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What Happened to Kerouac? (1986)


(works "On the Road", "Visions of Cody", "Desolation Angels", "Mexico City Blues" and "Dr. Sax and others")


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gregory Corso ...
Jan Kerouac ...
Herbert Huncke ...
Fran Landesman ...
Himself (archive footage)
Ed Sanders ...
Himself (archive footage)
Edie Kerouac Parker ...
Himself (as William Burroughs)
Michael McClure ...
John Clellon Holmes ...
Lawrence Ferlinghetti ...
Ann Charters ...
Gary Snyder ...
Neal Cassady ...
Himself (archive footage)


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An investigation of the king of the Beat Generation.





Release Date:

16 April 1986 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


New York theatrical run 5/23/86; San Francisco 7/11/86. See more »


Features The Steve Allen Plymouth Show: Episode #5.7 (1959) See more »

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User Reviews

Maybe only for Kerouac aficionados
11 December 2010 | by (Boulder, CO) – See all my reviews

This documentary, made over fifteen year's after Kerouac's death in 1969, consists mainly of interviews with about two dozen people who knew him back in the day. All of the interviewees have mostly positive things to say, like what a genius he was, how handsome he was, and so forth. To elicit such interest from so many people, he must indeed have had a magnetic personality, but I did not find that that came across in this movie.

There is footage of Kerouac in a TV appearance on William F. Buckley's "Firing Line" where I felt he made a total ass of himself in an appearance that was embarrassing to watch. Most of his comments made little sense and he seemed to go out of his way to effect a general lack of concern. The main interviewee in the movie, Gregory Corso, strove to display a similar insouciance, as did Neil Cassady in the brief clips he was in.

I found the interviews with Kerouac's daughter Jan perhaps the most interesting. Kerouac saw his daughter only twice in his life, once to establish paternity, and another time when he was totally dismissive of her (did I mention that he came across as a clod).

His appearance on Steve Allen's Tonight Show reading from "On the Road" was interesting, but that seemed very rehearsed and Kerouac appeared to be quite nervous. Allen was having a hell of a time interviewing him, since he was getting only short direct answers to his questions. Kerouac had to be an interviewer's nightmare.

Rehashing Kerouac's life and the origins of the Beat Generation has turned into a cottage industry, what with so many films and biographies out there, some as recent as 2008 ("One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur").

The production values of this film are quite low. Most of the interviews are filmed in extreme close up and are poorly lighted with equally inferior sound.

Maybe if you have some special personal interest in this era, or identify with the movement, then you will get something out of this; otherwise probably not.

Unfortunately this film works against encouraging you to read Kerouac's books.

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