Academy Award winner Brigitte Berman combines rare footage and an entertaining snapshot at the life of the founder of the Playboy Empire. Chronicling Hugh Hefner’s rise in the publishing world all thanks to a nude photograph of starlet Marilyn Monroe published in the first playboy magazine in 1953. Hefner created a revolution in 1950s America with his ideal that nice girls like sex too and with his shrewd business sense, America believed him.
The documentary highlights Hefner’s ability to manipulate chance in order for his business to flourish…
The magazine continued to print nude pictures while publishing articles by infamous writers such as Ian Flemming, Irwin Shaw and Charles Beaumont. His controversial approach to autonomy extended out to the civil rights decade of the ‘60s, organizing jazz festivals featuring people of colour like Louis Armstrong and Count Bassie Band. Hefner’s media purge brought many African American singers into the home of the American people worldwide, despite the objections from state laws in the South. He openly published parts of literary visionary Alex Haley’s Roots and speeches by Martin Luther King.
The documentary highlights Hefner’s ability to manipulate chance in order for his business to flourish, especially in the McCarthy years and well into the early ‘80s until Playboy was eventually dubbed pornographic material. Hefner’s true character is hidden from the world, a man who works hard, fights for human rights and at the same time is isolated compared to the world’s preconceptions of him.
…we are prompted to focus on Hefner’s positive contribution to the world.
The bigger issue of how the world has accepted the exploitation of the female form as a result of his magazine is often ignored in the documentary. Instead we are prompted to focus on Hefner’s positive contribution to the world. Bergman’s documentary succeeds in capturing the battles he has faced with the government, the religious right and feminists. However swayed in his favour, Bergman’s documentary still stands as an interesting story of the man behind the bunny.
Image courtesy of Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel