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"American Experience" Reagan: Part I (1998)

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Best president of the 20th century?

8/10
Author: colleenmcdonnell
27 July 2014

First, I want to say that I liked the documentary, especially the summary of RRs early life and his rise to the top of the political heap. However, I wanted to address the comment about him being the greatest president of the 20th century - I think you forgot a few; both Roosevelts, Wilson and Truman are some I can name who are held in higher regard than Reagan. He went from being a right wing liberal to a conservative Republican, please explain that one. During both terms, he ran up our national debt and never submitted a balanced budget, not to mention the needless wars like the Falkland Islands and Granada. Oh, and let us not forget Iran Contra, cutting funding for school lunches and a few other things that helped his rich buddies get richer. He may have been popular but he did some stupid things and was senile by the time he left office. You also erroneously said that public TV is taxpayer funded, it is not. They depend on viewer and private contributions and yearly pledge drives.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Very good but it does seem to have a slight bias.

8/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
28 October 2011

Part One of this biography begins with Reagan's youth and ends early in his first term. In between is a brief discussion of his film and television career, his marriages and his political life. Several of Reagan's children (but, oddly, not Michael) and Nancy are interviewed as are many in politics and the media. In addition, various film clips and photos are used as well as narration by David Ogden Stiers.

This is one of the best biographies of Ronald Reagan. Now I am not saying it's perfect. As some have pointed out, it does appear to have a slight bias against him--particularly in the latter portion of Part One. However, considering how unpopular Reagan was with most of the media during his presidency, this isn't really surprising. What is actually surprising is how after the death of Reagan, folks began talking about him very positively and with nostalgia--and many were the same folks who detested him as President. Odd how time often changes perceptions.

By the way, this is NOT a major gripe, but in talking about the decline of Reagan's film career, the film cited two movies. One was "Bedtime for Bonzo". While this is widely regarded as an embarrassing film for Reagan, most people probably haven't seen it. I have seen it several times and actually found it to be silly and very charming--and well worth seeing. If you get a chance, watch it. Whether or not you like Reagan, it is a cute film.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Reasonable and Thorough Portrait.

8/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
28 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ronald Reagan gets a fairly civilized treatment here, of his troubled youth and his climb to fame, as well as his rather sudden shift from Roosevelt Democrat to anti-communist Republican -- and the later mellowing of his categorical posture.

I didn't find much in the way of prejudice from the "Bolsheviks" at PBS, but then I wasn't eagerly anticipating them. I can understand why some viewers might seize on the use -- or the non-use -- of a word like "steadily" to evoke as subtle propaganda. In a way, it's not seeing is believing but the other way around. Or, as Alexander Pope put it, "All seems infected that the infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye." Of all the many talking heads who describe Reagan's personality, policies, and the evolution of both, the vast majority were Reagan's friends or family. Nancy Reagan probably gets more screen time than anyone else. That's a rather generous way of promoting anti-Reagan sentiment in the audience.

Not that the written narrative or the conjecture we hear are to be taken without any challenge. Reagan was a successful lifeguard in his teens, and this was supposed to have informed his character to the extent that he came to see himself as a kind of savior of the free world.

But did it? I was a milk man's delivery boy and I don't care two hoots about supplying the world with wholesome, fresh, homogenized milk -- or about cows or anything associated with them, for that matter. At this stage of the game, we can tolerate speculation about what makes a person into the thing he or she is, but it shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Overall, the Reagan we see here in Part I is a nice guy with ordinary ambitions. Not particularly sophisticated. Nobody was in the small-town Midwest of the 1930s. But bright and good-natured. He was cheerful, good-looking, and had a keen, down-to-earth sense of humor. And this is as important as any of his other qualities, he had a fine, reassuring speaking voice honed on radio and an ability to display a consciously controlled emotional state learned in movies. He had strength of character -- he hefted chain saws on his ranch well into his 70s -- and a far-ranging imagination which, once in a while, he chose to exercise.

Later, in Part II, he becomes, as President Barack Obama observed, "a transformational president."

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3 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Typical Left-Wing Bias

4/10
Author: ntvnyr30 from Staten Island, NY
31 October 2008

The 4/10 rating isn't for Ronald Reagan, who is my favorite POTUS. The rating is for taxpayer-funded, forever leftist PBS who presented it.

As Nixon said, history is written by liberals. I can extrapolate Nixon's statement to include documentaries as well. The knocks on President Reagan during this are unbelievable: three times they showed the largest anti-nukes rally in New York as if that was a watershed moment in Reagan's Presidency (guess who was right after all?). They completely glossed over the fact that Reagan won the biggest electoral landslide in history. They also glossed over the greatest economic expansion in history to date. Probably even more insulting was that they proposed that Reagan got the idea for the Strategic Defense Initiative from one of his old war movies.

I remember when this first aired, a lot of conservatives were praising it. I think if you look at it closer, the slights to the greatest POTUS of the 20th Century are pretty frequent in this bio.

By the way, speaking of typical left-wing bias when Reagan's official biographer, Edmund Morris, was discussing the aftermath of the assassination attempt he mentioned that Reagan's mind began to decline "slowly and steadily". Fair enough. But the New York Times shortly after the program appeared seized upon this comment and editorialized about Reagan's mental status during his Presidency, quoting Morris yet somehow omitted the word "slowly". You can look it up. This is from the so-called "paper of record". Whose record? Karl Marx?

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