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James Thurber: The Life and Hard Times

James Thurber , Edward Albee , Adam Van Doren  |  NR |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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James Thurber: The Life and Hard Times + Top Hat & Tales: Harold Ross and the Making of The New Yorker
Price for both: $40.96

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Product Details

  • Actors: James Thurber, Edward Albee, John Updike, Alistair Cooke, Fran Lebowitz
  • Directors: Adam Van Doren
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, HiFi Sound, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: First Run Features
  • DVD Release Date: June 17, 2014
  • Run Time: 57 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: B00JCE68X8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,487 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


"Insightful...illuminates the artist's career with well-chosen selections from the work itself. Bolstered by insightful comments from, among others, John Updike and Fran Lebowitz, the film provides a strong rebuttal to Thurber's own mocking self-assessment that he was 'nothing but a God-damned humorist.'" --The New Yorker

"A labor of love by Adam Van Doren... the first major biographical film about the wit that many consider second only to Mark Twain as an American humorist." --The Boston Globe

"An enthusiastic cadre of fans contribute fond reflections of Thurber, whose short stories and cartoons helped give The New Yorker its reputation for sophisticated humor and classy writing over the 30 years of their connection." --The New York Times

Product Description

James Thurber: The Life and Hard Times is the first major documentary on the life and work of one of America's greatest humorists. Known for his classic short store, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Thurber was a legendary contributor of prose and cartoons to The New Yorker magazine where he worked for many years. Narrated by George Plimpton, this documentary includes interviews with Edward Albee, John Updike, Alistair Cooke, Fran Lebowitz, Roy Blount Jr. and others.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This 57-minute documentary aired on PBS back in 2000 and has never been on home video until this new DVD release from First Run Features. As I watched it I noticed that some of the interviewees (John Updike, Roy Blount Jr.) were the same as in the other recent DVD from FRF – “Top Hat & Tales: Harold Ross and the Making of The New Yorker”. Then I realized that both films were directed by the same person – Adam Van Doren. The Ross film was made in 2001 so this film preceeds it by a year.

The Thurber film – like the Ross film is presented in the 1:1.33 full frame aspect ration so that you will have black bars on either side of the screen on a flat-screen TV. The colors seem a bit washed out so don’t expect high-def.
I ‘ve been familiar with Thurber my whole life but didn’t know much about his person life. This film filled the gapsand even gave me the chance to hear Thurber speak – as Van Doren uses excerpts from a 1954 interview done by Alastair Cooke for TV’s “Omnibus”. There are comments from the above mentioned Blount and Updike (probably recorded at same time as the Ross documentary) as well as Edward Albee, Fran Liebowitz, two Thurber biographers and Thurber’s daughter. The film is narrated by George Plimpton.

Thurber spent 30 years writing and doing cartoons for the New Yorker and, like the Ross film, Van Doren includes lots of cartoons (and their clever captions) in the film. Sections of Thurber’s books and short stories are also read by actors.

You can find my review of the Ross DVD here on Amazon and the two films together make a nice pair and shed light on an error in publishing that lasted for decades.

There are no special features on the DVD except for a series of trailers for other FRF releases.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”
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