Missoula Independent Review
November 7, 2013 by Nick Davis
The old adage that “truth is stranger than fiction” is somewhat self-evident in that even the wildest tales of the imagination spring from some kernel of actuality. In terms of cinematic storytelling, though, there is little doubt that fiction holds the upper hand over fact—story creators, executors and consumers all generally gain power the further away they get from the truth…
The Stranger Review
November 3, 2013 by Kathy Fennessy
If you don’t know Jerome Felder, aka Doc Pomus (1925-1991), you know his songs, and if you don’t know his songs, you have a lot of catching up to do. I grew up with his handiwork, and if you were to ask people my parents’ age, they’d tell you the same…
The Seattle Weekly Review
October 29, 2013 by Mark Baumgarten
His improbable story, captured in interviews, music, and archival clips and photos, is naturally transfixing. Stricken by polio at a young age, Felder fell in love with the blues after hearing Joe Turner sing on the radio. By the 1940s, he was sneaking into African-American blues clubs as a teenager, propped up on crutches, singing the blues that he lived. To keep his disapproving mother off the scent, Felder adopted the performance name Doc Pomus. It stuck through the next 50 years of writing and recording…
The Morton Report Review
October 14, 2013 by Bill Bentley
There are certain music documentaries that will ring true forever, and it would be hard to think of one more moving than this film about one-time singer and songwriter Doc Pomus. Born Jerome Felder in Brooklyn, Pomus almost willed himself into music, fighting back insecurities that included his childhood polio that put him on crutches at age six. After an early attempt at becoming a blues singer inspired by titan Big Joe Turner, Pomus found his calling in turning his deeply soulful take on life and love into some of the very best songs ever written…
Huffington Post Review
October 8, 2013 by Michael Sigman
If you love music, you may be vaguely familiar with the name Doc Pomus. But chances are at least one or two of the 1,000-plus songs he wrote — including such chestnuts as “A Teenager In Love,” “This Magic Moment,” “Save The Last Dance For Me,” “Can’t Get Used To Losing You,” “Lonely Avenue,” “Hushabye” and “Suspicion” — are among your all time favorites…
The LA Beat Review
October 8, 2013 by James Eliopulos
AKA Doc Pomus, co directed by Peter Miller and William Hechter and opening in Los Angeles next Friday, Saturday and Sunday (10/11, 12 & 13) at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills, is a brilliant concoction of music and biography, history and art. Making use of an incredible archive of stills, video and sound recordings (including interviews with some of the pre-eminent composers, lyricists and musicians of the past 60 years) all expertly woven together by editor Amy Linton, the film is inspirational both in its subject and its composition…
Huffington Post Review
October 6, 2013 by Regina Weinreich
The songwriter of rock & roll classics like “This Magic Moment,” “Teenager in Love,” “Viva Las Vegas,”–yes, Elvis Presley’s hit– and “Save the Last Dance for Me,” Jerome Felder, AKA Doc Pomus, was an American original. A Brooklyn boy, crippled by polio as a child, he was big hearted enough to charm the girl he loved as well as just about everyone in the music industry of his time. You may not remember his name now as much as the music he sang and wrote, but the documentary directed by Peter Miller and Will Hecter, and co-produced by his daughter Sharyn Felder, AKA Doc Pomus, will keep you humming tunes you know and love…
The L Magazine Review
October 4, 2013 by David Goldman
If a novelist had invented Doc Pomus, his story would still be hard to believe. Born Jerome Felder in Brooklyn, he contracted polio as a child, changed his name and tried to become an R&B singer (on crutches), then focused on songwriting, penning hits in the 50s and 60s for the Drifters, Ray Charles and Elvis (to name a few), including “This Magic Moment,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and “A Teenager in Love.” Falling into debt and obscurity as rock acts began writing their own material, he turned to gambling, running high-stakes poker games out of his Upper West Side apartment…
Haute Life Style Review
October 4, 2013 by Janet Walker
“A.K.A. Doc Pomus,” from Clear Lake Historical Productions, presents a tribute to one of music’s great song writers who’s skill at writing rock, ballads and blues ended up influencing songwriters, musicians and lovers for decades. – See more at: http://www.haute-lifestyle.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=584:aka-doc-pomus-review-pure-classic-solid-gold&catid=168&Itemid=435#sthash.CXRwhjSG.dpuf…
October 4, 2013 by Leonard Maltin
Did you know that the enduring rock ‘n’ roll ballad “Save the Last Dance For Me” was written by someone who could not dance? Stricken with polio at the age of 6, Jerome Felder spent much of his life on crutches or in a wheelchair. Once you know this and recognize the soulfulness of the lyrics, you begin to understand why the man universally known as Doc Pomus was so widely admired—by fans, friends, and colleagues ranging from John Lennon to Bob Dylan. Among his many standards are “This Magic Moment,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and a stunning 1981 number introduced by B.B. King,“There Must be a Better World Somewhere.”
