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In a culture frozen by the social mores of the Cold War era, Neal Cassady — a Denver boy who was the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s On the Road — burned bright. Allen Ginsberg branded Cassady an icon of the Beat Generation, a movement that Cassady’s wife, Carolyn, derided as a first-rate marketing campaign, says local filmmaker Heather Dalton, director of Neal Cassady: The Denver Years, which premieres tonight at the Sie FilmCenter. The film was produced by Joshua Hassel.

Dalton, who has been working on the film for seven years, describes it as a love letter to Cassady and the city of Denver. “A lot of people perceive [Cassady] as a one-dimensional character, the archetype of American cool,” says Dalton, who guides viewers through some of the lesser-known parts of Cassady’s life, including his childhood in a Larimer Street flophouse, his genuine desire to provide for his family and his iffy aspirations to write. “Seeing so much destruction as a child, he embraced life, almost courting death, truly living life in a way that a lot of people are unable to embrace.”

The film screens at 7 p.m. as part of DocNight at the Sie, 2510 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are $15 for non-members and $12 for members. For more information, go to or call 303-595-3456
Thu., June 26, 7 p.m., 2014


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