Growing up with Louis Black and Leonard Maltin

By John Laird

Louis Black (managing editor, SXSW Staff/Austin Chronicle) and Leonard Maltin (famed critic), two very recognizable names when it comes to film, had a little hangout session today at SXSW.  If that sounds rather casual, it’s because their “discussion” was simply a charming re-telling of how the two became friends long ago in some suburbs far away from Austin, Texas.

The pair met in 1962, when Black noticed that Maltin had found half of a film catalog that he had lost at school earlier in the day.  Their shared love of film made them quick friends, and eventually the two set up a Saturday routine where they would travel from Teaneck, New Jersey to New York City (a trip they now describe as not suitable for two 12 year olds) to peruse movie memorabilia shops (owned exclusively by, as Maltin described them, “nutty, bizarre people”) and used bookstores before catching films at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.  As if a regularly scheduled full day of screenings didn’t adequately paint them as true film lovers, Maltin also fondly recalled how he and Black had to put in some effort if they were at the Museum of Modern Art.  While children couldn’t be in the actual museum without an adult, they weren’t allowed to buy tickets for the film screenings, so Maltin and Black would get around this by asking adult passersby to purchase tickets for them.

Aside from the numerous screenings that the duo took in while day tripping in NYC, they also jointly ran the Motion Picture Club at school (it was mostly an excuse to be able to use the 16mm projector), and Black helped Maltin with one of his first legit publications, Film Fan Monthly.

It was interesting and fun to listen to the two men talk, especially considering all that they’ve achieved since bonding over a catalog, but admittedly their conversation didn’t reveal much other than a friendship that’s deeply rooted in a love of film.  It was very much just two friends talking about their good ole days.


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