Toots – A Film About Toots Shor

toots2Now here’s a documentary that has it all. Toots Shor, saloonkeeper in New York City from the 40’s through the 60’s is profiled by his granddaughter, Kristi Jacobson. In the process, she delves into NY history as far back as 1900, using amazing archive photographs and newsreel footage. In addition to all these great materials to work with, she uncovered a lost, fortunately preserved oral taped interview with Shor made by an historian back in the 1970’s, when he was out of the limelight and near the end of his life. The story of Toots is told also from many perspectives in interviews that took years to gather. Entertainers, sports figures, newsmen, sports writers, novelists, and even gangsters are in the mix.  It is worth mentioning that this is a straight, no chaser documentary – meaning that although this is a personal film, Jacobson is not trying to reckon with a family member’s sordid past. There is no attempt to psychoanalyze anyone. However, he is shown warts and all, and still remains an interesting and admirable man of his times.

The man was a legend, and hearing the stories of various interview subjects is really where his story is told. It really makes you wish you had a chance to pop in for a drink or a meal at Toots Shor back in the day (really the 1950’s was the peak) andToots witness him joking around with Jackie Gleason or slapping Frank Gifford on the back. You pretty much could have, as well. Amazing as it seems now, there was an openness that you get a sense of – a lack of velvet-rope exclusivity that is really appealing. There is so much in this film you’ll want to watch it a couple of times. The original score by Mark Suozzo is absolutely brilliant, and puts you right in the times. The DVD also has a really informative and interesting commentary track with Jacobson in which she describes the process of making the film, where she got certain materials, etc. DVD Released Jan. 13,2009 on Indiepix.

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