Essay On Death

In 1964, National Educational Television decided to make a program as a memorial to President Kennedy. Since he had been assassinated just a year before, it seemed unnecessary to recite the events of his death again. Executive Producer, Brice Howard, discussed with Hurwitz the possibility of making a film for television that, instead of engaging the assassination head on, would deal with the inevitablity of mortality and its trauma. Essay On Death uses a story of a camping trip by a father and son to weave the thoughts about death that intercede in our everyday affairs. The commentary is made up of writings, ancient and modern,  on life and death. Beautifully realized, it succeeds at a task that mainstream television rarely attempts.

This film was preserved at the George Eastman Museum.

Leo Hurwitz for National Educational Television




77 minutes



SeeHide Full Credits

Direction: Leo Hurwitz

Produced by: Kurt Davis

Script: Leo Hurwitz, Brice Howard

Camera: Manfred Kirchheimer, D’Arcy Marsh

Editing: Leo Hurwitz, Peggy Lawson

Music: Ulysses Kay

Narrators: Christopher Plummer, Helen Gahagan Douglas, Morris Carnovsky

Cast: James Broderick, Allen Markey, Jane Zecher