Dir: Jeremy Newberger, Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, 2016
Many people in the UK haven’t heard of Morton Downey Jr. If you’re not familiar with him he was the first, original trash television presenter. He was big for a couple of years in America. A precursor to Jerry Springer only he dealt with current affairs and had (some) relatively famous people on like Al Sharpton and Ron Paul. The first time I had ever heard of him was because of his role in “Predator 2” as the “Hard Core” news reporter.
Loudmouthed, opinionated, abusive, vulgar and watchable. Nothing frightened him. He would scream and hurl obscenities at his guests who didn’t share his views all he while puffing smoke into their faces from his chain smoking habit. Very rarely do we see him without a fag in his hand. People were ejected from the stage and fists were often flown. This documentary highlights all that.
Born Sean Morton Downey Jr into a VERY privileged background he was the son of Irish singer Morton Downey. His next door neighbours were the Kennedy’s! You don’t get much more privileged than that. As is documented in the film Downey Jr is shown attending several grandiose parties held by the Kennedy family. His dad stopped his mum from seeing him and, in his words, drove her to drink. He also hated his dad.
This is simply one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. Interspersed with animation it borrows heavily from Gerald Scarfe’s work he did for “Pink Floyd The Wall”. The poster for “Evocateur” is a blatant rip off of the Alan Parker one sheet for the 1982 musical.
Here, take a look:
But who cares? It works. Downey Jr was a very complex man. Self destructive. Bullying. Yet his carte blanche attitude made him likeable. The film doesn’t hold back. It really is a warts an’all biography.
Too often biographies gloss over the bad stuff or only touch on them. It’s refreshing to see a true picture of the subject.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I urge everyone to see it. It’s fascinating to see the sadness and fragility in this broken man. His anger. His rage. His spectacular rise and even greater fall.
Sadly, his lifelong chain smoking habit took it’s toll and he was diagnosed with lung cancer of which he succumbed in 2001. On a positive note this diagnosis changed him. It made him quit the fags. His entire outlook on life became a more humane one. Less angry and less abusive. He realised the value of life even going so far as to record an anti smoking advert and speaking for the anti smoking league.
If he’d quit years before he might still be around today and I can’t help but wonder what we could’ve expected from him. Maybe he could’ve risen again. A little older and a little wiser but, ultimately, just as entertaining and refreshing as before, possibly even more so.
That is a real sadness.