A HIDDEN CORNER OF HISTORY
By Eric Stange: Producer, Director and Co-Writer
It was a filmmaker's dream: a phone call out of
the blue asking if I'd like to produce an historical documentary
for public television.
There was only one hitch - I'd never heard of the
subject. Do I pretend I had heard of him and get caught?
Or do I just fess up and say, as I did, "Well, I've never heard
of him ... (uncomfortable pause)...but he must be pretty interesting."
Jesse H. Jones - the man who built Houston. Millionaire
real estate tycoon. Washington power player supreme. The phone
caller, executive producer Steven Fenberg, assured me Jones was
one of the most important figures in Franklin Roosevelt's New
Deal. Any moment I expected Steven to say, "I can't believe you've
never heard of him!" Charitably, he never did. It soon became
clear Steven was used to it. I wasn't alone, Jesse Jones was not
a household name. Not even in Houston.
Of course, my next question (to myself) was whether
he wasn't a household name because he didn't deserve to be. Surely
there is some justice in how history operates; if someone is completely
forgotten it must be for good reason.
The year we spent making this film has opened my
eyes to a new and illuminating understanding of how history operates.
We know that the poor, the disenfranchised, and the oppressed
often get left out of history - who among them can tell their
stories? But in the case of Jesse Jones - one of the richest and
most powerful men in American history - the answer is less obvious.