The Line King

The Line King (1996)
VH1 Classic Records
Extras: Appreciation, Gallery, Hirschfeld draws Paul Newman

No other caricaturist has seen as much notoriety as Al Hirschfeld and the fact that an entire documentary is dedicated to him and his work is further proof of that. For 75 years Al Hirschfeld has created caricatures of the rich and famous. He specialized on drawing Broadway and movie stars in an uncanny way. But what’s more, every one of his caricature contained the word ’Nina, ’ the name of his daughter, and for many of us it had become a regular exercise to find as may ’Ninas’ in his illustrations as possible.

But of course ,there was more to his life and work, and the documentary that Home Vision Entertainment is presenting on this DVD gives us a much better understanding of the person that Al Hirschfeld was. We learn where he drew his inspiration from and how his caricatures accurately reflected his observations of the moment, the people and society as a whole at any given time throughout virtually the entire 20th century. The film not only contains interesting tidbits and footage, but also interviews with a number of the stars the Hirschfeld has caricatured and, of course, his daughter Nina.

The DVD contains a fullframe presentation of the documentary, which is the film’s original format. The transfer is clean and mostly free of blemishes, though some of the archival footage shows its age, of course. Colors and contrast are well balanced making for a great presentation. The compression is without artifacts.

The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Stereo track that perfectly suits the purpose of the film.

As extras Home Vision Entertainment has included a large gallery of Hirschfeld illustrations on this DVD, which is an absolute joy to view. While not quite as finely delineated as a print reproduction, of course, it still gives you the chance to enjoy these oftentimes marvelous hand drawings. A clip of Al Hirschfeld drawing Paul Newman is also included showing how one of his caricatures is actually coming to life.

The DVD is rounded out by a loving appreciation by New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman.

For all fans of Hirschfeld’s caricatures this DVD release from Home Vision Entertainment is certainly as godsend. It is so rare to learn more about many of the people who’s work we enjoy every day and as such ’The Line King’ is a wonderful and loving look at the creative mind behind some of the most enduring illustrations of show business.