American Masters: Season 18 (2003 - 2004)


Season 18
American Masters

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Episodes

Air date: Sep 3, 2003

The relationship between Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller and Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan went far beyond their professional association. In addition to the fact that Kazan directed Miller's earliest Broadway hits, +All My Sons and +Death of a Salesman, both men held many of the same political and ideological beliefs -- and both were enamored of blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe (whom Miller ultimately married). Their friendship came to an abrupt end in 1952, at the height of the so-called Communist witch hunt conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Although Miller refused to name names before the HUAC, and was blacklisted from Hollywood as a result, Kazan (after much anguished soul-searching) cooperated by offering testimony against former left-wing associates, and his film career continued. In the years that followed, both men came to grips with their experiences before the HUAC in their art: Miller wrote a play called +The Crucible, which drew obviously parallels between the 17th-century Salem Witch Trials and the Red Scare of the 1950s, while Kazan helmed a film called On the Waterfront, which many perceive to be the director's passionate self-defense for testifying as a "friendly witness." Ultimately, Kazan and Miller settled their differences, but though they would work together again, their close off-stage relationship had been permanently damaged. Featuring archival footage, commentary from prominent film and theater historians, and eyewitness recollections by such ex-blacklistees as actors Marge Redmond and Lee Grant, the scrupulously fair and even-handed two-hour documentary Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan and the Blacklist: None Without Sin made its American TV debut as part of PBS' American Masters anthology.

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Air date: Oct 29, 2003

James Brown (1933-2006), the "Godfather of Soul," is featured in this crisp 2003 profile, which also includes comments from Little Richard, Chuck D, Wyclef Jean, Dan Aykroyd and Rev. Al Sharpton, who says that Brown "changed the whole cultural paradigm of black America." Producer-director Jonathan Marre follows Brown from Augusta, Ga., in 1938, when he danced for nickels and dimes at age 5 in his aunt's "house of ill repute," back to Augusta.

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Air date: Jan 14, 2004

A 1984 profile of choreographer extraordinaire George Balanchine (1904-83), whose wide variety of ballets "reinvented the past," says narrator Frank Langella. Included are lengthy clips from Balanchine ballets featuring such stalwarts of his New York City Ballet as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Suzanne Farrell, Peter Martins, Jacques D'Amboise and Tannaquil LeClerq (one of his wives). Balanchine is also seen dancing in "Dark Red Roses," a 1929 British film, and performing in a non-dancing role in a 1958 TV production of his classic staging of "The Nutcracker." And he's seen in a number of interviews. In one, Mr. B and his longtime collaborator, composer Igor Stravinsky, recall their mentor, choreographer Sergei Diaghilev. They're revelling in the memories. "Drink some more," says Stravinsky. "Let's be drunk."

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Air date: Feb 25, 2004

"Judy Garland: By Myself" recalls the life and career of the troubled singer-actress (1922-69), and does so in large measure with her own words (from tape recordings made for an unpublished autobiography), read by actress Isabel Keating, who plays Garland in Broadway's "The Boy from Oz." Also included: clips from Garland films and concerts, and her 1963-64 CBS series; and excerpts from a 1962 Jack Paar interview.

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Air date: Apr 28, 2004

Recalling Time-Life founder Henry Luce (1898-1967). His slick and vivid magazines "distilled the life and times of the 20th century," says narrator Scott Simon. Luce, the precocious son of an American missionary in China, "envisioned an American century" during World War I, and brashly set about charting and "interpreting" it in 1923, when he and Briton Hadden founded Time. Next, as the Depression was arriving, came the unprecedentedly lavish Fortune (a "literature of business," says "Wall Street Week with Fortune" co-host Geoffrey Colvin). And in 1936, Luce changed the face of journalism again with Life. "It made news photography real art," says Letitia Baldrige. And by the 1950s, "Luce's American century had arrived, and Life was its manual," says Simon.

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Air date: Jun 23, 2004

"Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues," an atmospheric portrait of the country giant who died---at the peak of his professional prowess and personal travails---at age 29 in 1953. "His music remains suspended in time," says Williams biographer Colin Escott, who co-produced and co-wrote this hour. But most of the story of Williams' short and alcohol-fueled career is told by some 20 friends and bandmates, his stepdaughter Lycretia, son Hank Jr., grandson Hank III, first wife Audrey (on audiotape) and widow Billie Jean Horton. "He was too young to die," says Horton, "but he was older than his years."

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