Message bubbles through in ‘Dr. Bronner’s magic Soapbox’ |

Message bubbles through in ‘Dr. Bronner’s magic Soapbox’

Just because Dr. Bronner was a lunatic doesn’t mean he was crazy. In the documentary, “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox,” you become familiar with a somehow quintessential American story, peculiar global preaching and a tingly organic soap. Emanuel Bronner’s family continues to run the soap business he started more than 50 years ago.

Emanuel Bronner’s sister, however, had him committed to a mental institution in the 1940s. Bronner escaped, his sister’s opinion aside that it’s not normal imposing one’s devotions toward “uniting Spaceship Earth” on others.

Starting with little more than the clothes on his back, Bronner built his soap business at least as much to distribute his “Moral ABCs” on product labels as he did to sell a versatile, feel-good soap. During the hippie era, Bronner’s preachings of “All-One-God-Faith” and his organic soap sales jived successfully. If, as one interviewee suggests in the film, you don’t try to read the strings of words too carefully, his message bubbles through.

Bronner believed in hard work and the concept of being “constructively selfish.” He believed, “If I am not for me, who am I? Nobody! Yet, if I am only for me, what am I? Nothing!” and “If not now, when?”

The film is at least as much about Emanuel Bronner’s family as it is about the man who centers their souls. You discover that it is not at all obvious that Bronner’s children should feel such devotion to him and his message. The children are normal, unless you view giving away more than half their profits to charitable causes or capping the family’s executive salaries to no higher than five times that of their lowest paid employee as abnormal behavior.

“Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox” slips nicely beneath what has grown to be the big business and mature shapings of independent film. In its choice of subject and its low-key cinematic effort, this film is a refreshingly odd bit of independent spirit. The Magic Theatre is a perfect venue for “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox.”


Chuck Jaffee lives in Nevada City. After seeing this film, he is using Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap again for the first time in many years. Find his other articles for The Union at

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