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The Ken Burns Effect
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Ken Burns TV series and shows on Prohibition, Jazz, Baseball, Civil War, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, WW II, early age of radio, Vietnam, Country Music, Lewis & Clark, Frank Lloyd Wright & more


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TV Show: Prohibition ( 2011 )
Prohibition tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the entire era it encompassed.
TV Show: Jazz ( 2001 )
This series explores the history of the major American musical form. We track its development in African American culture, its rise to prominence with its golden age of popularity spanning from the 1920's to the mid 1940's both in its original form and in Swing through its popular decline and the rise of vital new sub-genres into the present day. Along the way, we learn of the lives and work of major contributors to the form such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Charlie "Bird" Parker and many others who helped form Jazz into the vibrant musical form it is. Moreover, we see how the music reflected the political and social issues of the African American community over the course of the form's history.
TV Show: The Civil War ( 1990 )
Between 1861 and 1865, Americans made war on each other and killed each other in great numbers - if only to become the kind of country that could no longer conceive of how that was possible. What began as a bitter dispute over Union and States' Rights, ended as a struggle over the meaning of freedom in America.
Movie: The Ken Burns Effect ( 2015 )
A Ken Burns-style homage to Ken Burns, featuring Ken Burns.
Movie: Fire: A Ken Burns Film ( 2016 )
TV Show: Country Music ( 2019 )
Country Music chronicles the history of a uniquely American art form, rising from the experiences of remarkable people in distinctive regions of our nation. From southern Appalachia's songs of struggle, heartbreak and faith to the rollicking western swing of Texas, from California honky tonks to Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, the series follows the evolution of country music over the course of the twentieth century, as it eventually emerged to become America's music.
Movie: The Statue of Liberty ( 1985 )
Documentary showing the history of the world-famous Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.
Movie: The Mayo Clinic, Faith, Hope and Science ( 2018 )
The Mayo Clinic: Faith - Hope - Science tells the story of a unique medical institution that has been called a "Medical Mecca," the "Supreme Court of Medicine," and the "place for hope where there is no hope." The Mayo Clinic began in 1883 as an unlikely partnership between the Sisters of Saint Francis and a country doctor named William Worrall Mayo after a devastating tornado in rural Minnesota. Since then, it has grown into an organization that treats more than a million patients a year from all 50 states and 150 countries. Dr. Mayo had a simple philosophy he imparted to his sons Will and Charlie: "the needs of the patient come first." They wouldn't treat diseases...they would treat people. In a world where healthcare delivery is typically fragmented among individual specialties, the Mayo Clinic practices a multi-specialty, team-based approach that has, from its beginnings, created a culture that thrives on collaboration.
Movie: Ken Burns: On Story ( 2012 )
What makes a great story? For legendary filmmaker Ken Burns, the answer is both complicated and personal. In this short documentary about the craft of storytelling, he explains his lifelong mission to wake the dead.
TV Show: The Vietnam War ( 2017 )
In an immersive 360-degree narrative, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. The Vietnam War features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses.
TV Show: The Roosevelts: An Intimate History ( 2014 )
A documentary that weaves together the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics.
Movie: Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War ( 2016 )
Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War: Waitstill Sharp, a Unitarian minister, and Martha Sharp, a trained social worker, in February 1939, boldly commit to a life-threatening mission in Europe to assist refugees.
Movie: Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery ( 1997 )
The story of the most important American exploration expedition in American history and the participants in it.
TV Show: Jackie Robinson ( 2016 )
Jackie Robinson explores how the civil rights movement dovetailed with Robinson's baseball career.Jack Roosevelt Robinson rose from humble origins to cross baseball's color line and become one of the most beloved men in America. A fierce integrationist, Robinson used his immense fame to speak out against the discrimination he saw on and off the field, angering fans, the press, and even teammates who had once celebrated him for "turning the other cheek." After baseball, he was a widely-read newspaper columnist, divisive political activist and tireless advocate for civil rights, who later struggled to remain relevant as diabetes crippled his body and a new generation of leaders set a more militant course for the civil rights movement.
