Five years in the making, Agee documents in colorful, dramatic style the unfolding of a life dedicated to the written word. Perhaps the most versatile American writer of this century, James Agee was a novelist, journalist, short story writer, film critic, poet and screenwriter. His novel “Death in the Family” won the Pulitzer Prize; “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” is considered an American masterpiece; and his screenplay “The African Queen” has been loved by millions.
Agee's story is told by those who knew him best, all fascinating individuals themselves whose remembrances make for compelling documentary: Father James Flye, Agee's mentor and lifelong correspondent, eloquent and aged; Dwight McDonald, poet Robert Fitzgerald, and Walker Evans, photographic collaborator for “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” Agee's three wives speak with often humorous candor about the man, and John Huston's hearty anecdotes reveal the mutual respect that led to their working together on The African Queen.
Throughout the film, the words of Agee himself are featured, and his early life depicted through images from his novels. In what is perhaps the film's most remarkable sequence, Spears, a Tennesseean himself, interviews the surviving sharecropper families who hosted and befriended Agee and Evans during their research for “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.”