Thank you for asking. Is Norman Lloyd (a) a member of the Mercury Theater players, (b) a mover and shaker during Hollywood’s Golden Age, or (c) Dr. Auschlander from TV’s St. Elsewhere? Every answer would be absolutely correct, though we nominate fellow crusty old fart Karl Malden’s response as the most accurate: “He’s the history of our industry up until now.”
Matthew Sussman’s doc points out that the 93-year-old Lloyd is the only actor to have worked with Welles, Chaplin, Hitchcock and Cameron Diaz. (The latter sums up the labors of her profession thusly: “It’s exhausting being on set all day…emoting.…”). Once this pitiful hagiography gets that particular fact out of the way, however, its wad is essentially shot. Sussman’s structureless stroke job allows Lloyd to rhapsodize in the lofty, overenunciated manner of old-school thespians, but any attempt at establishing his significance or fashioning an oral history of showbiz is squandered. Important subjects (i.e. the blacklist) are dropped quickly; talking-head interviews fizzle out before your very eyes. Even the mercifully brief running time starts to feel eternal.
Luckily, Film Forum includes Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942) on the bill to sweeten the deal; the climax, in which Lloyd dangles off the Statue of Liberty, says more about his skills than the portrait’s hour-plus of hot air.