American Experience: Season 4 (1991 - 1992)


Season 4
American Experience

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Air date: Sep 30, 1991

A two-part political biography of LBJ begins with his rise as a New Dealer in the 1930s; the "stolen" Senate election in 1948; his influence as Majority Leader and loss of it as Vice President.

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Air date: Oct 1, 1991

The political biography of LBJ concludes with "Great Society" achievements, diminished by urban riots and a widening Vietnam War that, President Johnson said, made him sometimes feel "that I was living in a continuous nightmare."

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Air date: Oct 7, 1991

Originally telecast on the award-winning PBS series The American Experience, this documentary chronicles the formation and battlefield heroics of the first all-black Union regiment, the Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry. Early in the Civil War, most whites thought that blacks would never be able to fight in the disciplined manner of the U.S. Army. But as Union casualties mounted, President Lincoln realized that the country would need every able-bodied man they could muster. As noted in this program, once the Emancipation Proclamation was signed at the start of 1863, recruiting of black soldiers began, and they answered the call enthusiastically. Led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the 26-year old scion of a white abolitionist family in Boston, the 54th stormed the Confederate Fort Wagner in a bold attack that generated heavy casualties, but galvanized Northern admiration for black soldiers and spurred enlistment. Highlights of this documentary include archival daguerreotypes, tintypes, lithographs, and commentary by various historians. The 54th was the regiment portrayed in the Academy Award-winning motion picture Glory.

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Air date: Oct 14, 1991

This program is part of the PBS American Experience series. This episode provides an in-depth look at one of the greatest promoters America ever produced. P.T. Barnum had big ideas for capturing the public's attention and money. He called his traveling entertainment show "The Big Top." Its attractions ran the gamut from the thrilling to the bizarre. All the action took place in his three-ring circus. Archival clips and photographs, personal accounts, and historic commentary recount the story of Barnum, who was destined to join forces with James Bailey to produce "The Greatest Show on Earth."

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Air date: Oct 28, 1991

This program is part of the American Experience series, produced by PBS. In this episode, the topic is the rogue political boss of Boston, James Michael Curley. The iconoclastic Irishman won the support of the working class in this Eastern establishment city. Even being in jail did not deter his successful bid for office in 1903. Once in power Curley used the patronage system, as well as other methods of persuasion, to maintain his hold on city government for almost half a century. Archival clips, photographs, journalistic accounts, and the commentary of historians illustrate the story of Boston's colorful Mayor Curley.

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Air date: Nov 11, 1991

The magical paradise of Pearl Harbor was shattered on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed the territory of Hawaii. In this documentary, narrated by Jason Robards, questions surrounding that event, many of which still remain, are addressed. Using newsreels, Hollywood movies, Japanese films, radio broadcasts, and propaganda films, Pearl Harbor: Surprise and Remembrance provides a unique look back at a day that forever changed the United States.

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Air date: Nov 18, 1991

This program is part of the American Experience series produced by PBS. In this episode, the topic is the rise to prominence of J. Edgar Hoover as the head of the FBI. The Prohibition era of the 1920s brought mobsters and gangland murders into the public eye. Lawlessness continued into the '30s, and President Roosevelt ordered the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to combat crime. Hoover's G-men tracked down criminals such as Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, and John Dillinger. The program depicts Hoover as a master of publicity, manipulating the news for the aggrandizement of both his personal career and the agency. Archival clips, photographs, interviews, and commentary by historians tell the story.

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Air date: Dec 9, 1991

Celebrating Duke Ellington's achievements as a composer, bandleader and pianist. Included: performances of Ellington standards, such as "Mood Indigo" and "Take the 'A' Train"; comments from his son Mercer, musicologists and others who knew him. Julian Bond narrates.

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Air date: Jan 6, 1992

This program is part of the American Experience series produced by PBS. In this episode, the viewer returns to the early days of television. One of the biggest programs of that era was The $64,000 Question. Viewers were riveted to their television sets as contestants vied for the big prize. The revelation that the show was fixed, with contestants being fed answers in advance, caused a broadcasting scandal and viewer disillusionment. Archival clips of this famous show on CBS are presented as well as some clips from its competitors. Personal recollections and commentary by historians put the phenomenon's impact in perspective.

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Air date: Jan 13, 1992

This program is part of the PBS series American Experience. This episode presents the story of a family whose integrity was a casualty of the Cold War between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Eugene Dennis was a member of the Communist party in America in the 1920s. To avoid prosecution, he and his wife and infant son fled to the Soviet Union. Under suspicion in that county, the couple returned to America in 1935, but the price they paid to do so was high: they had to leave their first child behind. Their story is told through the eyes of their second son, who was born in America. Archival photographs, film clips, and personal recollections are used to illustrate the account.

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