What could a movie about Leonard Bernstein possibly amount to without his music? Bradley Cooper‘s planned Bernstein biopic, which is partly backed by Steven Spielberg and Paramount Pictures, has secured music rights from the Bernstein estate. So that’s pretty much it for Jake Gyllenhaal‘s rival Bernstein project, right? Both were announced last May.
I respect Cooper’s intention to both direct and star. A comprehensive Benstein biopic would naturally focus upon Bernstein’s creative saga with West Side Story, and also upon his closeted life and conflicted marriage to Felicia Montealegre. A heavy smoker and emphysema sufferer, Bernstein died at age 72 in 1990.
Presumably Cooper’s pic will include the Black Panthers episode that Tom Wolfe wrote about in “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s” (6.8.70). A Black Panther fundraiser was held at Bernstein’s Park Avenue apartment, and was attended by Donald Cox, a Panther “field marshal” from Oakland. Wolfe‘s famous New York article was more or less about the guilty-liberal syndrome among Bernstein’s social crowd.
A friend writes: “Don’t count on Cooper’s Bernstein biopic to include Wolfe’s ‘Radical Chic’ tale. It’s an anecdotal incident, and would cast too negative a light on Lenny. The tone of Wolfe’s piece is one of utter mockery of the Bernsteins and their wealthy liberal ilk.”