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When Jack Kerouac's seminal novel "On the Road" was published on September 5, 1957, the New York Times' Gilbert Millstein proclaimed it an "historic occasion," and described the book as "an authentic work of art," comparing it to Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." Then, two week later, the Times published a scathing review of the book, protraying Kerouac at "the Neanderthal with a typewriter." This sort of attack continued the rest of his life.

It wasn't until after Kerouac's death in 1969, at the age of 49, that the depth and scope of his contribution to the American literary landscape, as well as the counterculture revolution of the 50's and 60's, would be acknowledged.

Producer-director Richard Lerner's 1986 film, "What Happened to Kerouac?" is an investigation of the king of the beat generation. Released on DVD in 2003, the movie is a truly amazing document of the effects of fame and notoriety on a fragile and vulnerable man.

Lerner tells the story of what happened to Kerouac in a rambling non-linear style by weaving intimate interviews with many of Kerouac's friends (Allen Ginsberg, Willam S. Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes) and rare archival footage (Kerouac reading from "Visions of Cody" and "On the Raod" on the Steve Allen Show, and his drunken appearance on William F. Buckley's Firing Line, less than a year before his death).

But it's poet Gregory Corso who steals the show - casually dressed in a black leather vest; his thick Tortoiseshell half-eye glasses perched slightly askew on the end of his nose, Corso animatedly reminisces about his experiences with Kerouac throughout the film. Sadly, most of the principle characters have died since the movies production - Corso passed away from prostate cancer in 2001 - lending a sense of poignancy and historical significance to the film.

Another highlight is a piece of film from a 1965 Allen Ginsberg at City Lights bookstore featuring Neil Cassidy doing an incredable Dean Moriarty impersonation. Incidentally, a biopic called "Neil Cassidy," starring Tate Donovan as Neil and Glenn Fitzgerald as Jack, is slated for release in 2007 (coincidently the 50th anniversary of "On the Road").

"What Happened to Kerouac?" is 96 minutes long and contains no special features.

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The following comments are for "What Happened to Kerouac?"
by johnjohndoe

Who knows..
I think this guy was one of the greatest post-war writers in the US. Dharma Bums is a classic (actually I read a copy of that book which had belonged to a famous Norwegian writer (J.Bjoerneboe). As if that has got anything to do with it.

We must not forget Kerouac and his experiments with truth and buddhism. I heard he died living with his mom... this movie sounds interesting, and I'll check it out if I'll find it..

( Posted by: DrKilldare [Member] On: December 16, 2006 )

I think Kerouacs most important contribution to the beat was that he managed to keep some kind of perspective. That said, I havent seen this movie, but now I want to!

( Posted by: Ingi [Member] On: December 23, 2006 )

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