William T. Cartwright- Filmmaker, Editor . Saviour of The Watts TowersWritten by Joe D on July 1st, 2013
I was saddened to learn of the death of William Cartwright. I didn’t know him but every citizen of Los Angeles and really every human being owes him a debt of gratitude. Mr. Cartwright was a filmmaker and editor, cutting some impressive documentaries while working for early TV maven, David Wolper. His work on 1964 ’s The Making Of the President won an Emmy. He also edited some feature films, produced and directed documentaries and had a long creative career. Bill was lucky enough to study at USC under the great Slavko Vorkapith, montage maker from the Golden Age of Hollywood and major Film Theoretician, a huge influence on American Avant Garde Films of the 50’s and 60’s.
Vorkapich at work
But the (to me) most incredible thing Mr. Cartwright accomplished began back in 1958. He was going to visit a relative and he got lost driving around South Central Los Angeles, he turned a corner and lo and behold, a shimmering surreal vision appeared in the midst of a borderline urban tract, the Watts Towers!
He was amazed and wanted to know more, soon he was buying the Towers from their owner, not the man that built them, Simon Rodia, but a neighbor that Rodia gave them to.
Once purchased, he learned they were to be torn down so he conducted a stress test to prove to the City they could withstand an eartquake. They are still here thanks to this man’s efforts! ( and a lot of others he recruited to help) What a wonderful gift to the future citizens! If you haven’t been there, GO! They are a marvel, a testament tpo the Creative Spirit of One Man and the determination to preserve them of another.