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Supermensch: The Legend Of Shep Gordon

If you love show-business stories, as I do, you’ll lap up Supermensch. The saga of Shep Gordon’s remarkable career is so entertaining and unlikely that it couldn’t have been invented. How does a newcomer to Los Angeles go from dealing drugs to managing major rock acts like Alice Cooper? Who would think that an intimate of Janis Joplin would wind up representing wholesome Canadian songbird Anne Murray? How on earth did this music industry maven find himself launching the television career of top like Emeril Lagasse…and then aligning himself with the Dalai Lama?

You have to hear the stories first-hand to appreciate them, and Gordon is a thoroughly engaging raconteur. He also keeps the friends he’s made over the years: that’s what Mike Myers captures so well in this lighthearted, yet surprisingly profound, documentary. As we learn from pals like Cooper, Michael Douglas, Tom Arnold, and others, Gordon has lived many lives and given himself wholeheartedly to each new avenue and pursuit.

Myers peppers his well-paced film with wacky re-creations to illustrate Gordon’s anecdotes. Even the best documentarians have embraced the concept of dramatic re-creations, but no one has taken this particular approach, which mocks credibility but still provides a visual key to the often-outlandish incidents being described.

Supermensch is often hilarious, but it ultimately provides food for thought about the quest for happiness and meaning in life. Gordon may have been a hedonist, but he’s learned some valuable lessons since those days that are well worth sharing.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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