Living with the Louds

January 02, 1991|By The New York Times

NEARLY TWO decades ago, a 45-year-old housewife drew a rapt audience closer to the screen by telling her husband on national television that she wanted a divorce.

They were the Louds, Pat and Bill, of Santa Barbara, Calif. Their marriage disintegrated as the cameras rolled mercilessly in their household, filming "An American Family," a pioneering television documentary that will be rebroadcast around the country in January.

The Louds let film makers prowl around inside their lives for seven months. The results, in a 12-hour series, were shocking for 1973.

Pat aired her husband's infidelities to her relatives. Lance, the eldest of the family's five children, moved to New York, declared his homosexuality and shook his sheltered mother by taking her to a play that featured transvestites.

The Louds were startling in 1973. But will they seem so to a new generation of viewers grown accustomed to seeing the most intimate thoughts and actions played out on TV?

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