How a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn became a blues shouter, in the tradition of the great Joe Turner, and one of the poets of the Brill Building during its legendary hit-making years, is the story told in a fascinating new documentary by Will Hechter and Peter Miller called AKA Doc Pomus. It opens today in Manhattan and next Friday, October 11, in Los Angeles and other cities. Felder’s daughter, Sharyn, initiated the project and helped the filmmakers find archival interviews with the songwriter, as well as calling on family members and celebrated friends. The colorful cast of characters includes Ben E. King, Lou Reed, Dr. John, Phil Spector, Dion Dimucci, Shawn Colvin, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and the lyricist’s brother, notorious divorce lawyer Raoul Felder.
There was nothing routine about Felder’s life, and there is nothing rote about this documentary, which is thoughtful, intimate, and filled with warm, candid recollections. If you love stories about the music business you’ll certainly be entertained, but AKA Doc Pomus is intrinsically compelling because it charts the life of such a singular man. He was definitely one of a kind.
Village Voice Review
October 2, 2013 by Alan Scherstuhl
The thrilling story of Brooklyn’s most beloved polio-stricken white boy r&b genius, Peter Miller and Will Hechter’s A.K.A. Doc Pomus bops along with the simple, sturdy power of a good Doc Pomus song: It’s constructed with techniques familiar to anyone with a passing awareness of its genre—but also with such wit and insight and serious longing that it moves as much as it grooves…
Time Out New York Review
September 30, 2013 by Sophie Harris
Born in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood in the ’20s, Jerome Solon Felder—better known as Doc Pomus—was stricken by polio as a kid. That didn’t stop him from becoming a blues singer and the musical Michelangelo behind such perfect pop tunes as “A Teenager in Love” and “Viva Las Vegas,” or from marrying a knockout blond, running a poker den and schooling young scamps like Lou Reed…
Take One Cambridge Film Festival Publication Review
September 20, 2013 by Robbie Griffiths
A hi-hat and horns introduce Jerome Felder, who explains: ‘To be a successful songwriter, you have to write songs… there is some kind of terrible force’ that drives a true artist onwards. Felder, A.K.A. Doc Pomus, was an authority on the subject (he was the author of over 1,000 tunes, many of them now standards), and is the subject of a new, thrilling and life-affirming documentary…
Now Magazine Review
June 13, 2013 by Norman Wilner
The music is terrific, and the story almost as compelling. And any doc that puts the stellar There Must Be A Better World back in circulation deserves the highest praise…
The Portland Mercury Review
June 12, 2013 by Marjorie Skinner
As specific as “Jewish” can be, when applied to contemporary cinema it results in a dynamic snapshot of how this identity is currently being addressed. The Northwest Film Center often hosts such culturally focused events as the Portland Jewish Film Festival, which celebrates its 21st year this week. To outsiders the fest may seem a bit members-only, but each year includes pieces that speak to universalities alongside those that offer immersive—and healthily unfamiliar—perspectives…
Fox5 News San Diego Review
April 8, 2013 by Josh Board
If I asked if you knew who Jerome Felder is, you’d say no. If I said he was in the music industry and had changed his name, you might possibly guess Don Felder, a guitarist/songwriter with The Eagles. Well, Jerome Felder is a songwriter, who went by the name Doc Pomus. It’s a shame he’s not a household name, because he wrote many songs that everybody knows (Surrender, Turn Me Loose, Sweets for my Sweet, Hushabye, Here Comes the Night, to name a few)…
Durham Herald Sun Review
April 6, 2013 by Cliff Bellamy
Ben E. King, Ray Charles, The Coasters and B.B. King are among the artists who have recorded his songs.
