Milestone does an enormous amount of research for most of the films we distribute. Sometimes there's years and years of gathering of materials (books, letters, newspapers, magazines, photographs, etc.) and extensive interviews to write each one of our press kits. And many times, we're still revising them 20 years after the fact! Yet there remains several mysteries in Milestone's distribution career and now one of them can be answered! Out of the blue, Clifton Cardin, the "Official Bossier Parish Historian" wrote to us with his research. He took it on himself to discover what happened to the star of ON THE BOWERY, Ray Salyer. All we knew was that he disappeared. Now, with Mr. Cardin's permission, here's the rest of the story...
"Ray Salyer Life
Ray Salyer was born Dec 3, 1916 in Ashland KY to Shankland Salyer and Florence Hill. Shankland had been a soldier in the 26th US Infantry shortly before Ray and his twin brother were born. Military records show Shankland had been both a musician and barber. Ray and Roy were the middle children in a rather large family.
Shortly after Ray and Roy were born, the Salyer family moved 446 miles to Lumberton, NC.
During most of his childhood, Ray witnessed America’s experiment with legislated morality, Prohibition, while the resulting gang warfare ravaged the country. There is very little doubt Ray had relatives back in Kentucky involved with white lightning. The Ashland area they came from has been documented by none other than singer Billy Ray Cyrus as big in the moonshine manufacturing and distribution.
Between the ages of 7 and 12, Ray undoubtedly followed along while his father preached on the Methodist Circuit in North Carolina. His father then got a job as assistant manager of the Met Life Insurance office to support the large family. Ray’s oldest brother Lester joined the Navy and moved out of the family home.
Soon after, something happened that may have affected Ray. His oldest brother, Lester, who had joined the Navy came “home” on furlough. While in Lumberton, he stole an automobile, drove it to Fayetteville, and returned. He soon ran out of gas and left the car. Witnesses provided police with enough clues they soon tracked it to Lester, who pleaded guilty of the larceny.
Ray was an active Boy Scout earning merit’s, accommodations and such when he was a young man.
Ray’s first foray into infamy occurred when he was just 14 years old. He and bunch of other Lumberton boys went skinny dipping in the Lumberton River. Two boys started across the river, but one panicked and drug the other under with him. Roy and Ray came to the rescue, retrieved the youngest boy from the bottom of the River. Brought him to the bank and performed CPR. The boy coughed up water, and soon began breathing. The boys were declared heroes and were nominated for the National Life Saving Award from the Boy Scouts.
During this time, the Salyer family moved 75 miles away to Wilmington NC, so Shankland could become manager of the Met Life office there.
When Ray was 18, in 1934, Prohibition was repealed.
By 1940, Ray had married his true love Gaynelle Swister. They had several children….
Ray joined the US Army, August 11, 1941. Sources suggest he was in the first waves of D-Day and went all the way to Berling at the end of the war. Today we would recognize Ray as having PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or shell shock as they called it then.
It has been said that Ray did not return to his wife and left them to fend for themselves.
The movie, “On The Bowery” brought more problems for Ray. He was offered $40,000 to become an actor. Ray turned them down. Soon after he was found, beaten, nine ribs broken and his left hand smashed. He had learned the dark side of the Bowery. His comrades did not like the attention he brought their hideout.
Where Ray went after that, is unknown.
In 1963, after his children had grown, his wife Gaynelle Swister Salyer filed for divorce in Florida. As soon as the divorced was granted, she married another man.
It is known that Ray returned to New York, possibly the Bowery area. For on Oct 6, 1963, he died from the affects of his life. He apparently drowned in his own vomit. His youngest sister, Frances paid to have his body returned to North Carolina, where Ray was buried next to his family.
It is an irony that his son, Ray Allen Salyer died at 38 years of age.
His wife, Gaynelle lived until 2003, and is buried in Florida. Her obituary lists four children, but it is not know if the were Salyer’s or Rollings."
First thing to know: I have an amazing sister. She knows me from way back—all her life, actually—and she is a kind and loyal friend. So, when she started to suggest that I get back to making art, I had to at least listen. She had been taking drawing classes and feeling really good about flexing new neurons and skills. And she knew that in my deep dark past, I had loved to draw and that I always loved to look at art.
But truly, I was terrified. Making art—strike that—trying to make art is really personal. It can be astonishingly liberating. But it can also be painful. I remembered that feeling of trying to do something and the utter frustration of just totally failing. I knew art could make me cry with helpless rage at myself, the drawing, everything. And my everyday adult existence allowed me to go day to day without that kind of angst. Did I need to invite it back into my life?
Maybe. I did feel an emptiness following the death of my father and the subsequent Sisyphean job of settling his estate, selling his apartment, finding homes and buyers and galleries for the art, books, rugs... I was worn out just remembering it all. And with our only kid in high school, I could foresee an empty nest in my future. And it sounded like fun—scary fun, but still.
Luckily for me, I actually did know where to start to look for a class. When he was younger, our almost-grown son loved to take art classes at a school in a neighboring town. So I knew that The Art School at Old Church was a welcoming place that treated art and would-be artists with love and respect. Even better, I knew and liked the director, Maria Danziger, who had become a friend when Dennis and I ran a film series at the school years before.
NATIONAL SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS VOTES FORTY-SEVENTH ANNUAL AWARDS
January 5, 2013
• To Laurence Kardish, Senior Film Curator at MoMA, for his extraordinary 44 years of service, including this year’s Weimar Cinema retrospective.
• To Milestone Film and Video for their ongoing Shirley Clarke project.
Milestone is thrilled to win a NSFC Film Heritage Award (our sixth since we won the very first one in 1995 for I AM CUBA) and even more so, that the films of Shirley Clarke are getting recognized by the critics once again.
And we're just as happy that our friend Larry Kardish won as well! On graduating from college, Larry's first job was at the Film-Makers Distribution Center where he was responsible for the distribution of PORTRAIT OF JASON! He went on to become the head programmer of the MoMA Film Department and has been a friend of ours since we started Milestone. Congrats to Shirley and Larry!