THE BRONX, USA (TV)
(director/writer: Danny Gold; screenwriter: Michael Mayhew; cinematographers: Matthew Wachsman/Larry Herbst; editor: Michael Mayhew; music: Tom Scott/John Robinson/Nathan East; Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: George Shapiro, Danny Gold; HBO; 2019)
“A pleasing nostalgia laden documentary about a once acclaimed high school in the Bronx.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A pleasing nostalgia laden documentary about a once acclaimed high school in the Bronx. It tells of the making of a good relationship by a past generation of students (who were from mainly white immigrant parents who survived the Depression and the Second World War) to the now generation (living in the high tech age, with the students coming mainly from low-income minority households). It also tells how the school is a rich part of the community. The director Danny Gold (“If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast”/”100 Voices: A Journey Home”) is the co-writer with Michael Mayhew, for this engaging feel-good HBO film that is at times a somewhat cringe-worthy love letter to the Bronx. Carl Reiner, who grew up in the Bronx, narrates.
The school is DeWitt Clinton High School, located in the Mosholu Parkway section of the Bronx. The film follows the affable octogenarian George Shapiro, the noted Seinfeld producer and legendary Hollywood talent manager, as he returns with a few of his close childhood friends (who playfully call themselves the “Bronx Boys”, Carl Golub and Jay Schwartz) to his Bronx hometown to visit the school he graduated from in 1949 and meet with some senior leaders from the graduating class of 2017. Danielle is the articulate student body president who helps make the visit a cordial and meaningful one, as the exchange between the cheerful white senior citizens and the appreciative of the visit youthful student seniors of color couldn’t be sweeter and more in tune with the renewed hope of the filmmakers that the Bronx will rise again with this ambitious new generation of immigrant children of color from its tough times in the late 1960s until the 1980s (when crime was high and fires raged in the South Bronx).
The film features notable Bronx-ites such as Alan and Arlene Alda, Charles Fox, Robert Klein, Hal Linden, Melissa Manchester, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Chazz Palminteri, Rob Reiner (Carl’s son) and General Colin Powell telling us what they experienced growing up in the Bronx. It all sounds so good it could be a promo for the Bronx Tourist Board.
General Powell tells about his positive experience growing up in the South Bronx and working in a Jewish owned toy shop, where the caring owner encouraged him to continue his schooling. Palminteri takes us on a cheesy tour of the popular Arthur Avenue in the Bronx’s Little Italy section that border’s Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo, as he shows off with great pride the great Italian food products sold in the many appealing mom and pop stores. Alan Alda reminisces about being engaged to the Bronx resident Arlene (now his wife of 60 years) and attending the esteemed Fordham University.
The film opens and closes with the original song “Da Bronx” with lyrics by Paul Williams, music by Charles Fox and is performed by actor/comedian/singer Robert Klein and actor/singer Donald Webber, Jr..
We are informed through shots from old footage that the culturally diverse Bronx was the birthplace of doo-wop, salsa, and, in the 80s, hip hop.
The old timers smile when talking about egg creams, stickball and all the lifetime friends they made as apartment dwelling children. No one seems to have bad memories of their childhood days in the Bronx they are willing to talk about. It’s that kind of inspirational film, one the Bronx perhaps deserves, to counter all the ones that unfairly portrayed the borough in modern times as mostly a place that’s not livable and only noted for Yankee Stadium.
Full disclosure is that I grew up in an apartment building on Mosholu Parkway and graduated in 1959 from DeWitt Clinton.
REVIEWED ON 11/7/2019 GRADE: B