American Masters (1985– )
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The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg 

The life and work of Allen Ginsberg, the greatest of the Beat Generation poets is put in focus in this film


Jerry Aronson
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Episode credited cast:
Joan Baez ... Self
William F. Buckley ... Self
William S. Burroughs ... Self
Allen Ginsberg ... Self
Abbie Hoffman ... Self (archive footage)
Jack Kerouac ... Self (archive footage)
Ken Kesey ... Self
Timothy Leary ... Self
Norman Mailer ... Self




This explores the life and work of the greatest poet of the Beat Generation. Along with the usual biographical details, we also get to experience the poet's readings of his work such as his masterwork, Howl. We also examine his work as a musician and a political activist who, amoung other causes, worked to end the Vietnam War. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Alternate Versions

In 1997 an abbreviated (55 min.) version was produced by WNET for PBS. See more »


Letter to Allen
Written and Performed by Patti Smith
See more »

User Reviews

...he will wear his hair long until everyone else does, then he will cut it short.
22 March 2009 | by lastliberalSee all my reviews

One of America's greatest poets, and a leader of the Beat Generation; this is the story of Allen Ginsberg, and his close friendships with William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.

We see his search for love, and his coming out as gay, with support from those around him, who were mainly hetero, but supportive.

Ginsberg challenged the conformity of the 50s, which allowed the protests of the 60s to develop. He and his group joined with Timothy Leary and transformed him.

Ginsberg's role in the infamous protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago shows him as brave face of calm in a violent time.

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Official Sites:

Official site | Official site





Release Date:

17 September 1997 (USA) See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$17,112, 21 February 1994

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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