Six Biopics Made When the Subject Was Still Alive

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Oct. 5, 2010

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Night and Day (1946): The noble thing to do is to let a great person die before you construct your towering filmic monument to them. Otherwise, you’re susceptible to ethical or at least artistic compromises. Like, say, not mentioning that the subject of your whitewashed film—moony composer Cole Porter (Cary Grant)—enjoyed the company of both girls and boys. That omission was later corrected by 2004’s still-worthless De-Lovely .

The Babe Ruth Story (1948): The Bambino died mere weeks after seeing his first biopic’s premiere, but because he was alive during production, the makers had to make certain, well, corrections. Ruth’s first wife is missing, and he walks on water so much that even his dingers can cure cancer.

The Jackie Robinson Story (1950): Because it was made only a third of the way into his nine-year MLB career, the first black baseballer was able to play himself. He never acted again. Unless you count Sesame Street.

PT-109 (1963): Personally overseen by JFK himself, including the selection of Cliff Robertson as his younger self, this dramatization of the sitting president’s storied stint commanding a WWII patrol boat debuted on June 19, 1963.

Raging Bull (1980): Middleweight legend Jake LaMotta is still with us, and was only in his 50s when he let Martin Scorsese make a deeply unflattering portrait of his violent urges. He took it well. As Robert DeNiro, accepting his Oscar, cracked that it was Joey, not Jake, who was suing them, Jake, in the audience, let out a deep, welcoming laugh.

The Social Network (2010): Mark Zuckerberg donated $100,000,000 to struggling Newark schools a week and a half before the film chronicling his cruel ascent to the world’s youngest billionaire hit more than 3,000 theaters. And yet the film itself ends up painting him as a cipher—at least, as only partly an asshole, visibly unnerved when his fucking-over of his best friend is complete.

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1. Muray said... on Oct 6, 2010 at 08:04AM

“Yes PW staffer only an asshole billionaire would donate a mere $100,000 to a struggling inner-city school system. I wonder what we could conclude about him if he donated, say, $100,000,000?”

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