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Wednesday, 04 December 2013 12:02

Trash talk dominates 'Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Show' + Video

Trash talk dominates 'Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Show' indyweek.com
Written by Diane Carson
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  • Director: Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger
  • Dates: December 15 & 16, 2013

Producers and directors Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger bring a welcome restraint to their documentary "Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Show." Anyone familiar with Downey's nationally syndicated show from early 1988 to July 1989 remembers the loud, confrontational, trash-talking host who blew smoke in guests' faces while screaming at them.

"Évocateur" chronicles his rise and fall, interweaving several animated sequences while relying primarily on multiple clips from his show, including Ron Paul, Henry Cain, Al Sharpton, and Curtis Sliwa. Also revealing are present-day interviews with writers, producers, and several noted guests, among them Mort's daughter Kelli, Alan Dershowitz, MTV founder Robert Pittman, and feminist Gloria Allred. Briefly "Évocateur" also summarizes Downey's background with brief clips: his father a noted singer, his mother a dancer who lost custody of Mort and died of alcoholism. A chain smoker, Morton Downey Jr. died of lung cancer in March 2001, after advocating strongly anti-smoking in his last months.

The film satisfactorily documents Mort's life, especially his groundbreaking, venomous style. It also questions the reasons audiences gravitate to such hatred, anger and pettiness, such verbal abuse. It charts, but fails to fathom, the psychology of Downey's increasingly uncontrollable anger and his refusal to listen to reason, or just about anyone, as his self-destructive, and what many called totally inappropriate, behavior spun out of control. Eventually, it became impossible to book serious guests, and Downey faked a skinhead attack, exploiting his notoriety while trying to gain sympathy.

Though I found it unpleasant to revisit Downey's antics and venom, because of today's hate mongers, Downey's example remains unfortunately relevant. The St. Louis premiere of "Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Show" is at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 15th and Monday, December 16th. For more information, you may call 314-968-7487 or on the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.
 

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