You might be able to help make a movie.

July 13, 2008

By Michael Randall

CORNWALL Check your attic, your basement and your storage space.

You might be able to help make a movie.

Some New York City-based documentary filmmakers are working on a movie that will tell the story of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The story has a local angle: The first edition of "Alcoholics Anonymous," the fellowship group's basic textbook (also commonly known as "The Big Book") was printed by the Cornwall Press in 1939.

But the business is long gone, and director Kevin Hanlon and co-producer Dahlia Kozlowsky say they've run into dead ends trying to locate films, photographs or any other kind of visual memorabilia of the Cornwall Press, particularly from the '30s or '40s that would evoke the era when the book was published.

So they're appealing to the public for help. They figure somebody who used to work at the Cornwall Press, or perhaps their sons and daughters, might have some old movies or photos from that era stored away somewhere.

A.A. grew out of a meeting in Akron, Ohio, between a New York stockbroker, Bill W., and an Akron surgeon, Dr. Bob S.

The beginnings of A.A. were detailed in a 1989 TV movie, "My Name is Bill W.," starring James Woods and James Garner, but this will be the first feature-length documentary on the subject, Hanlon said.

"I was shocked nobody ever made a documentary (about this) before," he said.

Hanlon said he was inspired to do the film because he's known a number of alcoholics who got sober through A.A. and its 12-step program.

The filmmakers haven't shot any local footage yet, but they say that could happen later. They don't know when it will be released; they're still sorting through what Kozlowsky describes as enough material "to make a 10-week series on PBS, but that's probably not" where it will end up playing.

A brief history of Alcoholics Anonymous:

1935: A meeting in Akron, Ohio, between two desperate alcoholics, Bill W., a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob S., an Akron surgeon, leads to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. Both credited the ability to talk to another alcoholic as the best way to stop drinking.

1939: "Alcoholics Anonymous," the fellowship's basic textbook, also known as "The Big Book," is published. The printing for this first edition is done by the Cornwall Press. Bill W. is a key author, but there are many contributors.

1939: Membership gets a big boost from a series of articles and supportive editorials published by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

1941: The Saturday Evening Post publishes a feature story on A.A. Membership grows to 6,000 by the end of the year.

1950: A.A. holds its first international convention in Cleveland.

1971: Bill W. dies of pneumonia on Jan. 24 in Miami Beach, seven months after giving his final speech at the 35th anniversary convention.

2005: The 25-millionth copy of "Alcoholics Anonymous" is printed and presented to Jill Brown, warden of San Quentin Prison, in recognition of the institution's long support of A.A.

Today: Alcoholics Anonymous estimates it has more than 113,000 groups with more than 2 million members in 180 countries.

Source: Alcoholics Anonymous

Times Herald-Record


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