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Lenny Bruce Without Tears (1972)

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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 92 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 8 critic

Documentary on the life and death of Lenny Bruce.


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Credited cast:
Lenny Bruce ...
Himself / Various (archive footage)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Himself / DJ (archive footage)
Fred Baker ...
Martin Garbus ...
Himself (archive footage)
William Glenesk ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Rev. William Glenesk)
Nat Hentoff ...
Himself (archive footage)
Frank Hogan ...
Himself (archive footage)
Paul Krassner ...
Himself (archive footage)
Malcolm Muggeridge ...
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Jean Shepherd ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Jean Shepard)
Kenneth Tynan ...
Himself (archive footage)


This documentary tells the story of the rise and fall of Lenny Bruce (1925-1966), hip comedian and bête noire to the establishment. The film makes the case that Bruce was impoverished and broken by a series of unjust arrests and prosecutions in the 1960s. Clips of Bruce performances, "bits" as he calls them, dominate the film, from Steve Allen's TV show to night-club appearances late in life when he would mine his arrests for material. Malcolm Muggeridge calls Bruce a moralist. A former assistant district attorney from New York in effect apologizes for his part in persecuting Bruce. The bounce and snap of Bruce in the 50s transform into ironic social commentary. Written by <>

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5 July 1972 (USA)  »

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Lenny's Dead
Written by Tom Finn
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User Reviews

Far from comprehensive, but a good introduction to the genius of Lenny Bruce
27 May 2007 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Getting a video copy of Lenny Bruce Without Tears was a big deal in my youth – not only were retail videos in their infancy but aside from The Lenny Bruce Performance Film (which showcases Bruce at his doped-up self-indulgent worst), there really was no other way of seeing any footage of the man himself. Even in this 72-minute documentary it's at a premium, although it does feature some of his best routines, including his two appearances on the Steve Allen Show, an extract from his busted TV pilot and a horrifyingly depressing interview shortly before his death with Nat Hentoff when he's clearly stoned out of his skull, slurring his speech and generally acting like a truly pathetic burnt-out junkie that's just incredibly painful to watch and which leads all too naturally into footage of his dead body being photographed by the police.

Mostly the real gold is the audio extracts from his bits when his mind was still sharp, accompanied by snippets of stock footage from old movies and TV shows of varying relevance. Unfortunately, the film hasn't aged that well and leaves a lot of gaps, but it's still a good primer and does offer brief interviews with friends and supporters (Mort Sahl, Nat Hentoff, Kenneth Tynan, Malcolm Muggeridge), opponents (Jean Shepherd), his last lawyer and even the D.A. who prosecuted him, who admits he was too tied up in getting a result to see how pointless and unnecessary the case really was at the time.

While the Region 1 DVD is horribly out of synch throughout, thankfully the UK DVD release (which also includes The Lenny Bruce Performance Film, the cartoon Thank You Masked Man based on his irreverent Lone Ranger routine and a 46-minute BBC radio documentary) has no such problems.

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