Kent Mackenzie: Writer, Producer, and Director
Born to an American father and an English mother in Hampstead, London, England on April 6,1930, Kent Mackenzie first attended an English public school, The Hall, where he had "the-old-school-tie" upbringing. His father, Dewitt Mackenzie, was the head of the London Bureau of the Associated Press during the 1930's. At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Dewitt Mackenzie settled in New York as a Foreign News Analyst for AP. After being shuttled back and forth across the Atlantic five times before he was nine years old, Kent settled into grammar school in Bronxville, NY. He completed his high school education at Bronxville High, and matriculated to Dartmouth College in the fall of 1947.
At Dartmouth, Kent majored in English Literature and found his interest in motion pictures stimulated by a professor of English Drama, Benfield Pressey, who had recently spent a summer in Hollywood watching films in production. Pressey initiated a course in film writing at the college, which Kent attended.
The germ of The Exiles may very well have struck root in Mackenzie's mind during that time. During one summer vacation, Kent was a tennis counselor at a summer camp in Maine where the craft counselor was an Onondaga Indian named Tom Two Arrows. The friendship that developed between Mackenzie and Two Arrows (who became a successful Indian artist and professional dancer) certainly influenced Kent's later interest in the problems of American Indians.
After graduating from Dartmouth in June 1951, Kent made plans to go to Hollywood, but was interrupted by "Greetings from the President," who, it seemed had plans for him in the Army. Kent enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to Germany as a 2nd Lieutenant. He completed his duty as an aircraft control officer there and was discharged in September 1953.
In October of that year he counted his slim savings, bought a used car and set out for Hollywood. He arrived in the motion picture capitol with $40, the clothes he was wearing, and the beat-up car. In January 1954 he enrolled in the University of Southern California Cinema Department, attending night classes. He earned a scholarship that (along with his GI Bill allotment) permitted him to quit his job and attend regular daytime classes. His graduate film project Bunker Hill—1956 earned a screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival that year and won the Silver Award accorded to University productions by the Screen Producers' Guild and Look magazine.
Kent attributed the greatest single influence in his attitude and thinking about films to his USC professor, Andries Deinum, who taught courses in the history, theory and writing of motion pictures. Kent was determined to become, as he phrases it, "a film author." His first job in the film field, with an industrial film company Parthenon Pictures in Hollywood, gave him valuable and widespread experience. He spliced, edited, wrote, directed, (and acted in) a number of 16mm films. It was as a "film author" that he tackled The Exiles.
Mackenzie can be seen several times in The Exiles. In the first scene where Yvonne goes to the cinema, just to fill the seats, he is sitting right behind her. At the end of the Hill X scene, he is briefly seen leaning into the shot in front of the camera. Cinematographer Erik Darstaad said this was a fairly frequent problem during the shoot - the director would get so excited about a scene that he forgot where he was sitting.
Kent edited, produced and directed one other feature film, Saturday Morning, in 1971 before he passed away in Marin County, California in May 1980. The Exiles is proof of the "rare combination of quiet confidence, grim determination and...mature outlook" (from Profile of a Filmmaker) that characterized the filmmaker Kent Mackenzie.
"The director, Kent Mackenzie, is a man of talent and integrity..."
"This film deserves the embrace of a film public hungering for original, homegrown independent films that tell us who we are."
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