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Huxley on Huxley

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Huxley wrote BRAVE NEW WORLD in 1933. Laura and Aldous maintained a compelling personal and professional union until his death in 1963. Laura Huxley continued writing until her death in 2007. In the 1950’s, the Huxley home was the center of the artistic and intellectual avant-garde of Los Angeles.The Huxleys passionate search to find higher levels of consciousness included their controversial experimentation with psychedelic drugs. Their revolutionary and provocative work in the 50’s and 60’s had a major influence on contemporary cultural history.


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Running Time: 58 min.
Subject(s): American History, Arts and Culture, Biography, Creative, History, Literature, Media, Romance see all »
Language(s): English
Director(s):
Producer(s): Mary Ann Braubach
Cinematographer: Chris Burrill, Nancy see all »
Editor(s): Josh Beal
Production Company: Jonathan Dana

Press

  • Huxley on Huxley documents a powerful connection between writer and muse
    Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times
  • Huxley on Huxley offers a compelling glimpse of Laura Huxley’s life with literary giant Aldous Huxley
    Susan Granger
  • Heady stuff
    KILLER FILM
  • The endearing documentary Huxley on Huxley (out on DVD) explores the author’s creative years (and) the influence of Huxley on the more thoughtful wing of the ‘60s counterculture
    David Luhrssen, EXPRESSMILWAUKEE.COM
  • HUXLEY ON HUXLEY offers a compelling glimpse of Laura Huxley's life with Aldous Huxley
    IDA , documentary.org
  • A recommended release and one that’d be good to pick up
    DVD REPORT
  • Mary Ann Braubach beautifully crafted a unique doc about the fringy, inspiring woman, Laura Huxley. From a conservative upbringing to a swinging marriage, “Huxley on Huxley” is the story of love, loss, sex, drugs, and bouncy balls. The farthest from cliché, you’ll cry a bit, laugh a bit, and fall totally in love with Laura Huxley. I cannot recommend this film enough
    BUST MAGAZINE

Festival & Awards

  • Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, Netherlands - 2008
  • Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, Greece - 2009
  • FIPA, France - 2009
  • Women in Film Festival, USA - 2009

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  • Synopsis

    Laura Huxley’s candid recollections offer a compelling glimpse into her life with one of the greatest writers and visionaries of the 20th century.

    Laura was a teenage violin virtuoso who met Aldous soon after leaving the concert stage for Hollywood.  His 1932 novel Brave New World established him as an undisputed literary giant.  They married in 1956.  Sharing an interest in the evolution of human consciousness, the Huxleys pioneered the use of LSD.  Their lives and work impacted generations and gave shape to an important chapter of American cultural history.

    The Huxley home in the Hollywood Hills was a hotspot for west coast avant-garde and attracted luminaries as Orson Welles, Igor Stravinsky, George Cukor and Christopher Isherwood.

    Laura guided Aldous through LSD and Mescaline experimentations that inspired his final novel, Island.  These explorations set the stage for the 60s.

    It was in 1961 the Huxleys began experimenting with fellow seekers Dick Alpert (now Ram Dass) and Timothy Leary. Aldous’ lectures on the Human Potential Movement led to the founding of the Esalen Institute in 1961, where it attracted seekers of expanded states of human consciousness.

    The film is narrated by Peter Coyote and includes interviews with Laura Huxley, drummer John Densmore (whose band, the Doors, was named after Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception), spiritual leader Ram Dass, Esalen co- founder Michael Murphy, artist Don Bachardy, philosopher Huston Smith and actor Nick Nolte, star of the adaptation of Huxley’s novel The Genius and The Goddess.

    Huxley on Huxley is an intimate portrait of a compelling personal and professional union.

  • Aldous Huxley

    Aldous Huxley, born in England in 1894, is best known for his dystopian novel Brave New World, a dark vision of a highly technological society of the future.  He published over 50 books, novels, travel books, histories, poems, plays, screenplays, and essays on philosophy, arts, sociology, religion, and morals.

    His family was considered the blue-bloods of English intellectualism, well known for scientific and literary achievements: Huxley’s father, Leonard, was a renowned editor and essayist, and his highly educated mother ran her own boarding school.  His grandfather. T.H. Huxley, worked with Charles Darwin, his brother, Julian Huxley, a biologist, founded UNESCO, and his half-brother, Andrew Huxley, won the Nobel Prize in 1963 for his work in physiology. When he was sixteen Aldous Huxley went to England’s prestigious Eton school and was trained in medicine, the arts, and science. From 1913 to 1916 he attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he excelled academically and edited literary journals. Huxley was considered a prodigy, being exceptionally intelligent and creative.

    Huxley’s first book, Crome Yellow, was published in 1921, followed by Antic Hay (1923), Those Barren Leaves (1925), Point Counter Point (1928), and then in 1932 his most famous work, Brave New World.

    With World War II on the horizon, Huxley, a committed pacifist, moved in 1937 with the guru-figure and intellectual, Gerald Heard, to the United States.  The mild Californian climate would also help his eyesight, a longtime ailment.  Huxley, Heard, and the young English novelist Christopher Isherwood became students of the Vedanta Society, exploring Eastern religions and philosophy.   His literary interests also broadened from fiction to Hollywood screenplays, and essays.

    Huxley’s later works include After Many a Summer Dies The Swan (1939), Time Must Have a Stop (1944), and The Devils of Loudun (1952), a brilliantly detailed psychological study of a historical incident in which a group of 17th-century French nuns were allegedly the victims of demonic possession.  This was later adapted into a film by director Kenneth Anger.  He also wrote The Doors of Perception (1954), a book about his experiences with the hallucinogenic drug mescaline.  Soon after, Huxley became something of a guru among seekers of higher consciousness and those interested in Eastern philosophy.

