George Plimpton said, “There it was; my nightmare come true” about his experience on the flying trapeze of the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus.
He did it anyway.
“Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself” made its Pacific Northwest premiere Oct. 26 at the first annual Eastern Oregon Word Round-up.
The screening was put on by the Eastern Oregon Film Festival and shown at the Tamastslikt Art Institute outside of Pendleton.
Filmmakers Tom Bean and Luke Poling wrote, directed, and produced the film about the life and times of Plimpton. They managed to compile enough recorded material of Plimpton that they were able to have him, posthumously, narrate his own documentary. The effect is fitting for both the subject and form of the film.
Plimpton “did it all” in his lifetime so it’s fitting that he star in and narrate the story of his life.
He played quarterback for the Detroit Lions, goalie for the Boston Bruins and percussionist for the New York Philharmonic. He studied stand-up comedy under Woody Allen, fought boxing champion Archie Moore and worked as a photographer for Hugh Heffner.
Plimpton participated in life like no other person. So much so that Bobbie Kennedy once said that he would rather be George Plimpton.
The film is a lively and engaging look into the life of this multi-dimensional man.
Plimpton is depicted quite at home while perpetually out of his element.
The documentary strings together archival footage of Plimpton along with interviews of those who knew him best. The film allows the viewer to follow along as Plimpton travels to new places and experiences new things, yet there’s a structural consistency that binds the movie together.
The film highlights Plimpton’s literary work as well.
He co-founded “The Paris Review” with his childhood friend, Peter Matthiessen, in 1956. Plimpton edited the publication from its inception until his death in 2003, and it is still considered the predominant English language literary magazine today.
The documentary reveals Plimpton’s dedication to the publication. He ran the magazine out of his home and poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the unprofitable yet highly respected periodical.
He had a great respect for writers and concentrated on questioning them about their craft. He interviewed many of the top authors of the day and became friends with some, including Ernest Hemmingway.
“Hemmingway hated being interviewed,” Plimpton said. The two became friends and developed a father-son relationship in which Plimpton even called Hemmingway “Pappy.”
The movie is highly entertaining because the man was. All the filmmakers had to do was become invisible and let the truth and personality of Plimpton shine through. Making documentaries would be easy if every subject was as dynamic, eclectic, and interesting as George Plimpton.
The documentary is in limited release, but check http://plimptonmovie.com for updates and information on how and when you can see it yourself.