On the Bowery

Rated NR, 55 mins
Inspired by The Bicycle Thief, New York filmmaker Lionel Rogosin set out to make a neo-realist drama on the city's skid row, and his 1957 film is a priceless time capsule, though its images of addiction and despair have barely aged. A young down-and-outer (Ray Salyer, as himself) arrives on the Bowery looking for day labor after working all summer on the railroads; he hopes to stay sober and pull himself out of poverty, but he's come to the wrong neighborhood, an endless vista of staggering, homeless drunks. Rogosin traces the man's interaction with another lush (Gorman Hendricks, who died of alcoholism right after the shoot) and shows how addiction marks the parameters of their friendship. But their story is almost secondary to Rogosin's striking black-and-white photography of the Bowery's drab streets and bleak, haggard faces. The movie was nominated for an Oscar as best documentary despite its scripted scenes; by 2008, when it was named to the National Film Registry, any genre distinctions had long since paled beside the movie's harsh truth.
Director: Lionel Rogosin

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Reviews / Comments (4)

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Re: “One drink over the line

My friend, Linda Salyer Bishop, is Ray Salyer's niece. She never met her Uncle Ray and only learned of him wwhen her father showed her an article in Time that referenced him. I just purchased a copy of the DVD for my friend. It is a very rare piece of Salyer family history.

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Posted by Brenda Bell on 03/10/2013 at 11:01 PM

Re: “One drink over the line

I appreciate this article as it gives a very thorough look at the Blue-Ray/ DVD release by Milestone
including a summary of my documentary on my father's films ,where as most critics take the info and sentiments gleaned from my work and not mention the source. In the documentaries on the films my father (Lionel Rogosin) explains his motivations and techniques which will add insights into why his films attain a level of art. That is reach a human and poetic expression that goes deep and becomes universal so that it is in fact not just following people around but where there is a lot of the work and background that gives meaning by an intimate knowledge of his subject and the people. I am working on feature film on my father's life which in fact combines the two categories you mention in a new way . Hopefully it won't be a jumbled attempt but something new.

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Posted by Michael Rogosin on 02/18/2012 at 2:51 AM

Re: “One drink over the line

Great story. Thanks for posting this; I'm going to have to check this movie out. I think modern documentary filmmakers still give a decent amount of direction, even loose scripting at times. Exit Thru the Gift Shop was one of the better docs I've seen in years and that thing was, arguably, a hoax or wholly scripted.

It's tough to just have a camera and follow people around without at least setting up some scenes that have a high probability for confrontation/disaster. MTV seems to have figured this out pretty well. I'm pretty sure Michael Moore knows how each of his documentaries are going to start and end because he's always trying to convey a certain message.

I also think documentaries almost need to be split into sub-categories: 1) The doc that is looking back on a historical event or moment in history but pieced together with modern narratives vs. 2) The doc that is capturing something unfolding right before the lens. The former camp (Man on a Wire, Fog of War, Bowling for Columbine, Enron, Lenny Bruce et al) is a lot easier to capture and allows for a lot more subjective direction, whereas the latter camp (Restrepo, Wasteland, Interrupters et al) requires a lot more camera mastery, reels of footage, editing and energy to develop the story in real time. I doubt Jung and Harrington (RIP) gave the Marines any type of direction at all.

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Posted by jeffrey harley on 02/17/2012 at 10:02 AM

Re: “One drink over the line

Brenda i really admired RayS in the movie his character/courage grace/intelligence/sweetness while battleing the demon of alcohol. I'd like 2 know what happened 2 him or ANYTHING u know about him from urself or his niece/her family if thats possible if u could do more digging that would b a blessing 2 me. Just 4 the record my one only son is battling it and I never saw even a beer in his hand he hid it from me it runs in my family deeply all generations yet I had never experienced it personally my father and his side all died from it b4 i ever had relationship and I was so hoping it would not b in our children I never had alcohol in the house and i warned my son about the history Ray reminds me of NateSon I'm NateMoM and I pray everyday 4 God 2 make good out of this demon in his life that he has been bearing I pray 4 him 2 be healed however God chooses 4 that 2 b done and that he have a future of faith hope love peace. I found the dvd library and it has been helpful 2 me.

Posted by like2know on 03/19/2013 at 1:26 PM
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