You know his folksy story telling songs. “Cats in the Cradle,” “Taxi” and “Sunday Morning Sunshine.” But Harry Chapin led a crusade to end starvation and it’s chronicled in a Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) doc When In Doubt, Do Something, which is playing to a sold out drive-in crowd on October 10 in Amagansett.
“His greatest contribution was to world hunger,” says Sag Harbor filmmaker Robert Leacock who hadn’t seen the Rick Korn doc when we spoke. Leacock’s father, filmmaker Richard Leacock was Harry’s uncle. “He got the Congressional Medal of Honor. He worked with Harry Belafonte,” Leacock continued, “When he was performing every third dollar he made went to charity.”
Chapin has a foundation dedicated to feeding the poor based in Huntington. He died at the age of 38 on the Long Island Expressway. “The Long Island ‘distressway’ we called it. A truck crashed through his Volkswagen.”
The new doc talks about Chapin’s influence on Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. “This is the most small world that revolves around Harry, around his musician father Jim Chapin in Sag Harbor, about my father who helped Harry make a movie before he became famous.” That film, another doc called “Legendary Champions” was made in 1968 and snagged an Oscar nod. “My father Richard Leacock had an association with another Sag Harbor resident named D.A. Pennebaker. They made films like ‘Don’t Look Back’ with Bob Dylan and ‘Monterey Pop,’ which I was a sound man on and introduced Janis Joplin.”
Film and music run deep in the Chapin clan. But if Chapin were still alive? “He’d be working on world hunger because no one has solved that.” And if this new film brought another Oscar nomination next April? “Harry was never needing that kind of stuff. He doesn’t need awards, he just wanted f***ing action.”