American Masters on West Virginia PBS
5:51 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

American Masters Explores the Life of George Plimpton

George Plimpton photographing birds in Africa.
George Plimpton photographing birds in Africa.
Credit Courtesy of Freddy Plimpton / WNET

Famed participatory journalist George Plimpton (1927–2003) was a writer, editor, amateur sportsman, actor, and friend to many. Now, the American Masters series showcases his remarkable life in Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself, Friday, May 16 at 9 p.m. on West Virginia PBS.

The documentary is both a chronicle of one of the last century’s most intriguing characters, as well as a cinematic adaption of his nuanced and funny literary style. Using Plimpton’s own narration, new interviews with friends, family and contemporaries, and extensive archival material, the film creates a compelling portrait of a one-of-a-kind person who lived fully, strangely and incredibly. Plimpton co-founded and worked as the editor of influential literary magazine The Paris Review for 50 years (1953-2003). The Paris Review and Plimpton’s widow Sarah Dudley Plimpton, granted filmmakers Tom Bean and Luke Poling full access to George’s private archives, including previously unseen material.

Aside from his work at The Paris Review, Plimpton wrote for Sports Illustrated; hung out with U.S. Presidents and was part of the Kennedys’ inner circle; played quarterback for the Detroit Lions; got Willie Mays to pop out in Yankee Stadium; photographed Playboy models; played goalie for the Boston Bruins; performed with the New York Philharmonic; boxed against light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore; acted alongside John Wayne, Warren Beatty and Matt Damon; and authored more than 15 books, including Out of My League (1961), Paper Lion (1966) and The Bogey Man (1967). Some of Plimpton’s DIY journalism stunts were turned into primetime network television films, including his circus flying trapeze act, African wildlife photography for Life magazine, and attempt at stand-up comedy.

Sharing these experiences and more, American Masters: Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself is about football, literature, magazines, fireworks, hockey, movies, presidents, lawn chairs, geniuses, and the true tall tale that brought them all together.