The songwriter of rock & roll classics like "This Magic Moment," "Teenager in Love," "Viva Las Vegas,"--yes, Elvis Presley's hit-- and "Save the Last Dance for Me," Jerome Felder, AKA Doc Pomus, was an American original. A Brooklyn boy, crippled by polio as a child, he was big hearted enough to charm the girl he loved as well as just about everyone in the music industry of his time. You may not remember his name now as much as the music he sang and wrote, but the documentary directed by Peter Miller and Will Hecter, and co-produced by his daughter Sharyn Felder, AKA Doc Pomus, will keep you humming tunes you know and love.
The origl idea was to make a film about the Brill Building, ground zero for songwriters from Tin Pan Alley to rock. Sharyn Felder was eager to make a film about her father: "I always knew my dad was a subject," said Felder in a recent interview, "for a book, a movie; a Broadway musical now in the works." Doc Pomus died in 1991 at age 65, leaving behind a rich legacy of recordings. As the filmmakers researched, footage serendipitously became available. When Felder worked with Hal Willner on a Celebrate Brooklyn festival, friends came forward with long lost material or better recordings. And Doc Pomus kept journals, intimate writings of what was going on in his mind. Lou Reed reads them in the film so you get an internal voice to go along with the words of his brother, Raoul Felder, Dr. John, B.B. King, Dion, Shawn Colvin and many others. Although Doc Pomus always said that his songs were not autobiographical, the filmmakers found by digging through the archives, it was not hard to see his life there: "We found the story in the songs to build the emotional life of our character." This week marks the documentary's New York theatrical premiere with a party at The Cutting Room, and the naming of a street in Williamsburg for Doc Pomus.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.