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Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton As Himself (2012)

Studio: Echo Bridge Entertainment

Theatrical Release: June 21, 2012

DVD Release: June 3, 2014

Director: Tom Bean and Luke Poling

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

Who is George Plimpton? The name may not ring a bell with most people but when you see his face, he is almost immediately recognizable: journalist, actor, sports player, even doing a quick cameo on The Simpsons as himself, George Plimpton is well known by many as "that guy". You see him in commercials, movies, even as a guest on Conan O'Brien, Plimpton seemed to be all over the place. But who exactly was he? Why did he pop up all the time on TV and in the movies?

George Plimpton
The documentary, while only 86 minutes long, takes the viewer to the very beginning of Plimpton's life starting from his rather strict childhood. His father and grandfather expected perfection from all of his sons and unfortunately young George just couldn't get a grasp on sports or his academics. That is, except for writing. While his father looked down at the career path that George was taking, George went about and co-founded the magazine The Paris Review, a magazine aimed at various artists, mostly writers who could discuss their work, write short stories, and interview one another. It was here that George met Ernest Hemingway who became the father to him that his own was not. Hemingway gave him the advise and guidance that changed George's life forever.

With numerous pictures and sound clips as well as interviews by friends and family, one gets the sense that George never quite knew what he wanted to be. Even as a journalist he began to take on the role of spectator as he believed that to write about the subject at hand, one should actually perform it, to be in ones shoes. He was the method actor of journalism. While George wrote for Sports Illustrated, he was able to play in an all-star baseball game and pitch to Willie Mays. He played quarterback for the Detroit Lions alongside Alex Karras (Plimpton's book Paper Lion was a huge best-seller based on his experiences as a quarterback), he got in the boxing ring with Archie Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson (who gave him a rather nasty bloody nose). In 1971, ABC televised a special of George trying out as a trapeze artist in the circus. But perhaps one of the highlights in his sports career was playing goalie for the Boston Bruins in 1977 who stopped a penalty shot against the lead scorer for the Philadelphia Flyers.


George was also close to Robert Kennedy who stood next to him when he was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan. Many photographs show Plimpton holding onto Sirhan's arm that held the gun at the time of the assassination. A few years later he tried his hand at acting and had small parts in Rio Lobo, Volunteers, and Good Will Hunting. George would hold several cocktail parties that would go into the wee hours of the night with Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, Truman Capote, James Lipton, and Warren Beatty as his guests.

Starring George Plimpton

While the man's life was anything but dull, one gets the sense from his two wives, close friends, and children that maybe he always felt like the outcast in his daily life and that aside from his writing, performing these stunts and spontaneous career paths was a way of forgetting who he was. As many point out, George Plimpton rarely discussed his own life, preferring to do the interview rather than be the interviewee.

Plimpton & Woody

While Echo Bridge's DVD looks and sounds great, there are no special features at all. Not even a trailer. I would have liked to have seen outtakes from the documentary or maybe some of his guest appearances on talk shows or some of his TV commercials from the 70's and 80's. Small complaint but it would have been nice to have as a special feature.

Well made and very entertaining, Plimpton! is a fast paced and highly engaging documentary about an extraordinary man who didn't quite know what he wanted to be when he grew up so he became...everything.

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