While I grew up enjoying Johnny Carson, he wasn't somebody I felt
driven to know more about. But this almost 2 hour documentary does a
terrific job of dovetailing both the public and private sides of the
man to give a portrait of a tremendous talent who could handle anything
on his show with amazing spontaneous grace and humor, but had a much
harder time dealing with people, love and family out in the real world.
A complete extrovert on-stage, he was a true introvert away from the
lights, struggling with drinking, anger and extra-martial affairs. Yet
while the film doesn't flinch in looking at his sad and dark sides, it
does so with compassion and never feels like a hit job. It balances
these darker, sometimes very moving sections with great clips from "The
Tonight Show" that remind one just how damn funny the guy could be, in
spite of his troubled personal life.
For a film I wasn't sure I even wanted to see, it did an excellent job of hooking me in and riveting me in telling the story of a great entertainer who was far more complicated than I imagined.
American Masters Johnny Carson: King of Late Night
Biography / Documentary / History / Music / Romance
Chronological look at the life and career of Johnny Carson (1925-2005), with commentary from an ex-wife and more than 30 fellow comedians, friends, employees, and biographers. The biography defines why Carson was an enduring star (his cool, his timing, his genuine laugh, his breadth of knowledge) and pursues his motivations and inner self (a loner with a drinking problem, a decent Midwesterner whose mother withheld approval, a quiet person who loved to entertain). The key to understanding him, argues the biography, is his love of magic.
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