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Brinkley Family

004 00:01:08 Dialogue: “Like his daddy was”
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Timecode: 00:01:08

Dialogue: “Like his daddy was”

We can’t verify that Brinkley’s daddy was a doctor, but he always said he was. Brinkley cited his father’s profession as inspiration for his own. If he was a doctor at all, Brinkey’s daddy would have almost certainly been the sort of poor “country doctor” common in the 1800s.  At that time, being a doctor …

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We can’t verify that Brinkley’s daddy was a doctor, but he always said he was. Brinkley cited his father’s profession as inspiration for his own. If he was a doctor at all, Brinkey’s daddy would have almost certainly been the sort of poor “country doctor” common in the 1800s.  At that time, being a doctor wasn’t the distinguished profession it later became (largely due to the efforts of the American Medical Association).  On the other hand, sometimes Brinkley claimed his daddy had a medical degree from Davidson College in Charlotte.  As Lee wrote, “(t)his is highly unlikely, however, as attending college in the antebellum South was expensive and confined largely to the plantation and urban aristocracy who could afford it, not poor mountain folk.”

007 00:01:26 Dialogue: “He married a pretty young woman”

Timecode: 00:01:26

Dialogue: “He married a pretty young woman”

All true (they married August 23, 1913), but actually this was his second marriage. His first marriage was to Sally Wike on January 27, 1907. According to Wood, Brinkley met Sally Wike at the funeral for his Aunt Sally. Since Aunt Sally died on December 25, 1906, that would make their courtship pretty brief: about …

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All true (they married August 23, 1913), but actually this was his second marriage. His first marriage was to Sally Wike on January 27, 1907. According to Wood, Brinkley met Sally Wike at the funeral for his Aunt Sally. Since Aunt Sally died on December 25, 1906, that would make their courtship pretty brief: about one month. Again according to Wood, this marriage produced three daughters and ended when Sally left him.

Incidentally, Minnie and John also married after an exceptionally brief courtship (four days).

081 00:11:39 Dialogue: “When I left my little cabin”
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Timecode: 00:11:39

Dialogue: “When I left my little cabin”

Brinkley was specifically from Beta, North Carolina.

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Brinkley was specifically from Beta, North Carolina.

082 00:11:43 Dialogue: “I’d known very few”
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Timecode: 00:11:43

Dialogue: “I’d known very few”

According to Brinkley himself (who else are you supposed to believe when it comes to the personal details of a life that can’t be otherwise verified?), he indeed grew up in these conditions.

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According to Brinkley himself (who else are you supposed to believe when it comes to the personal details of a life that can’t be otherwise verified?), he indeed grew up in these conditions.

083 00:11:51 Image: Brinkley’s mother
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Timecode: 00:11:51

Image: Brinkley’s mother

John R. Brinkley was born a bastard. This image of a photo of his birth mother, Sarah Candace Burnett, who was impregnated by an unknown man outside of wedlock. The boy was named after and raised by his uncle John Brinkley, married to the aunt of his birth mother. (Did you follow that? No, we …

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John R. Brinkley was born a bastard. This image of a photo of his birth mother, Sarah Candace Burnett, who was impregnated by an unknown man outside of wedlock. The boy was named after and raised by his uncle John Brinkley, married to the aunt of his birth mother. (Did you follow that? No, we didn’t either, but this appears to be correct.)

084 00:11:57 Image: Brinkley as a boy
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Timecode: 00:11:57

Image: Brinkley as a boy

This is a photo of young Brinkley included in The Life of a Man.

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This is a photo of young Brinkley included in The Life of a Man.

085 00:12:01 Image: Brinkley’s father
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Timecode: 00:12:01

Image: Brinkley’s father

This is a photo of Brinkley’s father included in The Life of a Man.

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This is a photo of Brinkley’s father included in The Life of a Man.

091 00:12:41 Image: Baby boy and Minnie

Timecode: 00:12:41

Image: Baby boy and Minnie

In other happy news, the Brinkleys were pulling in over $1 million a year during this period (1928-1930). We’re not mentioning this because we don’t want you thinking about how much money he’s making right now. We want you thinking about his accomplishments and success, yes; but not exactly in financial terms.

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In other happy news, the Brinkleys were pulling in over $1 million a year during this period (1928-1930). We’re not mentioning this because we don’t want you thinking about how much money he’s making right now. We want you thinking about his accomplishments and success, yes; but not exactly in financial terms.

