Dustin Hoffman's Forgotten Masterpiece: Lenny
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Dustin Hoffman's Forgotten Masterpiece: Lenny

If youÂ’re a fan of actor Dustin Hoffman, then there is most likely a role that first brought his remarkable acting talents to your attention. Perhaps it was Stanley Motss in Wag the Dog, Ted Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer, Louis Dega in Papillon, or maybe the unforgettable Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate. But the role many critics and fans alike deem his artistic piece de resistance, was his portrayal of cutting edge but highly controversial nightclub performer Lenny Bruce, in the monumental film, Lenny.

If you’re a fan of actor Dustin Hoffman, then there is most likely a particular role that first brought his remarkable acting talents to your attention.

Perhaps it was Stanley Motss in Wag the Dog, Ted Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer, Louis Dega in Papillon, or maybe the unforgettable Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate.

But the role many critics and hard-core Dustin Hoffman fans alike deem his artistic piece de resistance was his brilliant portrayal of cutting edge but highly controversial nightclub performer Lenny Bruce, in the monumental film, Lenny.

Directed by renowned director/actor/choreographer Bob Fosse (Damn Yankees, Cabaret, All the Jazz), Lenny follows Bruce’s life from his meager beginning in a traditional Jewish household to his meteoric rise as an iconic antihero of the rising counterculture in the 1950s, his many arrests for violation of public obscenity laws to his tragic death from a morphine overdose at the age of forty.  

Released in 1974, this documentary-styled biography shot in black and white to provide the stark and gritty ambiance reflective of the time, Fosse interweaves flashbacks of Bruce’s nightclub performances at such icons of the entertainment industry as the hungry i, in San Francisco, with interviews conducted with Bruce's wife, Honey (an ex-stripper and heroin addict played most convincingly by Valerie Perrine), his mother (sometimes nightclub comic and emcee played by Jan Miner), and his booking agent (Stanley Beck).

Image credit

From the opening scene where Hoffman takes the stage--and takes command, ala Lenny Bruce--to the final scene where we find the brilliant performer sprawled out naked on the bathroom floor--this film is a high caliber look at the genius of Lenny Bruce, a beautiful vehicle allowing Hoffman to display his craft at its finest (as no other film does quite so effectively), and a candid look inside American history at a pivotal point in time when the forward-thinking ideals of the Beatnik counterculture collided with the conservative ideals of a post-Korean, 50s generation.

Nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, Perrine won for Best Actress at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival.

LENNY, directed by Bob Fosse; screenplay by Julian Barry, based on his stage play; produced by Marvin Worth; executive producer, David V. Picker; editor, Alan Helm; director of photography, Bruce Surtees; distributed by United Artists. Running time: 112 minutes.  This film has been rated R.

Lenny Bruce . . . . . Dustin Hoffman

Honey Bruce . . . . . Valerie Perrine

Sally Marr . . . . . Jan Miner

Artie Silver . . . . . Stanley Beck

Sherman Hart . . . . . Gary Morton

Aunt Mema . . . . . Rashel Novikoff

Jack Goldstein . . . . . Guy Rennie

References:

http://www.answers.com/topic/lenny-film

Rating the Movies, J. Brown

Lenny, the film

Images via wikipedia.org unless credited otherwise (with my appreciation)

Thumb via Virginmedia

Related Articles:

>  Abbie Hoffman

>  Timothy Leary

Marlon Brando

Films About Famous Artists

>  Tony Curtis

>  Films for Kids

Visit JAMES R. COFFEY WRITING SERVICES & RESOURCE CENTER for more information.

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Comments (9)
Frances Locke

This is definitely one of his best.

Thanks, Frances. Much appreciated.

Ranked #2 in Celebrities

An excellent review of one of Hoffman's best films. I'll go for Tootsie.

Good overview. Now what about the movie Tootsie?!!

Well . . . what did you have in mind?

You could highlight the big stars featured in Tootsie and/or movies in which men dressed up as women in roles for movies?!

Already been done ad nauseum. And most people know about Hoffman's more commercial roles. My goal was to inform people about a movie--which in my opinion is his greatest performance--which most people are completely unaware of.

Point taken, and still giving thumbs up to you article here :)

And be sure to check out the movie, if you haven't. It's extraordinary.

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