In 1970 a 21-year old hippie millionaire by the name of Michael Brody Jr. announced to the world he was going to give away his twenty-five million dollar inheritance to anyone who asked for it. His plan was to teach the world all about love and peace. Three years later, after receiving thousands of letters and proving to the world that he didn’t have the money to give, he was dead. Keith Maitland’s latest documentary, Dear Mr. Brody, take a look at the life of Brody Jr., and more importantly, the letters he received.
It’s not surprising if you haven’t heard of Michael Brody Jr. before. His bizarre story seems to have fallen between the cracks of time, and finding information about him is hard. There’s not even a Wikipedia page about him, which is unusual for a story that was all over the news 50 years ago. At the time, the Oleomargarine heir claimed he was worth millions and wanted to give something back to the people.
Brody Jr. gave out the phone numbers and addresses for his office and his home, all to prove his offer was legitimate. When the letters started arriving Brody Jr. knew he had been heard, but eventually his promises didn’t pan out. The bank refused to cash the cheques, because Brody Jr. didn’t have access to the money he claimed to have access to. Shortly afterwards, his life went off the rails. That’s thanks to a combination of drugs and mental issues, leading to him eventually committing suicide.
Michael Brody Jr.’s story in itself is interesting. This includes his attempt at landing a helicopter on the White House lawn so he could try bribing President Nixon to end the Vietnam War. But outside of that, there really isn’t a lot to tell. Maitland instead focuses more on the letters themself. Fifty years after they were written, thousands of letters were found. Maitland and his crew started tracking down some of the people who wrote them. It’s a fascinating look at why some of these people wrote the letters in the first place. And it looks at where they ended up after pleading with Brody Jr. for help.
Dear Mr. Brody is a documentary that will keep you glued to the screen. It shows insights into Brody Jr.’s life thanks to interviews with his wife, son and friends. It shows television interviews of Brody Jr. himself in the 1970’s. And it moves to interviews with the letter writers. With all that, there is plenty of like about the film. Maitland even stages some of the letters around period-specific actors reading them to give the documentary a more dramatic feel. In the end there are really multiple stories being told, with some of the letters being the more heart-warming than others. When the film ends many will wonder what difference Brody Jr.’s money would have made in the lives of those who wrote him. But that’s if he truly had the money to give.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: documentary
- Release Date: 3/8/2022
- Directed by: Keith Maitland
- Starring: Melissa Robyn Glassman, Michael Aronin, michael brody jr., Renee Brody
- Produced by: Keith Maitland, Megan Gilbride, Melissa Robyn Glassman, Sarah Wilson
- Written by: Keith Maitland
- Studio: Alive Enterprises, Go-Valley, Pressman Film, Twelve21 Productions