All notes filed under:

The Life of a Man

003 00:00:54 Dialogue: “When he stood before the dean of Johns Hopkins”
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Timecode: 00:00:54

Dialogue: “When he stood before the dean of Johns Hopkins”

We can’t verify whether this scene at Johns Hopkins actually happened, but it was a constant feature of Brinkley’s origin story. The language being spoken by the narrator is taken almost verbatim from The Life of A Man, a biography commissioned and paid for by Brinkley (more on that book later). In 1902, Brinkley graduated …

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We can’t verify whether this scene at Johns Hopkins actually happened, but it was a constant feature of Brinkley’s origin story. The language being spoken by the narrator is taken almost verbatim from The Life of A Man, a biography commissioned and paid for by Brinkley (more on that book later). In 1902, Brinkley graduated from high school and he would have been 17 years old on July 8, so it’s feasible that he could have decided to try to enrol in medical school at that time. However, the whole scene feels rather improbable to us, and the “I tried to get legitimate medicine to accept me and they cruelly declined” is also a standard quack cliché.

020 00:04:24 Image: The Life of a Man book
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Image: The Life of a Man book

This is a real book, and sure, it’s a biography. However, there are many reasons to doubt its veracity. It was a work-for-hire: Brinkley paid the author, Clement Wood to write it. It appears that Brinkley basically dictated its contents. Wood was a well-known hack said to “churn out manuscripts nearly on demand” and to …

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This is a real book, and sure, it’s a biography. However, there are many reasons to doubt its veracity. It was a work-for-hire: Brinkley paid the author, Clement Wood to write it. It appears that Brinkley basically dictated its contents. Wood was a well-known hack said to “churn out manuscripts nearly on demand” and to write “at the pace of 80,000 words in 30 days” (not the best pace for careful research and fact-checking). Brinkley used it as a promotional tool, giving it away for free to fans and supporters. Finally, it contains many verifiably false statements.

Is NUTS! really “based on” this book? Not exactly. Some of it is taken directly from its pages, but it’s perhaps more honest to say that we are using The Life of a Man like Brinkley himself used it: as a source of apparent authority. Like Brinkley, we will also use other sources of apparent authority (patient testimonials, “expert interviews”, newspaper articles, etc.) not found in the pages of The Life of A Man.

Clement Wood wrote some other biographies-for-hire, including one for Brinkley’s contemporary in quackery and questionable practices in radio broadcasting Norman Baker with the awesome title Throttle: A Fact Story About Norman Baker (how did Brinkley get stuck with The Life of a Man?). Wood’s list of published works is astonishingly diverse and poor in quality. One of his books, Flesh And Other Stories, published in 1929, was the subject of an important obscenity trial. Wood was a one-time lawyer turned teacher turned Greenwich Village hipster who supposedly hosted orgies as a means of satisfying the sexual needs of his beautiful wife Gloria Goddard; he himself was said to be impotent. He is a fascinating person that we did a lot of unnecessary research on, and his Wikipedia page deserves much more attention.

021 00:04:35 Image: Chapter I title page
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Image: Chapter I title page

The book is real, but we hand-copied the fonts from Wood’s book, designed the chapter titles in Photoshop, printed them on vintage book paper, and glued them into its pages to film these chapter breaks. We went to all this trouble because it’s important that we establish this book as a real, physical book that …

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The book is real, but we hand-copied the fonts from Wood’s book, designed the chapter titles in Photoshop, printed them on vintage book paper, and glued them into its pages to film these chapter breaks. We went to all this trouble because it’s important that we establish this book as a real, physical book that carries with it an apparent credibility, and because we are establishing that we are “adapting” this book and using large portions of its text as our own narration (which is only partly true). Some of the chapter titles are repurposed from Wood’s book. “Something New Under the Sun” is Wood’s title for his Chapter V, which covers the same period I’m covering in the next few scenes.

022 00:04:41 Image: Chapter I text page

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Image: Chapter I text page

The text here is reproduced from The Life of a Man‘s preface (with minor edits).

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The text here is reproduced from The Life of a Man‘s preface (with minor edits).