TV Show: The West ( 1996 )
The West is a series that includes stories of the Native American experience, from the era before Europeans appeared on the landscape to the tragic days of Sand Creek, Washita and Wounded Knee; stories of the Spanish West, from the times of the conquistadors' expeditions to the emergence of the barrio as an enclave of cultural traditions; pioneer stories from the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Exodus; war stories from San Jacinto and Lawrence, Kansas; stories of miners and missionaries, ranchers and railroaders, educators and industrialists. It is a chronicle that captures all the grandeur of the West and all the energy of its people, and one that probes the conflicting visions and competing values that made an American nation on this vast land.
Movie: The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God ( 1985 )
Ken Burns examines the American utopian 19th century religious sect known as the Shakers.
TV Show: Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies ( 2015 )
Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies tells the complete story of cancer, from its first description in an ancient Egyptian scroll to the gleaming laboratories of modern research institutions. At six hours, the film interweaves a sweeping historical narrative; with intimate stories about contemporary patients; and an investigation into the latest scientific breakthroughs that may have brought us, at long last, to the brink of lasting cures.
Movie: The Address ( 2014 )
Students of a special boarding school for kids with learning disabilities are challenged to learn about and recite the Gettysburg Address.
Movie: The Central Park Five ( 2014 )
A documentary that examines the 1989 case of five black and Latino teenagers who were convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park. After having spent between 6 and 13 years each in prison, a serial rapist confessed to the crime.
Movie: Mark Twain ( 2002 )
Ken Burns, the premiere documentarian of Americana, tackles the life of Mark Twain, the first writer with a uniquely American voice. In this installment in Burns' "American Lives" series, the two 2-hour episodes explore a side of Twain that is unfamiliar to many. Widely regarded as the funniest person of the 19th century, Twain suffered through severe personal tragedies and lack of business sense that brought him to the brink of financial ruin on several occasions. Includes interviews with writers William Styron and Arthur Miller and actor Hal Holbrook (who has portrayed Twain in a one-man play each year for over 50 years).
Movie: Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson ( 2005 )
The story of Jack Johnson, the first African-American Heavyweight boxing champion.
TV Show: The National Parks: America's Best Idea ( 2009 )
Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska - The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.
Movie: Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip ( 2003 )
The saga of Horatio Nelson Jackson, the first man to cross the United States by automobile--in 1903!
TV Show: Baseball ( 1994 )
Ken Burns relates the history of baseball in a fashion similar to that of his Civil War mini series. Old-time photos and illustrations depict the games early years, while newsreels and video clips highlight more recent developments. Players and participants speak in their own words, and sports writers and broadcasters offer commentary on the sport and events they witnessed.
Movie: Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio ( 1991 )
For 50 years, radio dominated the airwaves as the first mass medium. Ken Burns examines the lives of three men who shared the responsibility for its invention and early success.
Movie: Frank Lloyd Wright ( 1998 )
This film illustrates the life and work of the American architect. We follow the development of his work and his turbulent family life amidst scandal and tragedy. Despite all the difficulties of his personal life, Wright rises above all and beats all the odds to design some of the most famous buildings using brilliant and distinctively innovative designs that only his genius could create.
TV Show: The War ( 2007 )
The War is the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four American towns. The war touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America and demonstrated that in extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives. A seven-part series by Ken Burns which includes interviews and archive footage.
TV Show: Thomas Jefferson ( 1997 )
A two-part examination of the life of Thomas Jefferson, whose career as statesman and founding father, including authoring the Declaration of Independence and becoming the third President, places him in the pantheon of historic figures. With Sam Waterston as Jefferson. Narrated by Ossie Davis.
TV Show: The Dust Bowl ( 2012 )
The Dust Bowl chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the "Great Plow-Up", followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with twenty-six survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril.
Movie: Brooklyn Bridge ( 1981 )
This documentary chronicles the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. The difficult construction process is described in interesting detail; later parts of the film interview current notables who describe the effects that the Brooklyn Bridge has had upon New York society and beyond.
Movie: Walden ( 2017 )
In 1854, noted American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau published his influential book 'Walden; or, Life in the Woods' about his attempt to live self-sufficiently in his cabin in the woods near Walden Pond, MA for two years.
Movie: Huey Long ( 1985 )
Ken Burns' portrait of Louisiana governor/U.S. senator Huey Long.
Movie: The Congress ( 1988 )
The U. S. Congress is one of the country's most important and misunderstood institutions. Ken Burns tells the story behind this branch of government.
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