Those of us who have been hoping for years for a Frank O’Hara biopic or Netflix mini-series devoted to the New York School poets will have to wait, but there is exciting news in this department: Amazon just announced that the studio has optioned Mary Gabriel’s Ninth Street Women, which was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award. Gabriel’s book is a terrific group portrait of five remarkable women artists — Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler — who were at the heart of Abstract Expressionism, and who each had significant relationships with O’Hara and the other poets in his circle.
Better yet, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino — the Emmy-winning creators of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Gilmore Girls — have signed on to develop the book into a series for Amazon.
From the Hollywood Reporter:
Ninth Street Women is set amid the most turbulent social and political period of modern times and chronicles five women — Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler — who dared to enter the male-dominated world of 20th century abstract painting as artists (and not muses). These women changed American art and society, tearing up the prevailing social code and replacing it with a doctrine of liberation.
As ArtNet notes, “for Sherman-Palladino, it’s the chance to do another New York period piece, set in much the same era as Mrs. Maisel, as well as to write some more lightning-quick dialogue for women.”
Gabriel’s book is “a fascinating, hyper-detailed portrait of the post-war avant-garde art scene in New York, the book paints vibrant portraits not only of its main characters, but also of such artistic greats as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, and many others.”
Of special note for my purposes: Frank O’Hara plays a significant, recurring role in Gabriel’s book, thanks to his very intimate connection to Hartigan and close relationships with Mitchell and de Kooning. Presumably, he would feature in the television adaptation as well — a tantalizing prospect for O’Hara aficianodos.
The ArtNet piece wonders “who should play the pioneering artists” on this new show, and offers their “dream casting picks.” They seem pretty good to me: Sarah Paulson as Lee Krasner, Christan Bale as Jackson Pollock, Rose Leslie (Ygritte!) as Elaine de Kooning, Peter Skaarsgard as Willem de Kooning (an inspired choice), Rachel Brosnahan as Joan Mitchell and so on.
So — summoning the New York School faithful and poetry fans — who should play Frank O’Hara? What about John Ashbery? And James Schuyler? (They each make many appearances in Ninth Street Women). Suggestions?
Mary Gabriel has, not surprisingly, signed on as a consulting producer for the series. I just thought I would mention that if Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino happen to be looking for a Frank O’Hara/poetry consultant to help out with historical accuracy and whatnot, I think I might be able to find room in my schedule!