A Brilliant Madness
The story of Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash.
A Brilliant Madness is the story of a mathematical genius whose career was cut short by a descent into madness. At the age of 30, John Nash, a stunningly original and famously eccentric MIT mathematician, suddenly began claiming that aliens were communicating with him and that he was a special messenger. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Nash spent the next three decades in and out of mental hospitals, all but forgotten. During that time, a proof he had written at the age of 20 became a foundation of modern economic theory. In 1994, as Nash began to show signs of emerging from his delusions, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics. The program features interviews with John Nash, his wife Alicia, his friends and colleagues, and experts in game theory and mental illness.
This two-hour AMERICAN EXPERIENCE tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the underappreciated genius who laid the groundwork for the nation's modern economy - including the banking system, Wall Street, and an "opportunity society" in which talent and hard
One of the most controversial men of his age, Alexander Hamilton was a gifted statesman brought down by the fatal flaws of stubbornness, extreme candor, and arrogance. His life and career were marked by a stunning rise to power, scandal, and tragedy. He had one of the most notorious love affairs of any public figure in American history, and met his death in a startling act of political violence -- the famous duel with Aaron Burr. But his contributions as a statesman survive. As first Secretary of the Treasury during the tumultuous early years of the republic, Hamilton led the transformation of the young country into a commercial and industrial powerhouse. He was the one founder who had a vision, not of what America was, but of what it could become. This two-hour AMERICAN EXPERIENCE tells the story of the underappreciated genius who laid the groundwork for the nation's modern economy - including the banking system, Wall Street, and an "opportunity society" in which talent and hard work, not birth, determined success.
Ballad of a Mountain Man (no website available)
Bascom Lamar Lunsford and his campaign to preserve mountain music and dance.
Bascom Lamar Lunsford was a pioneer folklorist who in the 1920s began a campaign to preserve mountain music and dance. He dignified what was known as "hillbilly music." Knocking on doors of local banjo pickers and fiddlers, listening to their songs, he amassed an extraordinary repertoire, recorded for the Library of Congress and started the first folk music festival.
Barnum's Big Top (no website available)
P.T. Barnum -- huckster, con man, promoter and entertainer.
P.T. Barnum was huckster, con man, promoter and entertainer. His American Museum featured ancient relics side by side with such "living curiosities" as lions, snakes, bearded ladies and Siamese twins. In 1871 he took the whole show on the road; it traveled by rail. Barnum introduced the idea of three rings, and his "Jumbo the Elephant" added a new word to the English language. By the time he teamed up with James Bailey, his circus had become "The Greatest Show on Earth."
Just as the American frontier was disappearing, "Buffalo Bill" Cody transformed himself into a master showman, creating a world-famous traveling show that brought the "real" Wild West to life.
(Watch the program online.)
William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's legendary exploits helped create the myth of the American West that still endures today. Born in an Iowa log cabin in 1846, he fought Indians, worked as a Pony Express rider, and earned his nickname while hunting buffalo to feed the construction crews of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. After the Civil War he scouted for the U.S. Army along America's vast western frontier. In 1883, just as that frontier was disappearing, he transformed himself into a master showman, creating and starring in a world-famous traveling show that brought the "real" Wild West to life. Part circus, part history, Buffalo Bill's Wild West toured for three decades, playing to enthusiastic crowds across the United States and Europe.
Daley, the Last Boss (no website available)
Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago, and his climb up the political ladder.
Richard J. Daley was born on a street he would never leave and christened in the small church in which he would be buried. His climb up the political ladder to become Mayor was slow and methodical; in a job he coveted, he built a political machine that changed the nature of urban politics, but he was ill-equipped to cope with two great 20th century challenges: race and the war in Vietnam.
Do You Mean There Are Still Real Cowboys? (no website available)
A year in the life of Wyoming cowboys.
A year in the life of Wyoming cowboys and the ranching families who have lived in Big Piney for six generations. Although very much the same as it was one hundred years ago -- tough, lonely, but still romantic -- ranching is now a threatened way of life.
Edison's Miracle of Light
He harnessed electricity and revolutionized the world.
In 1878, Thomas Edison announced his intention to harness Niagara Falls and produce a safe, electric light system. He said he could do it in six weeks. Almost three years later, all the components -- bulbs, sockets, switches, wires, junction boxes -- were finally ready. The "Wizard of Menlo Park" may have revolutionized the world, but he was caught in a web of personal, patent and corporate battles, eventually losing control of the industry he founded.
Eric Sevareid's Not So Wild A Dream (no website available)
Based on Sevareid's best-selling book of the same title.
A touching memoir beginning with life in a small Minnesota town and taking us through a young man's early days as pacifist. Reporting on the rise of fascism in Europe, Sevareid, as a young CBS reporter, would change his belief. Based on Sevareid's best-selling book of the same title.
Playwright Eugene O'Neill's turbulent story: from childhood through the years of his prolific career (including "The Iceman Cometh," "A Touch of the Poet," and the autobiographical masterpiece "Long Day's Journey Into Night") to his lonely, painful death
Eugene O'Neill tells the haunting story of the life and work of America's greatest and only Nobel Prize-winning playwright -- set within the context of the harrowing family dramas and personal upheavals that shaped him, and that he in turn struggled all his life to give form to in his art. More than a biography of the greatest literary genius the American theater has produced, the program is a moving meditation on loss and redemption, family and memory, the cost of being an artist, and the inescapability of the past.
It is also a penetrating exploration of the masterpieces O'Neill created only at the very end of his career -- "The Iceman Cometh" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night" pre-eminent among them -- brought to life in mesmerizing scenes performed especially for the production by some of the most gifted actors working in theater today, including Al Pacino, Zoe Caldwell, Christopher Plummer, Robert Sean Leonard, Liam Neeson, and Vanessa Redgrave.
