Born in New York City in 1938,
Paul Morrissey studied literature at Fordham University. In the early 1960’s,
following a stint in the Army and jobs in insurance and as a social worker,
he began directing short independent films.
In 1965, he was introduced to Andy Warhol,
who asked him to contribute ideas and bring new direction to the film experiments
he had been recently begun presenting--others had been suggesting, and in a very
limited sense, directing these early experiments, but they remained in a static,
relatively primitive state. From then on, Morrissey not only directed all of the
films but signed a management contract with Warhol putting him in charge of all
operations at the Warhol studio with the exception of the sales of artwork.
It was Morrissey’s idea that Warhol’s
celebrity name be used to promote a rock n’ roll group; to that end, he discovered
the Velvet Underground, added Nico to the band and signed them all to a management contract.
While administering the very successful early years of the group, he continued to
add story ideas, casting, cinematography and direction to all of the film
experiments that Warhol presented from “My Hustler” (1965) and “Chelsea
Girls” (1966) through “Imitation of Christ” (1967) and “Bike Boy” (1967);
Morrissey acted as the films’ distributor as well.
After “Lonesome Cowboys” (1967),
which was written, produced and directed by Morrissey from start to finish,
he assumed total control of all subsequent films presented by Andy Warhol--from
the arthouse/cult classics “Flesh” (1968), “Trash” (1970) and “Heat” (1972)
to his more mainstream successes with the Carlo Ponti/Jean-Pierre Rassam
productions “Flesh for Frankenstein” (1974) and “Blood for Dracula” (1974).
Morrissey parted company with Warhol in 1975 when the artist chose to
concentrate on his painting and business activities. Morrissey went on to
pursue financing for his later films, one of the very few American film
directors to remain independent of any Hollywood film companies, independent
He was always responsible for his films in their entirety, working
consistently with mostly young unknown actors, writing and directing with no
outside interference of any kind. Once financing from “independent” sources
no longer allowed him the freedom from interference that he previously
enjoyed, he stopped making films.