Boy on a String: From Cast-off Kid to Filmmaker through the Magic of Dreams

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Boy on a String is the inspirational memoir of Joe Jacoby who worked in the early days of live TV and went on to become a pioneering filmmaker. Jacoby has never before revealed that his childhood was spent in foster homes and institutions. A New York University film school colleague of Martin Scorsese, Jacoby survived a childhood wrought with abuse and neglect. His mother's unpredictable and sometimes dangerous behavior forced friends to commit her, which then led Jacoby to grow up in seven foster homes in ...

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Overview

Boy on a String is the inspirational memoir of Joe Jacoby who worked in the early days of live TV and went on to become a pioneering filmmaker. Jacoby has never before revealed that his childhood was spent in foster homes and institutions. A New York University film school colleague of Martin Scorsese, Jacoby survived a childhood wrought with abuse and neglect. His mother's unpredictable and sometimes dangerous behavior forced friends to commit her, which then led Jacoby to grow up in seven foster homes in Brooklyn, and two institutions (one for emotionally disturbed children). Yet, propelled by the power of his dreams, Jacoby came to realize his passion for puppetry and movies and made his first feature at the age of twenty-seven (now in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent archives). He also recounts, often with hilarity, his dealings with the last of the movie moguls, Joseph E. Levine.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Screenwriter, producer, and director Jacoby presents an engrossing, offbeat memoir of the experiences that contributed to his development. Growing up in 1950s Brooklyn, NY, he was raised by his mother until she was committed for mental illness; stints in foster homes and institutions followed. Jacoby vividly describes his imaginary play with puppets and a make-believe television studio he fashioned out of clay. This love of fantasy led him to New York University to study filmmaking (Martin Scorsese was a classmate) and later involvement in the early days of television with the famous Bunin Puppets and Bil and Cora Baird's Marionettes. At 27, Jacoby made his first theatrical feature, which was initiated into the Museum of Modern Art's archives. The strongest part of the book is Jacoby's heartfelt account of his lonely childhood and how his imagination led him out into the world of film and television. Book clubs will no doubt bite as will patrons in larger public libraries.-Barbara Kundanis, Batavia P.L., IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The path from abandoned son to noted movie director. Jacoby's memoir begins with his mother being carted off, a la Blanche DuBois, to a mental ward. All the expected details of a vagabond childhood are here: foster-home pinball, stern social workers and the shroud of secrecy the boy felt forced to cast around himself. The one constant in his life was television. Jacoby's talent for performance led him to NYU, where he became a cohort of Martin Scorsese (who provides an introduction) and worked odd television jobs. Through sheer will, the cast-off kid made a sexploitation flick, a personal indie film, and then . . . well, it's unclear, really. Jacoby seems less than passionate about his creative products. His excitement lies in his telling of a destitute, unsupported boy who was able to make his way in the world. Readers too will be more moved by Jacoby's flouting of the experts' predictions that he would wind up "dead, on drugs, or in jail" than by the professional achievements he describes in rather dull terms. His triumph over adversity is certainly worthy of admiration, yet his memoir is ultimately frustrating, offering little payoff for slogging through passages of repetitive musings about his life philosophy (variations of "make it up as you go along") and scattered, random details (for a filmmaker, Jacoby has a rather undeveloped sense of pacing). The author offers little information about his relationships with others and leaves no indication of where he is now; his final chapters seem like afterthoughts. If only Jacoby's account of his career were as gripping as his heart-wrenching personal story.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786717118
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 2/9/2006
  • Pages: 338
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

JOSEPH JACOBY, film writer, producer and director, began his career as a writer & creator of television game shows and as a puppeteer. Mr. Jacoby joined the Bil Baird Marionettes as a puppeteer, performing at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair for Chrysler Corporation and became involved in professional filmmaking through Baird's extensive work in filmed commercials and industrials, as well as Morey Bunin’s work in the development of Aniforms, a patented live-animation process. He subsequently began to produce and direct industrial presentations and commercials for major U.S. corporations including AT&T, US. Keds, Seagrams, American Motors and others. He continues to freelance in this area.

