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A documentary by Michael Caplan

85 minutes, color, 2021

Watch on Apple TV



The new feature documentary ALGREN is a journey through the gritty world, brilliant mind, and noble heart of Nelson Algren. Exploding onto the national scene in 1950 after winning the first-ever National Book Award for The Man with the Golden Arm, Algren defined post-war American urban fiction with his gritty, brilliant depiction of working class Chicago.

Hemingway declared him second only to Faulkner; Vonnegut dubbed him a literary groundbreaker. Hollywood soon came calling, immortalizing his breakout novel with none other than Frank Sinatra in the lead role. Algren even won a notorious place in both the heart and work of France’s premiere feminist, Simone de Beauvoir.

Including never-before-seen archival footage, newly uncovered audio recordings and his own rarely seen, personal photo collages, ALGREN charts the rise and fall of a man whose transgressions, compassion and thirst for justice pushed him to dedicate his life and career to giving a voice to the voiceless. Through interviews with Algren’s friends, literary experts and artists – including William Friedkin, Russell Banks, Philip Kaufman, Billy Corgan and John Sayles – the film is an intimate, witty and even antagonistic portrait of a tireless champion of America’s most marginalized.

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"Enlightening for those who don't know Algren at all and thrilling for those who knew the man or his work and his life." - Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune

"A riveting, comprehensive depiction of an author that Ernest Hemingway declared second only to William Faulkner in the pantheon of U.S. writers."- Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter

"A documentary that fuses the writer and his city in a cosmology of grinding toil and unexpected beauty." - Barlo Perry, Paris/LA Magazine

"An extraordinary portrait of a major author who has fallen into the realm of the forgotten despite his many successes." - Neeley Swanson, Easy Reader News

"Who was the toughest of the tough-guy writers? Ernest Hemingway? Norman Mailer? B. Traven? James M. Cain? Samuel Fuller? David Goodis? Leonard Gardner? Mickey Spillane? Jim Thompson? James Ellroy? Hunter S. Thompson? None of the above. The toughest of the tough-guy writers was Nelson Algren, author of The Man with the Golden Arm and A Walk on the Wild Side and subject of the wondrous new documentary Algren." - Kelly Vance, East Bay Express


An Interview with Michael Caplan in The Guardian

Filmmaker Interview in The Chicago Reader

The CornerStore Podcast featuring Michael Caplan


Rotten Tomatoes

Film Website

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