Synopsis by Mark Deming
Between 1939 and 1959, Toots Shor ran what was debatably the most famous saloon in America. The son of a poor family in South Philadelphia, Shor was a blustery, larger-than-life character who came to New York City in 1930 and soon landed a job as a bouncer in a mob-run speakeasy. Shor had smarts, charm, and nerve, and he soon made plenty of contacts in the liquor trade as well as befriending habitués of Manhattan nightlife. In 1939, Shor opened a bar and restaurant, simply named "Toots Shor's," and it didn't take it long for it to become the Big Apple's most celebrated watering hole, where Broadway stars, sports legends, political bigwigs, and social climbers were frequent customers but anyone with the price of a drink was welcome to belly up to the bar (among the regulars: Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Gleason, Frank Gifford, Earl Warren, and Frank Costello). While "Toots Shor's" was one of New York's most legendary nightspots, Shor sold the business in 1959, and while he opened a new bar two years later (after running through the million dollars he made from the deal), his style of saloon was falling out of fashion with the arrival of the 1960s, and the free-spending Toots died broke in 1977, six years after his last bar went under. Shor's granddaughter, documentary filmmaker Kristi Jacobson, pays tribute to the man and the era personified by his saloon in Toots, which features interviews with family and friends (including Lauren Bacall, Walter Cronkite, Yogi Berra, Pete Hamill, Mike Wallace, and Whitey Ford) as well as rare recordings of Toots telling his own remarkable story. Also known as Toots Shor: Bigger Than Life, Toots received its world premiere at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival -- appropriately enough, in downtown New York.