Friday, March 6, 2015

Albert Maysles, 1926-2015

Documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, who made several notable documentaries with his brother David in the 1960s and 1970s, has died at the age of 88.

I have to admit to not having heard of the Maysles brothers until last summer when TCM ran the documentary Salesman, about of group of door-to-door Bible salesmen. It's a movie that's at times fascinating, but at times disturbing when you think about these salesmne almost preying upon the lower-class families who really can't afford the overpriced bibles that these people are selling. (To be fair, the salesmen got their leads from the churches as one or two scenes refer to congregations filling out cards. The parishioners brought it upon themselves.) But Salesman wasn't the Maysles' best-known documentary by a long shot.

That honor would probably go to Gimme Shelter, a documentary about the Rolling Stones' 1969 tour of America, which ended up in disaster. After Woodstock, there were plans for a free concert out on the west coast at which the Stones and other artists would appear, but the concert location was moved from San Francisco to Altamont, and security was provided by the Hells' Angels motorcycle gang. One can see how this would lead to disaster, and the fighting led to a couple of concert-goers getting killed.

There's also Grey Gardens, a 1975 documentary about a couple of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' relatives who have been reduced to living in poor conditions in what used to be a lovely estate out in the Hamptons on Long Island. Eventually the property would be sold to Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who restored it. This documentary became more prominent after a Broadway musical was made about the mansion, and then an HBO film. Grey Gardens happens to be on the TCM schedule at 10:00 AM Sunday.

David Maysles died in 1987.

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