    Much of the last decade of Huxley’s life was spent exploring hallucinogenics and their potential to expand human consciousness, as well as writing books, essays, and articles on topics that are still relevant today, including mass consumption, overpopulation, and increasing warfare. Huxley’s lifelong preoccupation with the negative and positive impacts of science and technology on 20th-century life make him one of the most renowned writers and intellectuals of that century.

    In his final novel, Island (1962), Huxley created a utopian, free-spirited paradise, the opposite of Brave New World.  Island’s warning about religious fanaticisms, massive military power, and the geopolitical importance of oil were prophetic.

    On November 22, 1963, a few hours after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as Huxley lay dying of cancer, he wrote on a slip of paper, “100mcg LSD intramuscular.” His wife Laura administered the dose to him and served one last time as his guide, leading him peacefully from this life to another.

     

  • Laura Huxley

    Born in 1911, Laura Archera lived and moved in the universe of the violin from the age of ten.  She was a child prodigy, leaving school at the age of fourteen to study the violin and even performed for the Queen of Italy at that young age.  She studied in Berlin, Paris and Rome, where she earned a Professor of Music degree at the age of 21.

    Laura made her American debut at Carnegie Hall, playing Mozart’s violin concerto n.5 and continued her music education at the Curtis Institute of Philadelphia

    While studying in America, World War II broke out and Italy joined the Axis Powers.  With the Nazi bombings of civilian ships, Laura was stranded in the United States as an “enemy alien,” and lived with Virginia Pfeiffer, the sister-in-law of Hemingway.  They remained friends until Virginia’s death in 1973.  Laura later stated that she felt she had “never been treated so well” in her life as during that time.  She played in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra from 1944 until 1947, at which time she left the world of music and worked as a film editor for RKO.  She met her future husband, Aldous Huxley, when she asked him to write a film based on the Palio, a historic Italian Horse Race in Siena, Italy.  The film was never made but they became great friends.

    In 1949 the multi-talented Laura turned her attention to the field of psychology.

    During the fifties Laura worked as a psychotherapist, a lecturer, and a seminarist of the Human Potential Movement, in which she remained involved until the day she died.

    In 1956, a year after his first wife Maria’s death, Laura became both Aldous’ wife and his muse.  Aldous’ eclectic circle of friends embraced the newlyweds and the Huxley home became the center for the artistic and intellectual avante garde of 1950’s Hollywood.  Their tradition of Saturday lunches included many famous expatriates like Christopher Isherwood, George Cukor, Yehudi Menuhin, Igor Stravinsky, Gerald Heard, and Ernest Hemingway’s sister-in-law, Ginny Pfeiffer.

    Together Laura and Aldous explored ways of opening the mind to new levels of consciousness and became prominent pioneers of the Psychedelic Movement, always advocating the use of psychedelics in a controlled environment for personal enrichment and always warning against the dangers of the mindless and indiscriminate use of drugs.

    While married, Aldous wrote Island and Laura wrote You Are Not The Target, both of which became national bestsellers. Throughout her life and out of her dedication to the Human Potential Movement she wrote a number of other books including, Between Heaven and Earth, One A Day Reason To Be Happy, and The Child of Your Dreams.

    Laura Huxley passed away in 2007.

     

  • Production Notes

    I first met Laura Huxley when she was running a non-profit program at my son’s preschool. I couldn’t believe the strong, confident woman with a head of white hair standing before me was Aldous’ wife. As our friendship progressed, a thought occurred to me: I should make a film about the Huxleys. So much had been talked about on Aldous, the author, but what about his private life and his equally accomplished, Italian-born wife? I proposed the documentary to Laura and to my surprise, she sparked to the idea quickly. It was actually great timing. Her publisher was urging her to write an autobiography, but she didn’t want to spend the next year chained to a desk. That decision led to the genesis of our film.

    Little did I know, making the documentary would take me on a journey of seven years. When I first started, I did massive research on them, reading all of Huxleys’ books, listening to audio interviews with Laura and navigating through her thick accent. The more I learned about this amazing woman, the larger than life she became. I remember during an interview, she told the photographer to take pictures of only her right side because she had sagging skin on her left neck due to years of playing the violin. You couldn’t tell but Laura was self-conscious about it.There I sat, thinking, this woman was a concert violinist who once performed before the Queen of Italy, a woman who started a cultural movement with her husband and wrote a slew of books, and she’s self-conscious? That was the first time I got to see Laura’s lighter, sillier side. She was an extremely funny person and peeling behind the prim and proper exterior was one of the highlights of my work.

    Not that it was the only highlight worth mentioning. In undertaking this endeavor, I had the chance to meet some of Huxleys’ friends — Michael Murphy, Don Bachardy, Huston Smith, Ram Dass to name a few. Hearing their recounts first hand is like stepping into the Huxley world and before I knew it, I was entranced with their impassioned movement and beliefs.

    Throughout the seven years, I had a chance to celebrate several of Laura’s birthdays with her. I shot her 90th birthday dinner, then 95th and then finally, her 96th. It was her last. Michael Murphy was ecstatic when he heard about the film because he believed Aldous and Laura’s contribution to society and California’s cultural history should be known. Certainly, Nick Nolte and John Densmore felt the way same. And that is my hope for people who find themselves in Laura’s story: To enlighten a new generation of audience to the Huxleys’ fantastic achievements and their fascinating life together.

    – Mary Ann Braubach

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