Hugh Hefner's After Dark: Speaking Out In America

Hugh Hefner's After Dark: Speaking Out In America movie poster

Available on iTunes  

Brigitte Berman
100 minutes
Qualicum Film Productions Inc.
Release Date
April 2020


The freedom to speak out, to freely express one’s individual ideas, and to be accepted for being different resonates at the heart of Hugh Hefner’s After Dark: Speaking Out in America – a documentary that features the most cutting-edge personalities, open and frank dialogue about pressing social concerns, and the most captivating performances from Hugh Hefner’s landmark TV series, Playboy’s Penthouse (one season, 1959-1960) and Playboy After Dark (two seasons, 1968-1970). Unlike other variety shows on network TV in the late 1950s and 60s, Hefner’s shows, which were syndicated across the U.S. and in a few major cities in Canada, embraced freedom of speech, racial equality, giving a voice to human rights and other important social issues. Hefner was not afraid to discuss ideas, present views or invite performers that were considered taboo on network television at the time. With the artists, their songs, their comedy and their spirit, these shows highlighted the rebellious feelings and groundbreaking ideas of the times, featuring controversial and iconic figures like Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis Jr., Lenny Bruce, Pete Seeger, Bill Russell, Moms Mabley, James Brown, Taj Mahal, Linda Ronstadt, Jim Brown, Tony Bennett, Joan Baez, Michael Wadleigh, and many more. The shows also dared to present an uncensored social and political consciousness that helped transform social values in America. The influence of these shows is discussed by prominent TV personalities Bill Maher and Whoopi Goldberg. It is this progressive thinking that is explored in Hugh Hefner’s After Dark: Speaking Out in America. The voices who spoke out about human rights more than fifty years ago continue to speak out today. And the issues dear to the hearts of human rights activists then, are still in the forefront today. The struggle for civil and human rights and for freedom of expression continues as the passionate activists from both the past and the present illustrate that even though much has changed over the passing decades, so much more still remains to be accomplished in the complex and challenging times we live in today.

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