In the film “AKA Doc Pomus,” songwriter Mike Stoller calls Pomus “the guardian angel of rhythm and blues.”…
Variety Magazine Review
January 31, 2013 by Ronnie Scheib
Sometimes during Peter Miller and Will Hechter’s docu, it feels as though half the music world has gathered to pay heartfelt tribute to Hall of Fame songwriter Jerome Felder, aka Doc Pomus. The portrait emerging from this deft assemblage of homemovies, work tapes and interviews is further invigorated by 1980s interviews with Pomus and a dynamite soundtrack of his rock ‘n’ roll perennials, like “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “This Magic Moment.” A strong candidate for limited release, the pic thrusts a forgotten pioneer back into the limelight while illuminating a part of rock history…
Hollywood Reporter Film Review
January 9, 2013 by Frank Scheck
Peter Miller and Will Hechter’s documentary relates the life and career of the legendary songwriter behind such classics as “Save the Last Dance for Me.”…
The 22nd Annual New York Jewish Film Festival plays at Lincoln Center
January 9-24, 2013.
The Independent’ – Magazine Review
Senior film critic Kurt Brokaw samples 45 films from nine countries and presents his critic’s choices
AKA Doc Pomus
(Peter Miller, Will Hechter, Sharyn Felder. 2012. Canada/USA. 99 min.)
“You can dance ev’ry dance with the guy
Who gives you the eye, let him hold you tight
You can smile ev’ry smile for the man
Who held your hand ‘neath the pale moonlight
But don’t forget who’s taking you home
And in whose arms you’re gonna be
So darlin’, save the last dance for me…”
In a move as unexpected as it is strikingly original, the NYJFF fest curators have chosen for opening night a portrait of Jerome Solon Felder. You know him better—if you know him at all—as Doc Pomus, a Jewish, Brooklyn-born singer/songwriter who contracted polio as a child, came of age in the 1940s and migrated (on crutches and eventually in a wheelchair) from Greenwich Village clubs where he played with sax legend King Curtis up to Broadway’s Brill Building in Times Square, finally settling further uptown on West 72nd street where he held court to a world of visiting legends in music. Pomus (1925-1992) is one of the few lineal links between rhythm-and-blues, Latin, doo-wop, pop ballads, and soul music. He’s arguably the most important songwriter to bridge urban blues and delta blues. This doc tells Doc’s story—a rags-to-no-riches blues story if there ever was one—with a wallop that may leave a lump in your throat.
If you were throwing nickels into jukeboxes in your shallow youth, you probably have a clearer sense of Pomus, who spent nearly a lifetime shrugging off his limitations and writing songs that became hits for an amazing array of singers. Consider “Can’t Get Used To Losing You” (Andy Williams), “This Magic Moment” and “Save the Last Dance For Me” (The Drifters), “A Teenager In Love” (Dion and the Belmonts), “Lonely Avenue” (Ray Charles), “A Mess of Blues” and “Suspicion” (Elvis Presley), “HushABye” (The Beach Boys), and “Young Blood” (The Coasters). Or more specialized ditties and collector’s gems like “Piney Brown Blues” (Big Joe Turner), “There Must Be A Better Place Somewhere” (B.B. King), “Ecstasy” (Ben E. King), “Gris Gris” (Dr. John), “Someone To Watch Over Me” (Jimmy Scott) and “Just to Walk That Little Girl Home” (Mink Deville).