He later returned to the world of game shows and wrote for "Let's Make a Deal" (NBC), served as a free-lance writer for "Magistrate's Court" a television production for Screen Gems International, and co-produced "The Michael Jackson Show" (KTTV - Metromedia).

Mr. Jacoby’s first directed and produced theatrical feature film “Shame, Shame..Everybody Knows Her Name” was made a permanent part of The Museum of Modern Art’s archives. He next directed, wrote and produced his first major motion picture, A Joseph E. Levine release, "Hurry Up, Or I'll Be 30" (with Danny DeVito - DeVito's first feature film). It was honored at the USA Film Festival as one of the Best Directed Films of the Year. He next wrote, directed and produced "The Great Bank Hoax," "a bouncy unpretentious comedy exploring the post-Watergate symptoms of social corruption." (Mosk, VARIETY) and “Carrying a class look, a distinct throwback to some of those better comedies of the 40s.” (Robert Osborne, Hollywood Reporter/Turner Classic Movies). The film (a Warner Bros. release) starred Richard Basehart, Ned Beatty, Burgess Meredith, Michael Murphy, Charlene Dallas, Paul Sand and Arthur Godfrey. It won the SPECIAL JURY AWARD and Jacoby won BEST NEW DIRECTOR at the Virgin Islands International Film Festival. It was for this film that Jacoby was featured at the Judith Crist Film Weekend at Tarrytown, N.Y., with another guest, Woody Allen.

Returning to his roots in the mid-90s, Jacoby started Children’s Video Theater® with the purpose of producing high-quality family programming for television and video. “Davy Jones’ Locker,” a family musical starring The Bil Baird Marionettes, was seen nationally on the PBS stations and Japan’s NHK, to both critical and ratings success. The film was awarded The Unima Citation of Excellence (Unima is affiliated with UNESCO) and, in 2002, was chosen for the Ten Years Winner’s Circle by Unima and The Puppetry Arts Center in Atlanta.

“Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves” is currently in development as is a docu-drama, based on BOY ON A STRING, to be co-ventured by Jacoby and Albert Maysles (whose film “The Gates” will be seen on HBO this fall). This is to be a prequel to Jacoby’s feature film based on his book.

The Museum of Modern Art is scheduled to present a retrospective to Jacoby’s film work in Spring 2006.

As an adjunct Professor of Film at The New School for Social Research in New York City, Jacoby originated the course "The Making of the Independent Feature," (a New York magazine “Best Bet,” ) and has appeared on numerous talk shows and lectured at universities throughout the country. Mr. Jacoby is the author of some half-dozen theatrical screenplays.

Joseph Jacoby has been a contributing essayist to New York Woman Magazine and is a subject of biographical record in Marquis' WHO'S WHO IN ENTERTAINMENT.
EDUCATION: B.A. New York University, Washington Square College of Arts & Science.
(Major: Television/Motion Pictures.) AWARDS/HONORS: Dean's List; Griffith Hughes Award

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Table of Contents


Introduction   Martin Scorsese     ix
This Too Shall Pass
Boy on a String     3
The Home     23
Shutting Down     35
A Life on Loan     49
Lockup
Hawthorne     67
Instant Family     85
Seminal     99
Good Boy
Brooklyn Redux     115
I Don't Dance     127
Utensils     141
Freedom
"You Should Be a Producer"     155
Present in Absentia     169
Rejection Redux     181
Discovery
Synchronicity     195
To L.A. and Back     211
Cut Goods     227
Follow the Yellow Brick Road     239
Hurry Up, or I'll Be 30     253
Joseph E. Levine Presents     261
Disclosure
You Know These People     277
Denial in the Pursuit of Passion     289
Epilogue     311
Film Notes     327
Acknowledgments     329
Index     333
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2007

    A reviewer

    A poignant, yet unsentimental self portrait of a life created solely through a passion for movies, puppetry and the entertainment industry. A good read, especially for those who feel they might otherwise have gone further in life but for different parentage or role models. Jacoby's childhood background appears to be a modern-day Dickensian one but to him, apparently, motivational and testament to the phrase 'the child is father of the man'. His story also includes some interesting, personal and amusing vignettes of some entertainment industry luminaries. Read in one sitting.

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