024 00:04:57 Text: “Population 300”

Timecode: 00:04:57

Text: “Population 300”

Several sources report the 1917 population of Milford in 1917 as being even lower than what we depicted here: less than 200. On the other hand, all those sources cite The Life of A Man for their information. We haven’t done any additional work to confirm this, but the point is: it was a very …

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Several sources report the 1917 population of Milford in 1917 as being even lower than what we depicted here: less than 200. On the other hand, all those sources cite The Life of A Man for their information. We haven’t done any additional work to confirm this, but the point is: it was a very small town. We’re not sure where we came up with the number 300; we must have seen it somewhere, or misremembered. (See also: notes 38 and 62 on Milford’s population.)

080 00:11:32 Image: The Life of a Man

Timecode: 00:11:32

Image: The Life of a Man

This is a real book, and sure, it’s a biography. However, there are many reasons to doubt its veracity. It was a work-for-hire: Brinkley paid the author, Clement Wood, $5000 to write it. It appears that Brinkley basically dictated its contents. Wood was a well-known hack said to “churn out manuscripts nearly on demand” and …

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This is a real book, and sure, it’s a biography. However, there are many reasons to doubt its veracity. It was a work-for-hire: Brinkley paid the author, Clement Wood, $5000 to write it. It appears that Brinkley basically dictated its contents. Wood was a well-known hack said to “churn out manuscripts nearly on demand” and to write “at the pace of 80,000 words in 30 days” (not the best pace for careful research and fact-checking). Brinkley used it as a promotional tool, giving it away for free to fans and supporters. Finally, it contains many verifiably false statements.

Is NUTS! really “based on” this book? Not exactly. Some of it is taken directly from its pages, but it’s perhaps more honest to say that we are using The Life of a Man like Brinkley himself used it: as a source of apparent authority. Like Brinkley, we will also use other sources of apparent authority (patient testimonials, “expert interviews”, newspaper articles, etc.) not found in the pages of The Life of A Man.

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

086 00:12:05 Image: Flashbacks to earlier scenes
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Image: Flashbacks to earlier scenes

We can’t verify whether this scene at Johns Hopkins actually happened, but it was a constant feature of Brinkley’s origin story. In 1902, Brinkley graduated from high school and he would have been 17 years old on July 8, so it’s feasible that he could have decided to try to enroll in medical school at …

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We can’t verify whether this scene at Johns Hopkins actually happened, but it was a constant feature of Brinkley’s origin story. In 1902, Brinkley graduated from high school and he would have been 17 years old on July 8, so it’s feasible that he could have decided to try to enroll in medical school at that time. However, the whole scene feels rather improbable to us.

092 00:13:00 Image: Chapter II title page

Timecode: 00:13:00

Image: Chapter II title page

“The Cobra Strikes” is Wood’s title for Chapter VII in his book, but it covers the same period we are covering here.

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“The Cobra Strikes” is Wood’s title for Chapter VII in his book, but it covers the same period we are covering here.

093 00:13:07 Image: Chapter II text

Timecode: 00:13:07

Image: Chapter II text

This text is not from The Life of Man; we wrote it to describe the next scene, to strengthen the association between what’s in the “biography” we are “adapting” and the action in this film.

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This text is not from The Life of Man; we wrote it to describe the next scene, to strengthen the association between what’s in the “biography” we are “adapting” and the action in this film.

139 00:24:08 Dialogue: “None of the board members fared well following the hearings”

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Dialogue: “None of the board members fared well following the hearings”

This whole scene is batshit crazy, so we assume it’s a complete fabrication. But believe it or not, it comes straight out of The Life of A Man; we made very few changes to the text. After this litany of terrible fates, Wood added, “Do not think Brinkley did not observe all this, with a sad serene …

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This whole scene is batshit crazy, so we assume it’s a complete fabrication. But believe it or not, it comes straight out of The Life of A Man; we made very few changes to the text. After this litany of terrible fates, Wood added, “Do not think Brinkley did not observe all this, with a sad serene relish. He is a philosopher, as well as so much else; and he is a devout believer in divine justice. He believes that the future of his persecutors still left untouched will be very unhappy, because of the unjust and unrighteous thing they did against him; that their days in this world will be brief, and shortened by what they did” (265).