094 00:13:41 Image: Roses
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Timecode: 00:13:41

Image: Roses

We play up Brinkley’s verified love of flowers, especially roses, whenever we can because it makes him seem like a bit of a romantic.

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We play up Brinkley’s verified love of flowers, especially roses, whenever we can because it makes him seem like a bit of a romantic.

095 00:13:52 Dialogue: “Mr. Thurston”

Timecode: 00:13:52

Dialogue: “Mr. Thurston”

Mr. Thurston the flower seller is invented.

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Mr. Thurston the flower seller is invented.

096 00:13:56 Dialogue: “A tutor”

Timecode: 00:13:56

Dialogue: “A tutor”

Johnny Boy indeed had a tutor named Lowell Brown, a former grade school principal.

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Johnny Boy indeed had a tutor named Lowell Brown, a former grade school principal.

097 00:14:04 Dialogue: “He is gonna make a man”

Timecode: 00:14:04

Dialogue: “He is gonna make a man”

This line is borrowed from the last ever letter Brinkley wrote Minnie in 1942. (See also: note 306 for more on “the last love letter.”)

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This line is borrowed from the last ever letter Brinkley wrote Minnie in 1942. (See also: note 306 for more on “the last love letter.”)

136 00:23:28 Image: Archival of Brinkley

Timecode: 00:23:28

Image: Archival of Brinkley

This archival imagery is not of the Brinkleys in Milford; it is from a film made in 1934 about Brinkley’s fishing exploits titled “Making A World’s Record.”

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This archival imagery is not of the Brinkleys in Milford; it is from a film made in 1934 about Brinkley’s fishing exploits titled “Making A World’s Record.”

138 00:23:51 Dialogue: “They revoked both”

Timecode: 00:23:51

Dialogue: “They revoked both”

It’s more accurate to say that the FRC declined to renew his radio license. The FRC decision was made on Friday the 13th(!) of June 1930. The vote was 3-2. Also, Brinkley appealed both of these decisions and the appeals process went on for a few more months, but we’re leaving all that our for …

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It’s more accurate to say that the FRC declined to renew his radio license. The FRC decision was made on Friday the 13th(!) of June 1930. The vote was 3-2. Also, Brinkley appealed both of these decisions and the appeals process went on for a few more months, but we’re leaving all that our for brevity since his appeals failed anyway.

141 00:25:14 Image: Brinkley recording a record for his son

Timecode: 00:25:14

Image: Brinkley recording a record for his son

This audio is from a record album Brinkley recorded for his son in Chicago in 1933; it’s not from his last broadcast at KFKB, which is strongly implied in this sequence.

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This audio is from a record album Brinkley recorded for his son in Chicago in 1933; it’s not from his last broadcast at KFKB, which is strongly implied in this sequence.

142 00:25:17 Image: Record album spinning

Timecode: 00:25:17

Image: Record album spinning

The “Last Words” inscription on this record doesn’t make any literal sense; we imagined it in order to better invoke the seriousness of this blow to Brinkley’s life work, and to reinscribe the theme of Brinkley wanting his son to hear it after he is dead.

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The “Last Words” inscription on this record doesn’t make any literal sense; we imagined it in order to better invoke the seriousness of this blow to Brinkley’s life work, and to reinscribe the theme of Brinkley wanting his son to hear it after he is dead.

210 00:39:13 Image: Fancy Brinkleys

Timecode: 00:39:13

Image: Fancy Brinkleys

Note the life-size portrait of Brinkley in naval uniform. For some reason he was named an Admiral in the “Kansas Navy,” and on his yacht he often wore a uniform befitting that honor. The cap and the sleeves of the jacket bear the Kansas State seal!

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Note the life-size portrait of Brinkley in naval uniform. For some reason he was named an Admiral in the “Kansas Navy,” and on his yacht he often wore a uniform befitting that honor. The cap and the sleeves of the jacket bear the Kansas State seal!

211 00:39:24 Image: Fancy Brinkleys

Timecode: 00:39:24

Image: Fancy Brinkleys

Look closely and you’ll see that Minnie’s eyes have been scribbled out in blue pen. Weird. We looked into the book Brinkley is reading; it’s Behind the Ballots, a 1938 memoir written by James Farley, an influential New Deal politician. I’m not sure why he’s posing with it, as Brinkley was vehemently opposed to almost …

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Look closely and you’ll see that Minnie’s eyes have been scribbled out in blue pen. Weird. We looked into the book Brinkley is reading; it’s Behind the Ballots, a 1938 memoir written by James Farley, an influential New Deal politician. I’m not sure why he’s posing with it, as Brinkley was vehemently opposed to almost everything the New Deal stood for. He liked to pay lip service to the idea of government helping the poor, at least when he was running for governor during the Depression. But Brinkley’s real beliefs, stated over and over, were of the “men need to pull themselves up” variety.

