Director: Thom Fitzgerald
Screenwriters: Thom Fitzgerald

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


In a seamless blending of documentary and fiction film, Thom Fitzgerald has crafted an entertaining and provocative homage to the 1950s’ muscle magazines. Beefcake follows the career of Bob Miser, photographer and creator of the Athletic Models Guild, an agency for the beautiful young men who posed for magazines with names like Physique Pictorial, Adonis and Tomorrow’s Man. An admirer of the male form, he ran a compound of sorts, under the watchful eye of his mother and business partner. It was here that young talent tanned by the pool as they waited to star in short films or be photographed in front of any number of thematic backdrops (scantily clad, of course, to show them at their best). Miser was the one who gave shape to this budding industry, but like many, he also suffered when moral outrage fueled a conservative court
system to take action against it.
Fitzgerald lovingly recreates this era, but he takes an important step further by flawlessly weaving in rare archival footage. By today’s standards, these old films seem tame . . .almost sweet, hardly the fodder for criminal prosecution. He also makes us privy to candid interviews with others who were part of this phenomenon, such as Joe Dallesandro, Jack LaLanne, and
photographers like Dave Martin and Russ Warner.
In Beefcake, Fitzgerald has composed a wonderful sexy collage of another time, but he doesn’t let us forget that although the fifties may be remembered nostalgically, they masked an insidious underlying oppression.

Thom Fitzgerald, Director
Thom Fitzgerald was raised in New Jersey and earned a BFA in performance and film from the Cooper Union for the Advancement fo Science and Art. He moved to Nova Scotia, where he studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. His first feature, The Hanging Garden, played at Sundance last year and was voted most popular film at the Toronto, Atlantic, and Vancouver film festivals, as well as winning four 1997 Canadian Academy Awards, including best screenplay.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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