Human Interest

Over his career Jeffrey Lyons has reviewed more than 15,000 movies. But it’s his father’s career and those memories of growing up in New York that he enjoys talking about the most.

Lyons returned to the Sedona International Film Festival for the second year in a row to help introduce not only a pair of films but his longtime friend Elliott Gould, who received the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“‘M*A*S*H’ is my favorite movie that Elliott has done — there’s no film at all like ‘M*A*S*H,’” Lyons said while meeting with the media on Thursday, Feb. 25. “Elliott came along at the right time as the anti-hero. His character broke all the rules.”

Lyons’ career path was partially paved thanks to his father, Leonard, who had a longtime New York newspaper column called the Lyons Den. His dad wrote more than 12,000 columns but unlike others, his was not a gossip column but rather one that focused more on the news side of the entertainment world.

“He knew all the people and they trusted him,” said Lyons, who in the last five years has penned a pair of books about his father’s career. “They knew he wasn’t going to write about who they were going out with.”

Lyons said his parents would throw great parties with the A-list celebrities of the time. In fact, Orson Welles was his father’s best friend. As a child, he recalled one party where he walked through the living room in his pajamas and went straight to Joe DiMaggio, bypassing the other guests, to say hello to his idol. He said DiMaggio was considered a “lightweight” in terms of the guests that night, which also included Ernest Hemingway, Adlai Stevenson, Edgar G. Robinson and Fred Astaire.

Lyons, who co-hosted the movie review show “Sneak Previews” from 1982 to 1996, said he still reviews upward of four movies a week, which he said can often be challenging. Not because of the amount but because some of the movies he has to sit through.

“I’ve always tried to be fair,” he said. “You can never walk out of a movie because I always remember that this is somebody’s work and be respectful of that.”

With the popularity of social media, he was asked what he thought of all the armchair critics who have a Twitter or Facebook account and offer their opinions on movies. While he suggests people check the credentials of the critics they read, he said he welcomes more voices because everyone has their own opinions on what’s good and what’s bad.

“My wife of 43 years doesn’t think the Marx brothers are funny. How can I be married to someone who thinks that way?” he asked, laughing, making the point that everyone’s tastes vary.

Lyons, who lists “The Graduate” as his all-time favorite movie, said there have been few movies that he gave a bad review to but later regretted. One that came to mind was Woody Allen’s 1976 film “The Front.”

“That’s one movie that 40 years later I look back on and wonder what I was thinking,” he said.


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