Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie is a cheerful look back at a notorious rabble-rouser. A quarter century ago, Downey invited guests–mostly political figures–to a televised interview in front of a live audience. After a bit of peaceful conversation, Downey would shift into an attitude of populist outrage–and the crowd would go wild. Early guests were caught offguard; some were terrified, seeing the raucous audience as a lynch mob. Downey considered his studio audience a great asset, calling them “the beast.”
The New Jersey-based show got a lot of attention, but it didn’t last. Soon potential guests were onto Downey’s game, and he had to rely more and more on fringe elements for entertainment. The show’s popularity declined, and within two years of its premiere it was gone. A decade or so later, Downey, a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer.
The documentary digs into the daddy issues that fueled Downey’s ambition, and it turns up a surprising political connection for the man who generally came across as a right-wing demagogue. He left behind a surprising number of friends who remember him as privately gentle, despite his combative on-camera personality.
And that audience! Most of the people screaming for blood seemed to be in it for the theater, like the spectators at a glitzy wrestling match. I miss those times. Today a great many of the politically enraged really do seem to want blood.
Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (reviews) (official site)
Directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy Newberger
Written by Daniel A. Miller
Running time: 89 minutes
DVD release date: September 3, 2013