Five Wives, Three Secretaries and Me
Writer-director Tessa Blake’s comic portrait of her Texas family was produced by Asset Pictures and released theatrically by Castle Hill Productions. It premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and went on to critical success as an art house favorite. Five Wives was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Oscar® nominating committee for inclusion in its Outstanding Contemporary Documentary screenings. It aired on SHOWTIME and is available on Netflix.
The film is a compelling portrait of 88-year-old multimillionaire, oil tycoon, hotshot lawyer, and former Hollywood playboy Thomas Blake, as told by his ex-wives, his ex-wives’ ex-husbands, family friends, loyal employees and even Blakey himself. As Tessa Blake captures a series of intimate interviews and quirky tales of the Texas jet set, this larger-than-life serial monogamist is revealed as irascible and insensitive, benevolent and racist, eccentric and ever enigmatic, all leading to a final emotional confrontation that Seattle Weekly described as “one of the most powerful father/daughter moments ever seen in a documentary.” This is the surprising story of a mythic man, his five wives, three secretaries and one filmmaker about to discover the remarkable father whose love and legacy she yearns to understand.
It’s Tessa’s strong presence in Five Wives – specifically her unwavering affection for the man behind the class, race and gender stereotypes – that make Blakey human. Tessa’s endeavor was like Southern Comfort for its subjects – and watching the engaging finished product is just as worthwhile for viewers.
—Time Out New York
Thoroughly engaging, Blake’s documentary footage and interviews with her dad are like sparring matches between two friendly boxers.
–Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle
Mr. Blake is the subject of “Five Wives, Three Secretaries and Me,” an oddly charming documentary written and directed by his daughter… the filmmaker, sees all of her father’s marrying and remarrying as comical, at least on one level. (The film) maintains its point of view and there is impressive, playful back-and-forth editing.
–Anita Gates, The New York Times
The film’s finest moments come when Tessa crosses, in front of the camera, into that fraught zone where Texas women battle and adore their fathers. Tessa’s absorption of Blakey’s dismissiveness makes for one of the most powerful father/daughter moments ever seen in a documentary.
–Claire Dederer, Seattle Weekly
“Five Wives, Three Secretaries and Me” is an engaging documentary made by a one-time debutante coming to terms with her crusty, womanizing father.”
–Lou Lumenick, New York Post
Among his abundant blessings Tom Blake should be most grateful of all for the generous spirit of his daughter, Tessa, who directed this film about the 89-year-old Houston lawyer and his influence on his extended family. Blake’s (film is) good-humored, and life-affirming.
–Russel Smith, The Austin Chronicle
With insight, tenderness, and a lot of humor, Blake discovers… the Lone Star state’s traits.
—The Independent Film Monthly
Along with searching out the truth of family myth, Five Wives explores the madcap comedy of Texana, the unique cultural crossroads of Deep South and Old West. From the five-story statues of founding fathers to five-story hairdos of determined debutants, Blake film captures the outrageous excesses of the Lone Star State. But it also an affectionate look at the fine lines between type, stereotype and archetype.
Blake’s work is a refreshing, frank and unapologetic glimpse into the underlying humanity of…her own father.
In this fascinating and entertaining documentary, Blake takes a loving, humorous and critical look at her father, Texas tycoon Thomas Blake, and, as the title suggest, her own place in the hierarchy of the women in his life.
—The Riverfront Times
Touching, vibrant and searching, and simmering with love and awe.
—Austin American Statesman
I highly recommend this one.
—Ain’t It Cool News