145 00:27:06 Image: Chapter III title page

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Image: Chapter III title page

“The Will of the People” is Clement Wood’s title for Chapter XIII in his book, dealing with the same period. The title refers to Brinkley’s preferred version of the story of the gubernatorial race: “Thousands of Kansans have written urging me to run for governor,” he said. “Judging from my mail the people of Kansas …

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“The Will of the People” is Clement Wood’s title for Chapter XIII in his book, dealing with the same period. The title refers to Brinkley’s preferred version of the story of the gubernatorial race: “Thousands of Kansans have written urging me to run for governor,” he said. “Judging from my mail the people of Kansas seem to believe that I have been persecuted, not prosecuted, and as long as I have a leg to stand on I will fight'” (quoted in Brock, 155).

146 00:27:10 Image: Chapter III text

Timecode: 00:27:10

Image: Chapter III text

This text is not from The Life of Man; we wrote it. But it accurately portrays Wood’s description of these events: it wasn’t Brinkley’s idea to run for governor; oh no. It was the will of the people!

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This text is not from The Life of Man; we wrote it. But it accurately portrays Wood’s description of these events: it wasn’t Brinkley’s idea to run for governor; oh no. It was the will of the people!

218 00:40:59 Image: Chapter IV title page

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Image: Chapter IV title page

“Into the Fields of Elysium” is a (great) title made up by writer Thom Stylinski; it is not in Clement Wood’s book.

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“Into the Fields of Elysium” is a (great) title made up by writer Thom Stylinski; it is not in Clement Wood’s book.

219 00:41:04 Image: Chapter IV text

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Image: Chapter IV text

This text is not from The Life of A Man.

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This text is not from The Life of A Man.

238 00:46:37 Dialogue: “No more sense than the geese”
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Dialogue: “No more sense than the geese”

“If only they had the wisdom to cooperate with the inspired healer from Milford . . . but the doctors had no more sense than the geese of Rome who could only call out ‘Quack! ‘Quack!,’” is taken directly from The Life of a Man (219).

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“If only they had the wisdom to cooperate with the inspired healer from Milford . . . but the doctors had no more sense than the geese of Rome who could only call out ‘Quack! ‘Quack!,'” is taken directly from The Life of a Man (219).

243 00:49:15 Image: Chapter V title page

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Image: Chapter V title page

“Unto the Gates of Tartarus” is a (great) title made up by writer Thom Stylinski; it is not in Clement Wood’s book.

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“Unto the Gates of Tartarus” is a (great) title made up by writer Thom Stylinski; it is not in Clement Wood’s book.

244 00:49:20 Image: Chapter V text

Timecode: 00:49:20

Image: Chapter V text

This text is not from The Life of A Man.

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This text is not from The Life of A Man.

274 01:00:26 Image: Chapter VI title page

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Image: Chapter VI title page

“The Soul of a Man Speaks” (which we’ve shortened to “The Soul of a Man”) is Clement Wood’s title for Chapter VIII. The entirety of Chapter VIII is dedicated to a lengthy analysis of a dream Brinkley has one night. It’s the single most amazing chapter in that book (see also note 294).

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“The Soul of a Man Speaks” (which we’ve shortened to “The Soul of a Man”) is Clement Wood’s title for Chapter VIII. The entirety of Chapter VIII is dedicated to a lengthy analysis of a dream Brinkley has one night. It’s the single most amazing chapter in that book (see also note 294).

275 01:00:31 Image: Chapter VI text page

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Image: Chapter VI text page

This text is not from The Life of A Man.

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This text is not from The Life of A Man.

280 01:02:34 Image: The Life of a Man

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Image: The Life of a Man

We have finally come full circle: the way that The Life of a Man functioned at this trial was a major source of inspiration for the entire structure of this film. We’ve represented the way the book worked in the trial pretty accurately in this scene, with Brown reading the more absurd portions out loud …

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We have finally come full circle: the way that The Life of a Man functioned at this trial was a major source of inspiration for the entire structure of this film. We’ve represented the way the book worked in the trial pretty accurately in this scene, with Brown reading the more absurd portions out loud and forcing Brinkley to respond to them, Brinkley trying to say he doesn’t even know what’s in it, and eventually admitting he paid for it and published it himself as a sort of promotional item.

