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DREISER is the first documentary on renowned writer Theodore Dreiser and the tragedy he saw beneath our pursuit of the American dream.


Drawing together new scholarship and rich historical resources, “Dreiser” will engage the public in an exploration of the man behind such seminal novels as “Sister Carrie” and “An American Tragedy.” From the start, Theodore Dreiser was considered an outsider for his insistence on writing about “the authentic beauty of tragedy.” At the turn of the 20th century, mainstream America resisted stories and characters that portrayed the darker implications of our country’s myths about wealth, upward mobility, marriage, and sexuality. Dreiser confronted those complacent assumptions and found himself judged immoral and his work repeatedly censored. He persevered, however, in his fight to write about “life as it is” and introduced a powerful new term into the national lexicon, An American Tragedy. This feature length documentary and companion web site will examine what in his birth, upbringing, and later life experiences led him to create this major cultural challenge that still resonates today. “Dreiser” combines interviews and personal recollections from friends and scholars, excerpts from his letters and diaries, with a wealth of visual material including family photographs, newsreels, movie adaptations of his most famous novels, and evocative cinematography to create a vivid portrait of a literary pioneer. Norman Mailer described him as more fully “understanding of the social machine than any American writer who ever lived." To date we have filmed ten interviews including noted novelist E.L. Doctorow, biographer Richard Lingeman, Dreiser’s great grand niece and three of his former lovers. Planned as a public television special, the film has received development and scripting grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. We are currently raising money to enable us to finish production.