Mark your calendars for American Experience, airing on your local PBS station this summer! We will broadcast two films from our ever-so-popular Wild West Collection, biographies of two American titans, and on July 2, Mount Rushmore will air as part of PBS's Independence Day programming. We hope you enjoy our upcoming Summer schedule, which kicks off with "Jesse James" on May 7 at 8/7C.
Jesse James, May 7, 8pm ET
The story of Jesse James is one of America'smost familiar myths -- and one of its most wrong-headed. James, so the legend goes, was a Western outlaw, but in reality, he never went west. He has been called America's own Robin Hood, yet he robbed both rich and poor, and was never seen to share his ill-gotten gains. He was known as a gunfighter -- but his victims were almost always unarmed. Less heroic than brutal, James was a member of a vicious band of Missouri guerrillas during the Civil War, and sought vengeance for the Confederate defeat afterwards. In a life steeped in prolific violence and bloodshed, he met what was perhaps the most fitting end.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents Jesse James, the true story of an outlaw who has captured the imagination of generations of Americans. "There's something about this legend that Americans have a hard time letting go of," says film producer Mark Zwonitzer. "Perhaps it's the much-needed idea of a hero or the allure of an outlaw. Either way, I hope this film will set the record straight."
Annie Oakley, May 14, 8pm ET
In 1926, just a few months before Annie Oakley's death, Will Rogers describedher as "the greatest woman rifle shot the world has ever produced." As the star attraction of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, she thrilled audiences around the world with her daring shooting feats. Her act helped fuel turn-of-the-century nostalgia for the vanished, mythical world of the American West. Over time she became an American legend -- the loud, brassy, cocksure shooter celebrated in the musical "Annie Get Your Gun." But that legend had little to do with the real Annie Oakley. Although famous as a Western sharpshooter, Oakley lived her entire life east of the Mississippi. A champion in a man's sport, she forever changed ideas about the abilities of women, yet she opposed female suffrage. Her fame and fortune came from her skill with guns, yet she was a Quaker.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents Annie Oakley, the story of a five-foot-tall sharpshooter who pulled herself out of the depths of poverty to become known the world over as a symbol of the Wild West. From producer Riva Freifeld, this one-hour film chronicles Oakley's life, from her childhood in Ohio to her world tours with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show.
The Rockefellers, June 18, 8pm ET
"Mr. Rockefeller, your fortune is rolling up like an avalanche! You must distribute it faster than it grows! If you do not, it will crush you and your children and your children's children!"
--The Rev. Frederick Gates, hired by John D. Rockefeller to guide his philanthropy
They feared the temptations of wealth, yet their estate was once described as the kindof place God would have built--if only he had the money. They amassed a fortune that outraged a democratic nation, then gave much of it away. They were the closest thing this country had to a royal family, but they shunned the public eye, retreating behind the walls of their palatial home at Pocantico Hills, New York.
"The Rockefellers" is the saga of four generations of a legendary American family whose name is synonymous with great wealth.
Henry Ford, June 25, 8pm ET
An absorbing life story of a farm boy who rose from obscurity to becomethe most influential American innovator of the 20th century, Henry Ford offers an incisive look at the birth of the American auto industry with its long history of struggles between labor and management, and a thought-provoking reminder of how Ford's automobile forever changed the way we work, where we live, and our ideas about individuality, freedom, and possibility.
Through his own fierce determination, Ford created the Model T, the most successful car in history, and introduced the groundbreaking $5-a-day wage, ushering in the modern world as we know it. But despite his success, Ford remained restless and driven, always seeking to control what lay just beyond his grasp. While creating a more urban, industrial age, Ford simultaneously longed for the simpler era he had helped destroy. One of the nation's richest men, he despised the wealthy and blamed Jews for what he deemed society's degeneration. A hero to many ordinary Americans, he battled his workers and bullied those who looked up to him -- including, and most tragically, his only son.
Mount Rushmore, July 2, 9pm ET
High on a granite cliff in South Dakota's Black Hills tower the huge carved facesof four American presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Together they constitute the world's largest piece of sculpture.
The massive tableau inspires awe, curiosity and bemusement. How, and when, was it done? What obstacles were overcome to cut the 60-foot-high heads out of a wilderness mountain? Who possessed the audacity -- or lunacy -- to create such a gargantuan work?
The story of Mount Rushmore's creation is as bizarre and wonderful as the monument itself. It is the tale of a hyperactive, temperamental artist whose talent and determination propelled the project, even as his ego and obsession threatened to tear it apart. It is the story of hucksterism and hyperbole, of a massive public works project in the midst of an economic depression. And it is the story of dozens of ordinary Americans who suddenly found themselves suspended high on a cliff face with drills and hammers as a Danish sculptor they considered insane directed them in the creation what some would call a monstrosity, and others a masterpiece.
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Casey is the Special Projects Assistant for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.
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