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This little film is simply a delight. I don't think it's available commercially, but has been shown on TV. I taped it back in 1992, and my copy is almost used up. One of the best documentaries ever filmed. Really, really very good.
I,like Tommi above, taped this years ago off of PBS and my copy is very
Why is this not on DVD??? It is such a superb documentary, and one that absolutely entertains as well as informs. Friends of mine have begged to see it over and over.
Further, it won the Academy Award as best Doc!!!! What gives? There are enough one-liners in the first hour from Dorothy Parker and crew that for zinger fodder alone it should stand tall!! But it also presents such a perfect glimpse into that rarefied, wonderful world of the Jazz Age, between the wars and in the best city on the planet. This film shows WHY New York was and remains what it is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of those programs that was shown so frequently at one time
(roughly 1990) and is rarely if ever on television or DVD now.
Heywood Hale Broun, the narrator, was a sports commentator for most of his career - an elegantly dressed one with a fine looking mustache. His father Heywood Broun, was a leading Liberal writer of the 1920s and 1930s. He was one of several leading figures who joined together from roughly 1919 to 1936 to socialize together as friends. The group included Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woolcott, George S. Kaufman, Broun (Sr.), Robert Sherwood, Marc Connolly, F. P. Adams, Edna Ferber, and Harpo Marx. They frequently met for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel, so it became known as the "Algonquin Round Table". Because of the number of humorists (Benchley, Parker, Adams, Harpo, and Woolcott) involved the group's comments was usually very witty.
The film really followed the rise and collapse of the group - using reminiscences from various associates of the members, and even some of the surviving papers of the members (particularly Woolcott - note the section where he comes out against psychoanalysis because he thinks the brain should be left alone). Only one main member still survived - Marc Connolly, author of the Pulitzer Prize play THE GREEN PASTURES. Connolly's interview was interesting because while discussing the group a waiter interrupted the old man and he told the waiter off on film - an unusual event in a documentary.
The film included many photos of the members of the group as well as home movies. Besides Heywood Hale Broun's narration various actors did the voices of the various writers (Fred Gwynne is listed as Kaufman, but all were represented in the film). The way that politics and various levels of work split up the group (including Hollywood, which took Harpo and his brothers away, and Kaufman and Ferber and Connolly for making films) were shown. The group's unity dissolved. Broun's last comment is how in 1936 Ferber was at the Algonquin for the first time in years for lunch, and found their table was being occupied by a family on a vacation from the middle west.
It was actually an extremely interesting hour long documentary - which one wishes had been longer. But any record on celluloid is well worth it. Now if only they'd show it again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a documentary done for the "American Masters" series on PBS.
There will be spoilers ahead:
On the face of it, this looks to be another "talking heads" documentary, where people discuss events long gone, trying to give them weight and significance and, truth be told, there is an element of that here. But when three of the most prominent people reminiscing are Marc Connelly, Ruth Gordon and Helen Hayes and they're talking about the likes of Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Harpo Marx, Alexander Woolcott and the other minds and wits gathered around a table at the Algonquin Hotel, at least the stories are likely to be interesting and often amusing.
The interviews are interspersed with film of various of the aforementioned and others, with stills, clippings and drawings of them and the newspapers and magazines in which they appeared and all brought together by the affable narration of Heywood Hale Broun, the son of Heywood Broun, one of the Algonquin regulars.
The documentary covers a period of time from 1919 to 1929, with a bit of spillover on either side of those dates, which explains the title. Between the end of World War One and the Great Crash, there was a party, one which looked as though it would never end, though, of course, parties generally do. A group of fascinating and somewhat desperate people of like minds and in similar professions found each other almost by chance. They wrote plays, novels, screenplays, columns, reviews, made wisecracks until the world began to crack. Then play time ended and most of them moved on to other things. Some to better things, a very few to obscurity.
Among the things which sprang from the lunches at the Algonquin were the New Yorker magazine and various writing collaborations. Some of the best of the Marx Brothers material came from George S. Kaufman's typewriter. That Harpo was part of the anointed and Groucho was not, comments in this documentary notwithstanding, was apparently a sore point for Groucho who, from what I've read on Groucho, felt slighted.
Perhaps the most interesting point, almost a question, made/raised here in this documentary is just what riding on a merry-go-round gained and lost for the various luminaries here. Edna Ferber and Kaufman seemingly managed to keep producing even while having fun. James Thurber, somewhere on the fringes here and mentioned more or less in passing, similarly kept his work going. Others, like Dorothy Parker, slowed down by and by, until the end of the party pushed them elsewhere, such as Hollywood. In any case, the best of their work (and there's quite a lot of that between them) is still known and available, even now, some 80-90+ years later.
This really should be in print and available. Well worth seeing. Recommended.
I saw this delightful documentary when I stayed at the Algonquin Hotel, as it's shown continuously on something called 'the Algonquin channel'. I wish it had been longer, too---there were so many people I'd love to have heard more about---but the film contains some remarkable footage of the Algonquites; Marc Connelly, for instance, is a lovable curmudgeon and one of the highlights of the film. LUNCH makes a nice companion piece to WIT'S END, James R. Gaines' history of the Vicious Circle. Both the film and Gaines' book evoke the period well. I enjoyed it a lot and would love to have a copy of my own. Does anyone know where I can obtain one? Thanks!
1st watched 11/2/2002 - 5 out of 10(Dir-Aviva Slesin): Sometimes witty, but altogether un-spectacular account of the men and women who were associated with a daily luncheon at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. These were men and women who had great influence in the writings of the times and probably spurned many freedom of thought and women's rights movements, but instead we get almost an outsiders point of view of people like Dorothy Parker and George S. Kaufman who were well-known but almost consistently unhappy people in their lives. The subject matter was probably intriguing and endearing to many Hollywood people and therefore won a Best Documentary Oscar in 1987, but the competition must have been slight that year. The research I'm sure was taxing and took a lot of time, but to only get 60 minutes out of some of the most influential people(supposedly) of the 20's tells me something. I'm sure the Biography channel could get a good two hours out of any of the individuals by themselves, that encompassed the round table. Basically there just wasn't enough impassioned content for me to recommend this documentary.
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