Sunday, June 3, 2018

Jeffrey Schwarz's funny, sad, and very full-bodied doc, THE FABULOUS ALLAN CARR

So far as the market for gay-themed documentaries goes -- along with plenty of other themes, too -- a fellow by the name of Jeffrey Schwarz has it pretty much cornered. With 315 producing credits under his belt, 122 as director and another 36 as editor, this guy won't even hit 50 years old until next year. Having been thoroughly entertained, not to mention enlightened by his documentaries, I Am Divine, Tab Hunter Confidential, Vito, and now his latest work, TrustMovies is not merely surprised by all that Mr. Schwarz has done, but how well he has accomplished this, and how relatively low a profile he's managed to keep while doing it, especially since he has been nominated for a bunch of awards over the years, winning maybe half of these. Impressive!

THE FABULOUS ALLAN CARR, Schwarz's most recent work (the filmmaker is pictured at left), gives us the life and times of yet another gay icon, one who -- thanks to the culture and mores in and around which he lived -- was what you might call "closeted in plain sight."

Allan Carr (born Allan Solomon), shown below in his heyday, was a Jewish kid from Chicago who, though he didn't excel at much of anything -- from studies to sports -- had a love for theater and movies that was to serve him (pretty) well throughout his life.

Carr's career began with productions of high-class theater (that ultimately flopped), and then on to work in agenting and management, producing for both television and film, and finally -- with the Broadway production of the musical, La Cage aux Folles, back to theater again -- this time much more successfully.

Schwarz shows us all of this via archival footage and photos, interviews with longtime friends and co-workers (some of whom, Lorna Luft in particular, come off as more like frenemies) that, together, build a nicely varied, warts-and-all look at this bizarre gay icon of entertainment.

Interestingly, similar amounts of time are given to Carr's bombs -- Can't Stop the Music and his embarrassing 1989 Academy Awards show opening number (click and watch for a excruciating walk down memory lane) -- as to his hits like La Cage and his movie adaptation the Broadway musical, Grease. All this just adds to the doc's fair-minded quality, allowing us to see how this bastion of exquisite taste (above and below) managed to move his finger from the pulse of what America wanted in entertainment to something more like an autopsy.

The documentary goes into Carr's closeted-yet-pretty-obvious gay lifestyle (below) without ever getting too personal. (If Allan had any long-lived emotional relationship, we get no hint of it here.) But that's all right, since this guy seemed most interested in marketing entertainment and tossing lavish parties. Schwarz lets see how well (or not) he succeeded at these.

Over the years and down the decades, he appears to have been true to his oldest friends, and when times got toughest there were Hollywood stars who indeed stood by him (that's Angie Dickinson, below, right). Carr was certainly one-of-a-kind, and so were both his hits and his misses. Schwarz has given us a documentary that lays all this out in as big, broad and entertaining a fashion as the man himself. Affectionate but level-headed, the movie's a winner in all respects.

From The Film Collaborative and running 91 minutes, the documentary makes its VOD debut this Tuesday, June 5 via Vimeo-on-Demand, iTunes and elsewhere. It will also screen, festival-wise, on Saturday, June 9, at FilmOut San Diego.

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