New York In The '50S

  • 2001
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

Based on writer Dan Wakefield's memoir of the same title, Betsy Blankenbaker's pleasant but insubstantial documentary paints a picture of New York — primarily Greenwich Village — in the Eisenhower era through interviews, mostly with writers and artists. They include writers Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne; journalist Nat Hentoff;...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Based on writer Dan Wakefield's memoir of the same title, Betsy Blankenbaker's pleasant but insubstantial documentary paints a picture of New York — primarily Greenwich Village — in the Eisenhower era through interviews, mostly with writers and artists. They include writers Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne; journalist Nat Hentoff; actor Robert Redford; editor Norman Podhoretz; Art D'Lugoff, owner of the influential Village Gate club; documentary filmmaker Ted Steeg (who inspired the character of Gunner Casselman in Wakefield's autobiographical novel Going All the Way); commentator William F. Buckley; writer Gay Talese and his wife, publishing executive Nan Talese; essayist Calvin Trillin; novelist Bruce Jay Friedman; the late Steve Allen (who also composed the score) and, of course, Wakefield himself. Though all the interviewees are articulate and convivial, they don't really have much to say about the America and/or New York of that era that hasn't been said many, many times before: That it was a time of great social conformity and that New York, a haven for intellectuals, rebels and artists, was where people came "to flee the average" and find bohemian life and free love. That it was a man's world, people drank a lot, and women were undervalued and beginning to feel the stirrings of feminist awareness. That African Americans were beginning to militate for the rights systematically denied them, and the seeds of the sexual and social revolutions of the '60s were sown in the '50s. The archival footage of New York is well chosen — who knew traffic used to drive right through Washington Square Park? — and Redford makes what may be the film's most astute observation, suggesting that people's golden recollections of New York in the '50s may be as much a function of their own youth and enthusiasm as the specific virtues of the place and time.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Based on writer Dan Wakefield's memoir of the same title, Betsy Blankenbaker's pleasant but insubstantial documentary paints a picture of New York — primarily Greenwich Village — in the Eisenhower era through interviews, mostly with writers and a… (more)

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