Richard Owen Moore was a documentary filmmaker primarily known for a significant number of films on the arts and public affairs that were distributed in 16mm format to schools through National Educational Television (NET). Born in San Francisco on February 26, 1920, he attended UC Berkeley, wrote poetry and presented the first program broadcast on radio station KPFA on April 15, 1949. In 1954 he began his career at television station KQED in San Francisco, an NET affiliate, eventually becoming its Public Affairs Director. 1960 he received a CBS fellowship to spend a year at Columbia University, where he met documentarist Al Maysles and other pioneers of cinéma vérite. He brought that concept back to KQED when he returned in 1961 and made an arrangement with General Manager Jim Day to set up an independent unit which would make documentary films.
For KQED, he produced, directed, wrote, and narrated a large number of films from 1961 through 1969, focusing on the arts, public affairs, and the emerging world of computers. His USA: Poetry series, which achieved wide distribution in schools, documented the fervor, joy, and angst of the turbulent 1960s as described and depicted in the lifestyles of several of the most-renowned poets of the era.
He was elected GM of KQED on August 1, 1969, succeeding James Day, and continued in that role until 1973. He produced films as an independent until 1981, when he joined public television station KTCA in Minneapolis as head of Special Projects.
Throughout his film career, Richard O. Moore wrote poetry. As a young man he joined an informal group surrounding Kenneth Rexroth and published his first poem in 1945. Moore left filmmaking permanently in 2000 to concentrate fully on writing. He wrote two nationally published books of poetry "Writing the Silences" (2010) and “Particulars of Place” (2015), privately published several others, and his work appeared in magazines and journals. He died on March 25, 2015 at the age of 95.
In 2012, Alex Cherian produced a documentary film consisting of an interview with Moore, “The Making of Take This Hammer.” Reflecting on the documentary form as it related to his film made nearly five decades earlier, Moore said: “It’s difficult to get funding for a film today that doesn’t reassure the viewer that all’s right with the world, one way or another. It’s putting together a highly-polished protective veneer against reality.” Cherian's film represents possibly the only time Moore ever discussed his film career on camera.
Moore’s uncompromising film work in the areas of the arts and public affairs remains refreshingly honest and vitally insightful when viewed decades later. It is hoped that eventually his films will be made available to be seen again.
We are attempting to complete Moore’s extensive filmography. It is believed that all the following films were distributed to schools in 16mm format. Most were series films produced for KQED, San Francisco, and aired on National Educational Television (NET). Please contact us for additions and corrections.
Assemblage: Merce Cunningham and John Cage, Ghirardelli Square (1968)
California: A Place for No Story (1969) co-directed by Phil Greene
Cities of China, The (1980, location director)
Dorothea Lange: The Closer for Me (1965) co-directed by Philip Greene
Dorothea Lange: Under these Trees (1965) co-directed by Philip Greene
Duke Ellington: A Concert of Sacred Music (1967)
Duke Ellington: Love You Madly (1967)
Going Somewhere: the story of Route 66 (1982)
Long Walk, The: Navajo Nation (1967) co-directed by Phil Greene
Losing Just the Same (1966)
Louisiana Diary: documents a CORE
voter registration drive in the town of Plaquemine (1963, NET). View Moore's
on the making of the film.
Messenger from Violet Drive, The (1965) with Elijah Muhammad
Monterey Jazz Festival (1966)
On Death and Dying, with Dr. Willard Gaylin (1980), from the KTCS series ‘Hard Choices’
Report from Cuba (1967) co-produced with Saul Landau
Take This Hammer (1963, NET)
James Baldwin visits San Francisco; discussions and interviews with Baldwin and
residents of Hunter’s Point and Bayview districts.
KQED or NET Series films:
'America's Crises' series (17 films)
- Education: Semester of Discontent (1965)
‘Anatomy of a Hit’ series (3 films)
'Changing World' series (4 films)
- Poland: Communism's New Look (1965) dir. Irving Saraf, prod. Moore
‘Computer and the Mind of Man’ series (6 films)
- The Universe (1956)
'Jazz Casual' series (hosted by Ralph J. Gleason, totaling 31 episodes. Moore was conformed to have directed the following films in the series):
- John Coltrane Quartet (1963, apparently the only time Coltrane was featured on American television in his lifetime)
'Language in Action' series
'NET Journal' series
- From Protest to Resistance
'Photography: the Incisive Art' series (5 films hosted by Ansel Adams, Moore is confirmed as the director of the following):
- Professional Photography (1960 co-directed with Robert Katz)
- Technique (1962)
'Sing Hi - Sing Low' series (1957, 93 films, all directed by Moore)
‘USA: Poetry’ series (11 films)
‘The Writer in America’ series (8 films, produced by Perspective Films)