Biography (1987– )
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I couldn't find the episode about artist Jackson Pollock listed above, so I'll review it briefly here.
One thing this show did is that it verified how accurate the movie, "Pollock," was, which is unusual. Usually films take a lot of license when dealing with history but this A&E show pretty much was right in line with what I saw on the Ed Harris film of 2000. In fact, Harris is among the interviewees here and seems to have a lot of knowledge about this famous painter. Harris, who paints himself, and the rest of the contributors all have their theories on what made Pollock act the way he did.
About 60 percent of this documentary talks about Pollock's up-and-down life and about 40 percent about his artwork. His life, generally, was a disaster, in large part to his drinking disorder. The man was a drunk, from an early age right to his death in which he got blitzed and then smashed his car into a tree. His best art work - by far, as it is pointed out here, was the three-year period in which he was stone sober.
The drinking also brought out a loud and obnoxious personality in a man who normally was very quiet and reserved. Overall, he was not a nice guy and his faults far outweighed his good points. Kudos for "Biography" to at least show that. It also gives him tribute, too, however, for his accomplishments and tries to be sympathetic at times concerning why he acted poorly.
Speaking of sympathy, much of that in this TV show goes out to Lee Krasner, the artist who loved Pollock and sacrificed a part of her career to boost his reputation. She comes out of this looking like a nice lady who put up with a lot of grief for a man she adored.
Anyway, if you're interested in this famous painter, whom Life Magazine once asked, "Is This The Greatest Painter In America?," I would rent the movie. It has all of this info of this A&E show in it, plus a lot more and seems to be an accurate portrayal of the controversial artist.
Biography of any show on TV is the best show at chronicling the life of celebrities whether they be political, acting, sports, or other field of work. You get the best view of what made them who they are today short of reading an autobiography book about them.
They tend to interview people close to them or their peers to give their perspective on the subject of that episode.
Afterward, a "Biography Network" was then formed, purporting to air the series 24 hours per day, but, alas, that network has not appeared in every region, such as here, for it's never been available for one and all to experience, but yet A&E then discontinued the series from its regular line-up except for showings at rather odd hours.
Primary Hosts, Jack Perkins and Peter Graves and, later, Harry Smith introduce episodes during these early decades, often narrating, as well.
During its first 12 or 15 years, Peter Graves specializes in his field of Entertainment, including subjects famous for film and television acting and directing, as well as music performing.
Jack Perkins, meanwhile, introduces subjects famous in fields of History and World Leadership, Arts and Literature, Science and Invention, Sports, Business and Industry, as well as Newsmakers of notoriety.
Harry Smith handles each category with equal aplomb amid his very busy schedule of hosting and narrating.
In addition to the three principle narrators, others famous as news reporters also handle those reigns, as Bob Brown, Hugh Downs, Bill Kurtis or Mike Wallace.
Often, famous celebrities in their own right narrate episodes, such as Shelley Fabares, Jodie Foster, Kevin Bacon, Eric Braeden, Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Edward Herrmann, Hal Linden, Richard Kiley, Monte Markham, Bill Mumy or Tom Selleck, usually to spotlight other entertainers.
Russell Buchanan specializes in narrating episodes featuring Country music stars, while others who often narrate include Zach Fine, Dave Hoffman, Thomas Miller, Don Morrow and Larry Robinson.
Famous Guest Hosts also occasionally appear to introduce episodes during a theme week, such as Jerry Orbach or Kevin Bacon.
At its very best, the series is thoroughly researched and well-produced, labeling captions for archive film clips and performers, and adding interesting trivia regarding the lives and careers of its subjects.
But then a large production staff displays a great deal of inconsistency, often from one episode to the next, as one star may have his or her film and television clips well-documented, and the next may be deprived this privilege for some strange reason.
Well, I suppose that studios may hold a portion of the responsibility for not issuing adequate film clips or television or song clips to the "Biography" production staff, but the graphics also vary from one episode to the next, as well as the ending credits if you could manage to catch a glimpse of those as they roll by on those split-screen credits with promotional gimmicks overtaking the balance of the screen.
And, of course, fans often know a great deal more about the lives and careers of their stars than any given episode may present for want of time and research.
But, all-in-all, the series does offer a great number of episodes from various categories which you may wish to see and to revisit, so this is a good idea for a series, and often enjoyable, entertaining and informative to study although some subjects from its "Newsworthy" category may not qualify as deserving in everyone's better judgment.
This presentation by Jack Perkins illustrates the history of Santa Claus.
Also in the production is Martin Ebon, Father George Passias and also many of the old cartoons from 1933 and 1947.
Of particular interest is Santa's Surprise from 1947 in which 7 young children, all from different cultures, surprise Santa by sneaking into his house and cleaning it.
Many episodes are included as extras on various DVDs from Fox Films, so one can see portraits of Henry Fonda, Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Vincent Price, among others. If the show can make people you didn't think you'd care about worthy of viewing, you know it's doing something right!
However, missing from the pantheon of notables who have had a Bio devoted to them is Al Jolson. Here we have, arguably, the greatest stage performer in the history of Broadway, a star of the highest magnitude whose life story is still compelling. Yet the good people of Biography did not think him worthy of an episode? Badly done.
I would have to give it away to tell you how this movie helped me. The Call Me Anna book also is brilliant. Please join me in one hurrah for anyone who is willing, as an actor or actress, to go public on such an area of sensitive and stigmatic a subject.