However, Farley was born very poor around the same time as Brinkley, and by the 1930s he had risen to earn the title of “political kingmaker”; perhaps Brinkley simply appreciated the enormous power Farley had gained. Anyway, none of this is important.

236 00:46:20 Image: True Happiness
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Timecode: 00:46:20

Image: True Happiness

An advertisement from one of his Doctor Books.

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An advertisement from one of his Doctor Books.

282 01:03:23 Dialogue: “To a woman named Sally Wike”
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Timecode: 01:03:23

Dialogue: “To a woman named Sally Wike”

Sally came up at the trial, but only in a minor way in trying to get Brinkley’s early life story straight. It’s not true that Sally doesn’t appear in The Life of a Man; it is true that she doesn’t appear in this film. We’ve withheld information about her both because it didn’t seem too …

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Sally came up at the trial, but only in a minor way in trying to get Brinkley’s early life story straight. It’s not true that Sally doesn’t appear in The Life of a Man; it is true that she doesn’t appear in this film. We’ve withheld information about her both because it didn’t seem too relevant and because keeping it from you until this point only adds to the sense that Brinkley’s life story – and thus, this film – has been pretty untrustworthy.

283 01:03:50 Dialogue: “You were nowhere near Johns Hopkins in 1902”
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Timecode: 01:03:50

Dialogue: “You were nowhere near Johns Hopkins in 1902”

We’re condensing a lot into this section, but it is true that Brinkley’s early life selling snake oil both with and without his first wife Sally was an important part of the evidence presented in this trial.

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We’re condensing a lot into this section, but it is true that Brinkley’s early life selling snake oil both with and without his first wife Sally was an important part of the evidence presented in this trial.

306 01:12:02 Image: Love letter

Timecode: 01:12:02

Image: Love letter

This letter is actually a compilation of three different (real) letters Brinkley wrote to his wife around the same time. We cut them up and stitched them back together in Photoshop before printing it out for use in this scene.

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This letter is actually a compilation of three different (real) letters Brinkley wrote to his wife around the same time. We cut them up and stitched them back together in Photoshop before printing it out for use in this scene.

314 01:15:01 Text: Only interview

Timecode: 01:15:01

Text: Only interview

This is the only filmed interview that we know of. Also note that the interviewer is James Reardon, one of our expert interviews; the interview was given in March of 1976. “Johnny Boy” (aka John Brinkley III) committed suicide about six months later.

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This is the only filmed interview that we know of. Also note that the interviewer is James Reardon, one of our expert interviews; the interview was given in March of 1976. “Johnny Boy” (aka John Brinkley III) committed suicide about six months later.

315 01:15:21 Text: Minnie lived alone

Timecode: 01:15:21

Text: Minnie lived alone

All true. The issue of Minnie’s belief is obviously not something we can verify by talking to her ourselves, but several sources indicate her continued claim that her the goat gland cure was “ahead of its time” for decades after her husband’s death.

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All true. The issue of Minnie’s belief is obviously not something we can verify by talking to her ourselves, but several sources indicate her continued claim that her the goat gland cure was “ahead of its time” for decades after her husband’s death.

316 01:16:03 Dialogue: “Johnny Boy…”

Timecode: 01:16:03

Dialogue: “Johnny Boy…”

We have no reason to believe that John Brinkley Jr. had this record playing at this time.

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We have no reason to believe that John Brinkley Jr. had this record playing at this time.

317 01:16:28 Image: Johnny Boy drinking

Timecode: 01:16:28

Image: Johnny Boy drinking

“Daunted by repeated failures, Johnny turned to alcohol . . .” (Lee, 235).

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“Daunted by repeated failures, Johnny turned to alcohol . . .” (Lee, 235).

318 01:16:43 Text: Suicide

Timecode: 01:16:43

Text: Suicide

“. . . finally overwhelmed, took his own life. On October 23, 1976, police found the body of John R. Brinkley III in his home. A 9mm German Luger was in his left hand. A bullet had pierced the left side of his head and exited behind his right ear” (Lee, 235).

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“. . . finally overwhelmed, took his own life. On October 23, 1976, police found the body of John R. Brinkley III in his home. A 9mm German Luger was in his left hand. A bullet had pierced the left side of his head and exited behind his right ear” (Lee, 235).