281 01:02:42 Dialogue: “Interesting reading, if you have the stomach”

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Dialogue: “Interesting reading, if you have the stomach”

Brown actually said, “Interesting reading… if you’ve got a strong stomach.”

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Brown actually said, “Interesting reading… if you’ve got a strong stomach.”

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

284 01:04:03 Dialogue: “Diploma from the Eclectic Medical University”
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Dialogue: “Diploma from the Eclectic Medical University”

“On May 7, 1915, the Eclectic Medical University of Kansas City presented him with a certificate signed by its president, Dr. Date R. Alexander. To become an alumnus of E.M.U. (later described in court proceedings as ‘vague, obliging and long defunct’) cost Brinkley one hundred dollars and got him licensed in eight states” (Brock, 25).

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“On May 7, 1915, the Eclectic Medical University of Kansas City presented him with a certificate signed by its president, Dr. Date R. Alexander. To become an alumnus of E.M.U. (later described in court proceedings as ‘vague, obliging and long defunct’) cost Brinkley one hundred dollars and got him licensed in eight states” (Brock, 25).

287 01:05:17 Dialogue: “I have not read this book, I do declare”

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Dialogue: “I have not read this book, I do declare”

Brinkley’s actual line was, “I declare, I don’t know what is in that biography!”

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Brinkley’s actual line was, “I declare, I don’t know what is in that biography!”

288 01:05:45 Dialogue: “Dr. Jenkins is here today”

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Dialogue: “Dr. Jenkins is here today”

As far as we know, “Dr. Jenkins” was not in court that day.

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As far as we know, “Dr. Jenkins” was not in court that day.

289 01:06:27 Dialogue: “Who owns that company?”

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Dialogue: “Who owns that company?”

We can only find one book published by the “Goshorn Publishing Company” and it’s this one. We don’t know if Brinkley owned it, but it seems more likely that it was just a sort of vanity press he used.

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We can only find one book published by the “Goshorn Publishing Company” and it’s this one. We don’t know if Brinkley owned it, but it seems more likely that it was just a sort of vanity press he used.

290 01:06:31 Dialogue: “How much did you pay the author?”

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Dialogue: “How much did you pay the author?”

We invented the $5,000 figure, but Brinkley did acknowledge having paid Wood to write this book in the trial.

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We invented the $5,000 figure, but Brinkley did acknowledge having paid Wood to write this book in the trial.

294 01:08:34 Dialogue: “That night, Brinkley had a dream”

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Dialogue: “That night, Brinkley had a dream”

This dream and its analysis has been greatly condensed but not changed in tone or substance from the entire chapter (!!!) it takes up in The Life of a Man.

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This dream and its analysis has been greatly condensed but not changed in tone or substance from the entire chapter (!!!) it takes up in The Life of a Man.

295 01:09:30 Dialogue: “At this time I must”

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Dialogue: “At this time I must”

Clement Wood was a well-known hack said to “churn out manuscripts nearly on demand” and to write “at the pace of 80,000 words in 30 days” (not the best pace for careful research and fact-checking). Clement Wood wrote some other biographies-for-hire. Wood’s list of published works is astonishingly diverse and poor in quality. One of …

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Clement Wood was a well-known hack said to “churn out manuscripts nearly on demand” and to write “at the pace of 80,000 words in 30 days” (not the best pace for careful research and fact-checking).

Clement Wood wrote some other biographies-for-hire. Wood’s list of published works is astonishingly diverse and poor in quality. One of his books, Flesh And Other Stories, published in 1929, was the subject of an important obscenity trial. Wood was a one-time lawyer turned teacher turned Greenwich Village hipster who supposedly hosted orgies as a means of satisfying the sexual needs of his beautiful wife Gloria Goddard; he himself was said to be impotent. He is a fascinating person that we did a lot of unnecessary research on, and his Wikipedia page deserves much more attention.