American Experience (1988– )
8.6/10
281
6 user 1 critic

The Donner Party 

Doomed attempt to get to California in 1846. More than just a riveting tale of death, endurance and survival. The Donner Party's nightmarish journey penetrated to the very heart of the ... See full summary »

Director:

Ric Burns

Writer:

Ric Burns
Reviews

On Disc

at Amazon

Photos

Edit

Cast

Episode credited cast:
David McCullough ... Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
J.D. Cannon ... (voice)
Timothy Hutton ... (voice)
Gene Jones ... (voice)
Amy Madigan ... (voice)
Donal McCann ... (voice)
George Plimpton ... (voice)
Paul Roebling Paul Roebling ... (voice)
Lois Smith ... (voice)
Frances Sternhagen ... (voice)
Eli Wallach ... George McKinstry (voice)
Edit

Storyline

Doomed attempt to get to California in 1846. More than just a riveting tale of death, endurance and survival. The Donner Party's nightmarish journey penetrated to the very heart of the American Dream at a crucial phase of the nation's "manifest destiny. Touching some of the most powerful social, economic and political currents of the time, this extraordinary narrative remains one of the most compelling and enduring episodes to come out of the West. Written by Joshua Mueller

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Edit

Details

Official Sites:

PBS | PBS [United States]

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 October 1992 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Steeplechase Films,WGBH See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Soundtracks

Children on the Hill
Composed and Performed by Harold Budd
Courtesy of Upala Music, Inc. and Warner Bros. Records
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Chilling & Haunting Masterpiece.
25 August 2013 | by AaronCapenBannerSee all my reviews

An episode of the PBS series "American Experience", this re-telling of the doomed expedition of the Donner and Reed families to migrate from Illinois to California in covered wagons in the years 1846-1847, only to find devastating disappointment, hardship, and bad luck as they get stuck in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during a record series of blizzards is so unexpectedly compelling, moving, and powerful, that it was worthy of being released as a feature film.

There is no gore or on screen violence at all, despite the grim and grisly details, this instead uses narrated excerpts from the diaries of the family members to tell the story, and a more effective narrative device could not have been found; modern horror film-makers could learn a great deal on how effective subtlety, light and shadow can be. It is quietly told, yet retains such dramatic impact that it may bring you to tears. Eerie, sweeping music score will leave you breathless. Ending line, "Remember, never take no cut offs, and hurry along as fast as you can." is devastating.

Highly recommended!


3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 6 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page



Recently Viewed