Algren: The Movie, a documentary about Nelson Algren, the icon of the Chicago literary underworld, will be screened at the Chicago History Museum at 6pm on Tuesday, Jan. 19. The 97-minute film will be shown as part of the Chicago Authored Member’s Film Series. Director Michael Caplan will join CHM historian Peter T. Alter for a discussion on Algren’s legacy after the screening.
The Man with the Golden Arm, the 1955 film produced from Algren’s National Book Award-winning novel, will be shown at the History Museum on Tuesday, Feb. 23. That film runs 2 hours.
For both films, there’s a 5:30pm reception and a 6pm program with the films screened at 6:30pm.
Algren: The Movie takes us through the gritty world, brilliant mind and noble heart of Nelson Algren. This excellent documentary premiered at the 2014 Chicago International Film Festival and was shown later that year at the Music Box.
Director Michael Caplan has created a powerful film with interviews with many important artists and journalists inspired by Algren. Ernest Hemingway, an Algren admirer, said he was second only to William Faulkner as a literary giant. The film comes alive with a treasure trove of black and white photos by Art Shay, the great Chicago freelance photographer who shot for Life, Time, Sports Illustrated and many other national magazines. Shay and Algren met in 1949 and collaborated on many projects over the years. Shay took photos of Simone de Beauvoir, the French feminist writer who became Algren’s lover and spent time with him in his Wabansia Avenue apartment (when she wasn’t in Paris with Jean Paul Sartre). Among other things, we learn that Nelson and Simone “fucked in Stuart Brent’s bookstore.”
Interviews in Caplan’s film include Studs Terkel, musicians Billy Corgan and Wayne Kramer, filmmakers John Sayles, Wiliam Friedkin and Philip Kauffman, Northwestern professor Bill Savage, journalist Rick Kogan and photographer Shay.
Algren wrote The Man with the Golden Arm, A Walk on the Wild Side, The Neon Wilderness and the marvelously poetic book of essays, Chicago: City on the Make. He never gained the reputation that his writing deserved because he wrote about bums, drunks, junkies and prostitutes–the denizens of the neighborhood he loved centered around Damen and Division streets in the mid-20th century.
The film features music and music direction by Wayne Kramer of the Detroit rock group MC5 and a closing song to “Chicago” by Billy Corgan.
Algren will be screened at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St., at 6pm on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for nonmember. A 5:30 pm reception precedes the program.
Portions of the above article appeared in nancybishopsjournal.com in October 2014.