The last piece journalist Joseph Mitchell ever wrote for The New Yorker was a 1964 profile entitled "Joe Gould's Secret." It was a two-part follow-up to a much shorter piece Mitchell had written in 1942 about Gould, a homeless, Greenwich Village eccentric
and self-styled bohemian who, after graduating from Harvard some 30 years earlier, decided the working life wasn't for him. Dressed in grimy, secondhand clothes, Gould spent his days soliciting "contributions" from friends — including poet E.E. Cummings — downing bottles of ketchup and
free bowls of soup at some of the Village's more tolerant eateries, and scribbling away at "The Oral History," a monumental record of the 20th century that Gould claimed would one day be recognized as the greatest historical record since Gibbon. Shortly after the first piece was published,
Mitchell learned something crucial about his subject; he didn't have the heart to reveal it until 1964, seven years after Gould's death. It makes for a great story — both an intriguing literary mystery and a snapshot of an ever-changing city — and director/star Stanley Tucci, who
portrays Mitchell with quiet, gentlemanly grace, has managed the difficult task of translating most of it onto the screen. Shot in and around Greenwich Village, Tucci and his reliable cast (including Susan Sarandon, Hope Davis and Steve Martin) faithfully recreate New York City in the early 1940s.
Ian Holm, his beard a nicotine-stained tangle and his eyes wild under a greasy fedora, captures the essence of Gould's crackpot charm. But Tucci's real achievement is its exploration of what Mitchell only hinted at, the resonant parallels between the two Joes. Both were chroniclers of the their
time, both felt at home among the lost and the forgotten, and both... well, the rest is part of Joe Gould's secret.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: R
- Review: The last piece journalist Joseph Mitchell ever wrote for The New Yorker was a 1964 profile entitled "Joe Gould's Secret." It was a two-part follow-up to a much shorter piece Mitchell had written in 1942 about Gould, a homeless, Greenwich Village eccentric… (more)