British native, but long-term American resident Alistair Cooke hosted this long-running documentary on the development of the United States. Starting through the colonial periods, through the revolutionary war and pioneer expansionist eras, into the global conflicts and economic domination of the twentieth century, and ending with the social upheavals and counter-culture revolutions of the 1960's and 70's.Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
In one of the opening shots you can see the World Trade Center under construction. See more »
The series was subsequently divided up into half hour episodes for repeat broadcasts in other venues. See more »
Cooke up some Burns, instead
This is a thirteen hour epic, told by one of the great broadcasters of the twentieth century, Alistair Cooke. He was from Manchester, England, but went to America as a foreign correspondent just before the Great Depression and remained there ever after. His knowledge of America is vast.
In England, we know him from his long-running (about fifty years) radio programme, Letters from America, a little fifteen minute gem, once a week on BBC radio. In that programme he spoke about various matters in America, all in an off-the-cuff technique; it was like a 'fireside chat'. He had a unique, lovely voice, ideally suited for radio; his appearance on television is just as benign.
Here, it has been transferred to television, with a series of one hour programmes covering the main features of American history. You'll learn about the Pilgrim Fathers, independence and the Philadelphia Convention, the Civil War, various other wars, the political system and so forth. It is a fascinating, relaxing programme, all accompanied by some fine background music.
However, this series was made in 1972 and the DVD transfer seems to have had no re-mastering at all. It is scratchy and faded - dated.
Alistair Cooke does preface this series with the line 'A Personal History' and in many ways it is so - he often brings in little anecdotes along the way, describing the places he's seen and the people he's met.
It's all very interesting but, in my view, it has a long way to go to reach the heights of a Ken Burns masterpiece, such as his The West or The Civil War. Ken Burns' epic documentaries are on a different level altogether; they combine greater research and documentary pictures and interviews, with better, more haunting music. I would recommend The West.
Of course, Alistair Cooke made his series twenty years before Ken Burns, and was a pioneer in his own way; perhaps he inspired Burns.
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