American Experience (1988– )
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Hawaii's Last Queen 


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Episode credited cast:
David McCullough ... Himself - Host
Anna Deavere Smith ... Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
H.J. Bartels H.J. Bartels ... Himself - Curator, 'Iolani Palace
Thelma Bugbee Thelma Bugbee ... Herself - Commentator
Malcolm Naea Chun Malcolm Naea Chun ... Himself - Cultural Specialist
Glen Grant Glen Grant ... Himself - Historial Researcher
Patricia Grimsaw Patricia Grimsaw ... Herself - Historian
Aaron Mahi Aaron Mahi ... Himself - Conductor, Royal Hawaiian Band
Davianna McGregor Davianna McGregor ... Herself - Historian
Tennant Mcwilliams Tennant Mcwilliams ... Himself - Historian (as Tennant McWilliams)
Thurston Twigg Smith Thurston Twigg Smith ... Himself - Grandson, Lorrin Thurston


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Release Date:

27 January 1997 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Did You Know?


The narrator says that the U.S. Marines came ashore with Gatling Guns and Revolving Cannons. In fact, a Gatling Gun is a Revolving Cannon, so this statement was inadvertently repetitive. See more »


Lili'uokalani Prayer
Written by Queen Liliuokalani
Arranger: John McCreary
Performed by The Galliard String Quartet
courtesy of Wa Nui Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Straightforward, well-told and sad
16 December 2012 | by runamokprodsSee all my reviews

Straightforward, well-told and sad, this documents how American business interests, and then the government slowly took Hawaii away from the Hawaiians. It's a tale too little known and discussed.

Queen Lili'uokalani comes off as quite an impressive and even heroic figure, trying to keep alive her culture and protect her people, without resorting to violence. Whether that was the right approach is debatable. At least one historian in the film argues that if the Hawaiians had put up some sort of armed resistance before the Americans were too ensconced they might have backed down. But I'm not sure I believe that's the case. Once it was clear there was wealth to be had, given the expansionist and racist tendencies of the era, the Queen may well have been right and just avoided a wholesale slaughter, or the kind of active genocide the Native Americans of the mainland had faced. I'm not sure popular American opinion would have sided with these brown-skinned 'others', even if violence had drawn more attention to the situation. Nor that the Hawaiians had anywhere near the arms or numbers of people to win such a war.

It's the tale of a monarch spending much of her life facing a series of lose-lose propositions in the name of progress and imperialism, and desperately trying to do the best she could with dignity and grace. A piece of American history too easily forgotten. Well worth seeing.

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