Unstoppable Irving Fields (2016)
Cast includes: Irving Fields, Ruth Fields, Tony Bennett, Michael Feinstein, Larry King, Joe Franklin, Regis Philbin, Bill Bradley,
Director: Marty Feinstein
Genre: Documentary (90 minutes)
“What’s it like to turn 99 and still be working?” Irving’s fans are amazed. Even Irving is amazed. “Gotta get to 100.” When we see Irving’s flying fingers on the keyboard, we get a hint of why fans travel so far just to see him. “I’m 99. And I’m fine. I have a martini. Before dinnertime,” Irving sings about being 99 as he walks down the street… albeit, not very fast and with a walker. Several years ago Marty Feinberg discovered Irving Fields and decided to make a movie about him. So he followed Irving around with a camera for a couple of years. “Irving is still like a kid… having fun every day,” says Tony Bennett, who is junior to Irving by a decade.
Feinstein goes to the archives to give us a picture of what Irving’s world was like growing up… no Empire State Building, not many cars, women couldn’t vote. The house where Irving lived is still there, but the streets are paved now. Irving had his first band at age 14, playing at weddings. “We only knew 5 songs, but it didn’t matter because everyone was so drunk they didn’t notice.” When Irving won first prize of $50 on the Fred Allen Show, he went to the bank, exchanged the 50 for ones and threw all of them into the air when he got home. Irving’s big sister Peppy Fields was the one who introduced him to professional show business. She was a singer, comedian and talk show host. The two of them became an act until WWII broke them up. After the war, Irving found a drummer and base player, and they became the Irving Fields Trio. That was the start of the Irving Fields most remember, with a string of hit songs and albums, including “Miami Beach Rhumba,” “Managua, Nicaragua,” “Bagels and Bongos,” More Bagels and Bongos,” and more and more. Irving was the original fusion artist… when he first heard Latin music, he couldn’t resist combining it with the Jewish music from his own heritage… and that opened the door to hundreds of great collaborations.
However, you shouldn’t think Irving’s career has been one long string of hits and celebrity. The 70s and 80s took a toll on many musicians and famous venues. Irving was old enough to retire, but he didn’t want to. The thing that makes Irving’s story inspirational is seeing how he perseveres. When he’d call restaurants asking for jobs, he’d get a lot of hang-ups. So he’d call back pretending to be Irving’s agent, and they’d talk to him. And here’s the thing… Irving has always been Irving’s best agent. That’s why he’s unstoppable, even as he celebrates his 100th birthday. Unstoppable Irving Fields is entertaining, poignant, inspirational and funny. It’s a crazy, fun mix of old footage, interviews, and footage of Irving being Irving. Just because he’s a century old, don’t think keeping up with him is a piece of cake. He performs nearly every day at restaurants, schools, concert halls… anywhere with a piano. When a fractured hip landed him in a rehab center, he hated it… “Full of old people”… until he discovered the piano. “Age is only a number, and my number’s unlisted,” says Larry King, quoting Irving. Irving is convinced that his career is resurging. But it helps that he has a great sense of humor. We listen to him on a call, as he pretends to be Irving’s agent calling about work… “No. No. He’s not dead.” He gets a big kick out of saying that.
4 popped kernels
The country’s oldest working pianist shows us his secrets of longevity
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: TV & Direct to Video
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Having a successful career at 100
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought Provoking