Pennebaker, D. A.

Pennebaker, D. A.

(Donn Alan Pennebaker), 1925–2019, pioneering documentary filmmaker, b. Evanston, Ill. His first film, Daybreak Express (1958), is a five-minute short detailing New York's doomed Third Avenue Subway, set to Duke EllingtonEllington, Duke
(Edward Kennedy Ellington), 1899–1974, American jazz musician and composer, b. Washington, D.C. Ellington made his first professional appearance as a jazz pianist in 1916.
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's song of that name. Subsequently concentrating on the worlds of rock music and politics, he made more than 40 documentaries, becoming one of the creators of a distinctly American cinéma vérité after the development of handheld 16-mm cameras with synchronous sound allowed filmmakers to interact freely with their subjects. Dont Look Back (1967), which chronicles Bob DylanDylan, Bob
, 1941–, American singer and composer, b. Duluth, Minn., as Robert Zimmerman. Dylan learned guitar at the age of 10 and autoharp and harmonica at 15. After a rebellious youth, he moved to New York City in 1960 and in the early years of the decade began playing
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's first tour of England, is widely considered one of the finest documentaries ever made. His rock and jazz documentaries include Monterey Pop (1968), one of the best live rock-concert films. He also filmed close-up portraits of performers and rock groups, including Jane FondaFonda, Jane,
1937–, American actress, b. New York City; daughter of Henry Fonda and sister of Peter Fonda. First cast in pert and sexy roles, she later distinguished herself in dramatic parts, often as a tough and disillusioned woman.
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 (Jane, 1962), John Lennon (John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, 1969), David BowieBowie, David,
1947–2016, British rock-and-roll singer and songwriter who successfully, merged rock, art, and fashion, b. London as David Robert Jones. After singing with five different bands in the mid-1960s, he scored his first hit with "Space Oddity" (1969), in which he
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 (Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1973), and Elaine StritchStritch, Elaine,
1925–2014, American actress and singer, b. Detroit. Forthright and witty, with a commanding stage presence and a raspy singing voice, she had a long career in show business, and numbers from the musicals she appeared in became signature songs, including
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 (Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, 2004). His earliest political film, Primary (1960), follows the Kennedy and Humphrey presidential primary campaigns; later ones include The Energy War (1978) and The War Room (1993), a look at Bill Clinton's presidential run. From 1976 Pennebaker collaborated with filmmaker Chris Hegedus, whom he married in 1982.


See K. Beattie and T. Griffiths, ed., D. A. Pennebaker: Interviews (2015).

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Pennebaker, D. A. (Donn Alan)

(1930–  ) filmmaker; born in Evanston, Ill. After navy service and starting his own electronics firm, he began making experimental and documentary films, such as Daybreak Express (1953) and Keep on Rockin' (1973).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.