This excellent documentary traces the careers and political evolutions of four "New York intellectuals": Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Howe and Irving Kristol. They all started as anti-Stalinist leftists at City College of NY in the Thirties; wrote for "Partisan Review," "Dissent," "Commentary" and other left-wing and liberal publications; published erudite books, and received teaching positions at prestige universities. And, except for Howe, they all moved well to the right as they got older.
All of this is fascinating, especially the transition to the right, and their collision with the New Left in the Sixties. By that time, they'd all gotten recognition and prestigious university appointments--in Bob Dylan's words, they now "had something to protect." They're uniformly critical of the student radicals who sought them out in the early days of the New Left. Glazer, author of "Beyond the Melting Pot," refused to support the "Free Speech Movement" at UC Berkeley, while Bell and Howe have special disdain for Tom Hayden of SDS (Howe says "he had something of the Commissar about him," while Bell calls him "the Richard Nixon of the Left"). The (aging) New Leftists interviewed have equal scorn for them--Hayden says that they were spouting off while "I was going to jail for my beliefs" and dismisses Howe pithily: "I wasn't raised in a household where everyone shouted at each other." A former Berkeley student says, "Their idea of protest was to write a letter to the editor." Only Howe (who translated Yiddish poetry and wrote a highly regarded history of Jews in NYC) remained faithful to Socialism. Glazer and Bell moved to the right of the middle, while Kristol became a friend and adviser to Reagan and the darling of the Neoconservative movement, and gets plaudits on this film from William F. Buckley Jr. and Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
I found this documentary highly satisfying. Even though all of them are or were old enough to be my father, I strongly identified with their poor and working-class NYC upbringings, and admired their dedication to intellectual life. The film does a great job of evoking the intellectual/literary NYC salons of the Forties and Fifties. It's also not without humor.