If you want to go really deep, there’s Doc’s own version of the seminal “Alley Alley Blues” and a tune “There’s A House In Harlem For Sale” that was popularized by the trumpet ace Henry “Red” Allen, who once blew this writer away at The Metropole at 52nd and Broadway in 1960. All told, Pomus wrote some 2,000 songs, 60 of which made it onto Billboard charts, and sold an astonishing 250 million recordings. Nearly two dozen became hits for Elvis.
AKA Doc Pomus works as an opening night headliner in part because it’s a family-owned-and-operated enterprise, aided and abetted by a tight and protective circle of boldface names. Doc’s daughter Sharyn Felder is one of three co-producers and anchors the narrative along with his brother Raoul (the well-known NY divorce attorney) and a son, Geoffrey, who helps run the estate’s licensing. Doc also has two more close resources, both of whom shape the early (and happier) half of this film—Mort Shuman, his pianist and Tin Pan Alley writing partner, with whom he shared an office in the Brill Building, and Willi Burke, his devoted wife and a musical theater luminary in her own right (“Fiorello”) who provided much of the stability that helped mainstream Doc’s workflow.
When Burke leaves the marriage and the film, life takes a downturn. Doc resorts to a sedentary life as a gambler in that apartment on West 72nd. Lou Reed, whose early career was nurtured by Pomus, steers the darkening narrative from Doc’s journals. Dr. John, struggling with a heroin addiction for years, becomes Doc’s writing partner, along with contributions by Phil Spector. The veteran producer Joel Dorn advises Doc on a producing career, and Pomus records albums by A Roomful of Blues and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Singers Joan Osborne and Shawn Colvin contribute vivid anecdotes, as does performing artist Penny Arcade. Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, and John Belushi drop in. Pomus’s official biographer, Alex Halberstadt (Lonely Avenue) stays a steadying influence. Doc swells to over 300 pounds in his wheelchair and continues smoking four packs of Chesterfields a day. When he’s eventually hospitalized with lung cancer, he doesn’t last long, even with his teenage idol Joe Turner at his bedside. The memorial service at Riverside Chapel is bittersweet.
“I look at music in one way: it’s either soulful or it’s not,” Doc once said. AKA Doc Pomus is a stirring and soulful opening night for any film festival on earth.
“The Believer” Magazine – Review
Greil Marcus – October 2012
A.K.A. Doc Pomus, directed by Peter Miller and Will Hechter (Clear Lake Historical Productions). Jerome Felder, who died in 1991, was born in Brooklyn in 1925; at six he contracted polio, but by the late 1940s he was performing in New York clubs as Doc Pomus, a Jewish blues singer on crutches. The records he made were distinctive, but they went nowhere. He had been composing songs for himself; now, writing alone or with partners, he offered his tunes to others, and wrote history: “Lonely Avenue” for Ray Charles, “Young Blood” for the Coasters, “Viva Las Vegas,” “Little Sister,” and “Suspicion” for Elvis Presley, “There Must Be a Better World Somewhere” for B. B. King, and most memorably, for the Drifters, “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “I Count the Tears,” and “This Magic Moment.”
There is nothing remotely ordinary about this film. It can’t be compared to any other music biopic or documentary. There is just too much flair. The directors have a visual imagination that makes the cutting-together of historical footage, album covers, movie posters, vintage interviews with the main subject, and a voice-over of someone reading his journals (Lou Reed, as it turns out), talking heads of people now looking back, still photos, and home movies seem like a revelation instead of a formula—and too much love. The result is countless people—Pomus’s ex-wife, his girlfriend, his children, musicians, friends—laughing through tears, and soon enough you’re one of them.
