New York in the Fifties

Director: Betsy Blankenbaker

Based on Dan Wakefield’s book chronicling 1950’s New York City as a cultural hotbed fostering creativity in all areas of the arts and including such notables as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin and Norman Mailer, Betsy Blankenbaker’s talky documentary is atmospheric fun that will have viewers commenting just as much as the intriguing onscreen interviewees. The radical thinkers, free love, jazz and literature take a front seat in the film; however Blankenbaker also includes insights to the ways women were treated during the decade and the differences in attitudes regarding sexuality and gender. A bit too short for my taste, (clocking in at only seventy-two minutes), the film introduces several ideas that the viewer wants to learn more about however, for that, they may need to pick up Wakefield’s book of the same name. Some of the footage, most notably of Norman Mailer’s ridiculously sexist rantings and a very patronizing laundry commercial depicting the “real meaning” of women’s liberation, will definitely be of interest to those interested in studying women’s issues in the decade.