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“The Line King – The Al Hirschfeld Story”

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It’s not often I write “thank God someone made this” in my notes while reviewing a film. But Susan Dryfoos’ The Line King – The Al Hirschfeld Story deserves such praise and more.

A lovely biography of entertainment caricaturist Hirschfeld, this film is a fascinating look behind the pen of a man who transcended his genre to become almost an art form unto himself.

Dryfoos thankfully showcases hundreds of drawings throughout the film as entertainers, artists and others discuss a man who described his goal as not to make a subject beautiful, but interesting.

Hirschfeld, of course, being the most interesting character of all. The camouflaged “Nina”s, the barber chair in which he created decades of work, the almost Santa Claus-ish look of the artist – all add up to a man that, if he were imagined by a Hollywood writer, would be deemed wholly unbelievable by cartoonists such as myself.

Myself being a stay-at-home-dad, I was fascinated to learn that he was raised by his father while his mother supported the family. I also connected with his respect for his wife’s editorial abilities. My wife is often consulted (OK, harangued) about my latest cartoons and her advice is always spot on, even when I don’t like to admit it.

There are a few goofy moments (Hirschfeld’s surreal bongo solo and his attempts as using a computer and graphics tablet), but overall the film is a wonder from beginning to end. A fitting tribute to an artist whose work was both interesting and beautiful.

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