Ever Wonder What Happens behind The NY Times Obit Desk?

Movies & Entertainment
"Ever Wonder What Happens behind The NY Times Obit Desk?"

OBIT, A Charming Look Behind the Scenes at the NY Times Obit Desk, Expands Nationally in May, 2017

After a successful New York and Los Angeles release, Kino Lorber is proud to announce the theatrical roll-out of Vanessa Gould’s charming and insightful documentary OBIT., now scheduled to open in over 30 markets (including San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Washington, DC, and Austin, to name a few).

When New York Times writer Bruce Weber comes into the office, the first thing he says is: “Who’s dead?” Times editor William McDonald, Weber, Margalit Fox, William Grimes, Douglas Martin, Paul Vitello, and others appear on screen—very much alive—in this witty, eye-opening inside account of the ‘dead beat’—the Times’s obituaries desk. According to Grimes, “dull, dry, responsible” copy was once the norm.

Today, the paper’s obits are among the best-written, most-read articles, and an ever-fascinating showcase for notable lives and achievements, from Nobel Prize winners to the inventor of the Slinky. Gould lets us in on more than a few secrets: how subjects are ultimately chosen, who merits star placement (page one), who has an “advance obit” (there are 1700 on file, kept under lock and key), and how the Times maintains its vast archive. Sole morgue-keeper Jeff Roth gives us a breathless tour of the paper’s century-old trove of clippings and photographs.

The bottom line: everyone dies, but not everyone merits a New York Times obituary. Some who do: Stalin’s daughter, Pete Seeger and his father, Charles, the bass player for Bill Haley and The Comets, Candy Bar (an exotic dancer), William P. Wilson (JFK’s advisor for the historic 1960 TV debates), and Eleanor Smith (a young aviatrix whose obituary, written in 1931, did not run for another 80 years.)