SIFF 2010: Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 12, 2010)

Did you know Ray Bradbury was only paid $400 for the original serialized version of Fahrenheit 451 published in Playboy in 1954? That’s one of the interesting tidbits I picked up from this lengthy yet absorbing documentary about the iconoclastic founder and publisher of the magazine that I, personally, have always read strictly for the articles (of clothing that were conspicuously absent-no, I’m kidding). Seriously-there’s little of prurient interest here. In a manner of speaking, it’s mostly about “the articles”.

Brigitte Berman (director of the excellent 1985 documentary Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got) interweaves well-selected archival footage and present day interviews with Hefner and friends (as well as some of his detractors) to paint a fascinating portrait. Whether you admire him or revile him, as you watch the film you come to realize that there is probably no other public figure of the past 50 years who has so cannily tapped in to or (perhaps arguably) so directly influenced the sexual, social, political and pop-cultural zeitgeist of liberated free-thinkers everywhere.

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