In the U.S., in the 1950s, contemporary jazz was becoming more and more esoteric, and a small group of writers, poets and musicians who were hip to that beat were exploring the cracks in the American dream. Meanwhile, the Cold War and insistently cheerful and upbeat attitudes were being promoted by Dale Carnegie and his many imitators. America was never so prosperous, so virtuous, or so happy, and the writers and artists of the Beat generation were among the first to see the worm in that particular apple. Because so many of them couldn't get enthusiastic about the Cold War, they were derisively called "beatniks," the "nik" being an imitation Russian diminutive. In this 1980s documentary, surviving eminences from that period discuss the times and their experiences. Among those appearing are Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac's daughter and wife, William S. Burroughs, Amiri Baraka (a.k.a. LeRoi Jones) and others, while archival footage gives viewers a taste of other greats of the period. The former Tonight Show host and author Steve Allen narrates.
by Clarke Fountain synopsis