The Williams Art Mafia is well known and justly celebrated. We pay less attention to a lesser but still remarkable phenomenon: The small but celebrated number of Williams alums who go on to have success in the movie industry. I was stricken by this when I watched John Sayles’ “Eight Men Out” the other night. Not only did Sayles direct and play a small role in the film, he also included Gordon Clapp and David Strathairn. I love movies as much as the next guy, but I am not a film buff, and I’m sure that others can fill in the blanks, but it seems to me that for a small liberal arts college with no film program, Williams has done remarkably well. Off the top of my head I can think of Sayles, Kazan (who, if his latest biographer is to be believed, did not much cherish his time in the Purple Valley), and Frankenheimer. And this does not take into account folks who have successfully written for the big screen — a more logical and expected accomplishment — such as Charles Webb, whose book was transformed into the screenplay for The Graduate. I would suppose that one possible explanation is both the most self-serving but also might be close to the truth: someone who graduates with a liberal arts degree from a place like Williams is likely to be able to succeed in just about any field of endeavor. Maybe a closer argument isa that Williams actors and directors tend to come from the theater, an art for which Williams is rightly well known. Still, it is striking that Williams has produced several innovative and brilliant filmmakers.

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