Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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NY1 Movie Review: 'Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire in the '60s'

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The new documentary 'Smiling Through The Apocalypse: Esquire In the '60s' looks at an influential magazine from the 1960s that served as a launching pad for some of the greatest writers of the day. NY1's Neil Rosen filed the following report.

A new documentary looks at the glory days of Esquire Magazine during the turbulent 1960s and the man at its helm. It's called "Smiling Through the Apocalypse."

Harold Hayes' tenure as editor at Esquire ran from 1963 to 1973. During that time, he provided a launching pad for some for the most prolific writers of the day. One of those was the late great Nora Ephron.

Many of the remarkably talented people that flourished under Hayes are on hand here. They recall what it was like to work for this man and share captivating stories behind some of the some great articles that they wrote.

Writers such as Frank Rich, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal and Peter Bogdanovich worked at Esquire under Hayes' tutelage early on in their careers. They all wax poetic about the welcoming environment he created, along with the total creative freedom that he gave them.

On the visual side, there's Candice Bergen, who served as a photo editor, and there's also a look at heralded photographer Diane Arbus, who had her first published works in Esquire.

Then there are all those controversial covers, which are vividly on display here, with their back stories explained throughout the film.

Harold Hayes passed away in 1989, and the film, which was written and directed by his son, Tom Hayes, is quite informative, capturing a unique time period and a bygone era in journalism. The movie also serves as a voyage of discovery for Tom, as he learns what his father was all about and the cultural impact that the brash, irreverent magazine that his dad piloted had on society.

Hayes has been praised by many of his esteemed colleagues and staff as the greatest postwar editor ever, and he's credited with giving birth to a new form of journalism. This labor of love by his son nicely brings his dad's accomplishments and influence to light.

Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: 3 1/2 apples

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