As such, Raymond Scott's contribution was considerable, having influenced other pioneers like Philip Glass and Brian Eno. Motown's Berry Gordy Jr. even backed his inventions for a while.

Limning this history, the documentary is much in the genre of Nathaniel Kahn's My Architect, about his elusive dad Louis I. Kahn, but it is reminiscent too of Alan Berliner's fine Nobody's Business, about a father who disappears in history. Despite his self-invention, Raymond Scott, who died in 1994, preferred to stay in the shadows, even in publicity shots of his band.

As many in the music industry, John Williams, Hal Willner, Mark Mothersbaugh, and DJ Spooky among them, weigh in on his achievements, Stan Warnow, as filmmaker and narrator, tells a loving, resonant story of an American original, ending with the wish that his father could have seen this film.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.