(No longer in theaters)
Whitney Dow, Kristi Jacobson, Alicia Sams
Nov 21, 2008
For a heavy dose of civilization—the best kind—I give you Kristi Jacobsen’s marvelous documentary Toots. It’s the story, of course, of Toots Shor, saloonkeeper extraordinaire, confidant of gangsters and sports legends and competitive drinking buddy of Jackie Gleason (maybe showbiz’s most colorful and insatiable alcoholic). Jacobsen is Shor’s granddaughter and comes to revive not just Toots but what he stood for: the joy of playing host to celebrities and commoners alike, to creating an atmosphere of “palship.” The movie has a joyous swing that would have gladdened its subject’s heart: Even the old talking heads (Walter Cronkite, Yogi Berra, Mike Wallace, Frank Gifford, many more) seem to shed decades as they reminisce about “your grandfather’s” place and the boozy glamour of the forties, fifties, and early sixties—until Toots’s slow, heartbreaking slide into bankruptcy and irrelevance. Toots leaves you longing for a more public culture, for places where the palship isn’t just the upshot of intoxication. It’s a cinematic happy hour.