On the Bowery

1956, Documentary, 1h 5m

24 Reviews 250+ Ratings

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Movie Info

Lionel Rogosin's influential documentary centers on the homeless "bums" who frequent New York City's Bowery area. Rogosin focuses on Ray, a former railroad worker, who has recently moved to the Bowery, and still has enough money to buy drinks for his fellow derelicts on his first night there. However, after blacking out, Ray discovers that all his possessions have been stolen. As Ray tries to extricate himself from life on the Bowery, he becomes friends with Gorman, a petty thief.

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Critic Reviews for On the Bowery

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (1)

  • "On the Bowery" offers some of the most indelible faces in an American docudrama, faces ravaged by alcohol and poverty, creased by defeat and self-deception, surrounded by a New York City that does not care. Yet no one on screen asks for pity.

    January 23, 2014 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • On the Bowery runs only 65 minutes, but by the end you can feel skid row in your bones.

    February 16, 2012 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Shot on 16mm in black-and-white with a Bolex camera, the results remain stunningly authentic.

    February 3, 2011 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • This landmark documentary disturbs and compels as much today in a new 35mm restoration as it did when it opened in 1956 to both criticism and acclaim.

    January 20, 2011 | Full Review…
  • As a record of a time and a place in the history of New York, it's essential. As a depiction of men at the bottom of their lives, it has the same sorrowful, accusatory force as a great Depression-era photograph by Dorothea Lange or Walker Evans.

    September 24, 2010 | Rating: A | Full Review…
  • A fine-grained picture of stasis, both on the street and in the faces of lifers shuffling into gin mills and flophouses.

    September 17, 2010 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for On the Bowery

  • Mar 15, 2013
    it's a tough film to watch but an important one too. rogosin was one of the first independent filmmakers in america. his first film shows a bygone skid row section of new york and the men who sleep in missions and on the streets, slaves to demon rum
    Stella D Super Reviewer
  • Sep 20, 2010
    The docufiction "On the Bowery" is best viewed as a look back at a time and place that no longer exists when derelicts would congregate on The Bowery underneath the Third Avenue Elevated tracks in Manhattan. Ray(Ray Salyer) has just returned from far flung New Jersey where he was working on the railroads. Once back in town, he goes drinking with Gorman(Gorman Hendricks). Together, they sell a pair of Ray's pants to get a room for the night but Ray does not make it that far, passing out on the street where he is not alone. Seeing an opportunity, Gorman steals his suitcase which contains Ray's prized fob watch. One way that "On the Bowery" goes wrong is in its unconvincingly staged action(Ray never mentions his lost suitcase again) in a moderately successful attempt to mimic Italian neorealism, according to the making of documentary that followed(I didn't stay for the whole documentary since dinner and a train were calling).(Also mentioned is that the filmmakers were very knowledgeable about alcohol, preferring a watering hole in Greenwich Village.) Even with non-professional actors and real locations, director Lionel Rogosin could not quite match the evocative power of those films due to the slightest of storylines which has little to say on the human condition.
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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