Again and again you’re pulled up short by a moment too right to take in all at once: you hold it in your memory or stop the DVD and run it back. There are dozens, but I have two favorites. First, a hand goes to a car radio, and the critic Dave Marsh is talking: “You’ve got a radio on, right? And what’s coming across, most of the time, frankly, is static and nothing. And then, this thing—and that’s the Drifters.” It’s 1960; Doc Pomus is thirty-five years old. The swooning strings of “This Magic Moment” come up on the soundtrack, and Ben E. King, twenty-one, begins to sing, but with an odd, stentorian hesitation in every phrase, as if he’s giving a speech, as if what he has to say is so important he’s as much nerves as heart. There’s a close-up of the Atlantic label with the song title and the writers’ names, then head shots as Marsh goes on: “And that’s Doc Pomus, that’s Mort Shuman, and it’s Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun, Leiber and Stoller, and Tom Dowd, and all the people who recorded it, and then ultimately, that’s you and me.” By this time you are following the words swimming upstream against the melody, the delicacy of the story being told; you can hear the fear behind the desire. If you’ve heard the song before, you’ll feel as if you’re hearing it for the first time. If you’ve never heard the song before, you’ll have to hear it again: that the film then moves on will seem like a crime.
Almost an hour later, the movie is over. Pomus has died. You’ve attended his funeral. The credits begin to roll. In a box on the right, people who you’ve heard tell the story are now singing or talking the words to “Save the Last Dance for Me”—and you recall the footage from Pomus’s wedding, when his new wife danced with everyone but her new husband, who found a way to put it all down on paper. A phrase at a time; you’re surprised how well writers can sing, or that Ben E. King, who took the lead vocal, speaks the words like talk. Five, eight, twelve, seventeen, twenty, including, just before the end, the songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Leiber looking terribly debilitated and frail, but hitting all the notes—it goes on and on, until the whole song has been declaimed, and you’re caught up in a kind of musicality the film hasn’t shown before, not merely putting Dave Marsh’s words on the screen, but turning them into a kind of perfect life.
Greil Marcus is the author of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, and The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, and other books. His column, Real Life Rock Top Ten, runs monthly in the Believer.
‘Doc Pomus’ wins Stony Brook film prize
Grand Prize Winner
A documentary directed by Peter Miller and William Hechter.
The Stony Brook Film Festival Grand Prize was awarded Saturday night to AKA Doc Pomus
Doc Pomus’ dramatic life is one of American music’s great untold stories. Paralyzed with polio as a child, Brooklyn-born Jerome Felder reinvented himself first as a blues singer, renaming himself Doc Pomus, then emerged as a one of the most brilliant songwriters of the early rock and roll era, writing “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and dozens of other hits.
For most of his life Doc was confined to crutches and a wheelchair, but he lived more during his sixty-five years than others could experience in several lifetimes. Packed with incomparable music and rare archival imagery, a.k.a. DOC POMUS features interviews with his collaborators and friends, including Dr. John, Ben E. King, Joan Osborne, Shawn Colvin, Dion, Leiber and Stoller, and B.B. King.
‘Doc Pomus’ celebrates the blues guru with a Jewish soul
Jweekly.com – Dan Pine – July 19, 2012
You may not know his name, but you surely know his tunes: “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “Lonely Avenue …
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival – Through the past, melodiously
East Bay Express – Kelly Vance – July 18, 2012
As vividly explained in Peter Miller and Will Hechter’s bubbly documentary AKA Doc Pomus, songwriter Doc Pomus (1925-1991), born Jerome Felder in Brooklyn, …
SF Jewish Film Festival sings many tunes
SF Bay Guardian -Emily Savage – July 17, 2012
The simple statement comes from Raoul Felder, brother of legendary R&B songwriter Doc Pomus, in the beautiful, crushing mediation on his brother’s life, A.K.A. …
TJFF saves the last film for Doc Pomus
The Canadian Jewish News – Joseph Serge – May 1, 2012
TORONTO – Rock musician Lou Reed called him one of the greatest songwriters in history and Bob Dylan admired him so much he once asked him to write some lyrics for him.
Review: A.K.A. Doc Pomus – Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2012
Toronto Film Scene – Kristal Cooper – May 7, 2012
The expression “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is something we’ve all heard time and time again, but never has it felt so tailor-made for someone than when it’s used to describe the life of Jerome Felder. After all, the subject of the biopic documentary A.K.A. Doc Pomus was a rotund, bearded, wheelchair-bound white guy…