Castro's face with its trademark beard, has become an iconic image worldwide, yet the man himself remains an enigma to all but a few. Learn about the most resilient of leaders.
On January 3, 1959, a column of victorious young rebels advanced along Cuba's main highway towards Havana. At the head of the column rode 33-year-old Fidel Castro Ruz. As he went by, a Cuban peasant turned to an American journalist, and said: "There he goes, the hope of a people."
Over the next few decades, by the force of his personality and the might of his Soviet benefactor, Castro turned himself and Cuba into significant players on the world stage. He did so while surviving the hostility of ten consecutive U.S. presidents, an invasion, several CIA assassination attempts and an economic embargo.
Castro's face with its trademark beard, has become an iconic image worldwide, yet the man himself remains an enigma to all but a few. Through interviews with relatives, childhood friends, fellow rebel leaders, Bay of Pigs veterans, human rights activists and journalists, American Experience: Fidel Castro constructs an intimate and revealing portrait of the most resilient of leaders.
G-Men -- The Rise of J. Edgar Hoover (no website available)
Of all the alphabet agencies of the New Deal, none captured the public's imagination like J. Edgar Hoover's FBI.
Of all the alphabet agencies of the New Deal, none captured the public's imagination like J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. During the years 1930-39, the crime problem was frightening and real, however exaggerated by the FBI. Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd and Bonnie and Clyde were public enemies; G-men the public heroes.
God Bless America and Poland Too (no website available)
A nostalgic and humorous look at how old world Chicago lives side by side with the new.
Frank Popiolek was 14 when he came to America in 1911, one of 2 million Polish immigrants who made the journey. He settled in Chicago and became a barber, instilling in his family a love of the "old world" traditions and pride in their Polish heritage. A nostalgic and humorous look at how old world Chicago lives side by side with the new.
If You Knew Sousa (no website available)
America's favorite bandmaster.
John Phillip Sousa became America's favorite bandmaster, but band music wasn't Sousa's only passion. He was the first to bring the classics -- Verdi, Wagner, Puccini -- to a burgeoning American middle class. Wildly popular, his was the first large musical organization to go on tour and make music pay. He helped give birth to that great American institution, the small town marching band.
John and Abigail Adams
This film explores the remarkable characters and tumultuous times of John and Abigail Adams, using excerpts from their many letters to bring their story to life.
(More about John Adams on The Presidents Web site)
John and Abigail Adams played a critical role in many of the pivotal events of their era: he was a vociferous participant at the Continental Congress; she was an important eyewitness reporter during the Siege of Boston; he was an important wartime emissary to France. In the post-war era, first as vice president, then as president, Adams was caught up in the increasing political divisiveness that characterized the 1790s when rifts in the country almost pulled the fledgling nation apart.Opening a window onto the revolutionary era, John and Abigail's story provides a strikingly intimate look inside a marriage of true companions, for whom life included not just the great events of history, but also laughter, loneliness, affection, and family tragedy.
This film is a revealing portrait of Jones, his followers, and the times that produced the calamity in the Guyanese jungle, told by the people who know the story firsthand: Jonestown survivors, Temple defectors, relatives of the dead, and journalists.
On November 17, 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan traveled to an isolated rain forest in Guyana to investigate the concerns of his San Francisco-area constituents. Their alarming stories focused on a jungle compound known as Jonestown, a group called the Peoples Temple, and its leader, Jim Jones. According to news filtering back to America, U.S. citizens were being held against their will in prison camp conditions. There were allegations of physical and sexual abuse and even rumors of a planned mass suicide. Congressman Ryan, an impassioned human rights advocate, decided to get the facts for himself. Within forty-eight hours, Ryan, Jones, and over 900 Jonestown settlers were dead - casualties of the largest mass murder-suicide in history. In the next few days, grizzly details of cyanide-laced fruit punch and disturbing images of children poisoned by their parents emerged from the jungle. American Experience goes beyond the salacious headlines to provide a revealing portrait of Jones, his followers, and the times that produced the calamity in the Guyanese jungle, told by the people who know the story firsthand: Jonestown survivors, Temple defectors, relatives of the dead, and journalists.
He wrote the book on sex.
Alfred Kinsey was a little-known biologist at Indiana University when, in the 1940s, he began compiling exhaustive data from tens of thousands of interviews about the sexual practices of men and women. The results of that research were the explosive, best-selling "Kinsey Reports." Implicit in the revolutionary study was a plea for greater tolerance. "Such terms as abnormal, unnatural, oversexed, and undersexed," wrote Harper's Magazine, "have little validity in the light of Professor Kinsey's revelations."
The man behind the inflammatory reports seemed at first glance an unlikely "revolutionary." Publicly, he was an erudite, tweedy academic, but in private Kinsey was far more complex. As his interest in sex research deepened, so did his wide-ranging sexual experimentation. Though his work was groundbreaking, and up-ended established ideas about sexual practices in America, his own sexual practices and personal beliefs almost certainly shaped and biased his findings.
Through interviews with his research assistants, his children, people who took his sex questionnaire, his biographers, and intellectual historians, this probing documentary assesses Kinsey's remarkable achievements, while examining how his personal life shaped his career.
Knute Rockne and His Fighting Irish (no website available)
Knute Rockne, a pivotal figure in the sudden rise of sports to a position of enormous power in American life.
When he died in 1931 in a plane crash on his way to Hollywood to sign a film contract, the President called it a "national loss." The funeral was broadcast live on CBS Radio to Europe, South America and Asia. As Notre Dame's football coach, Knute Rockne galvanized attention to his "Fighting Irish" and was a pivotal figure in the sudden rise of sports to a position of enormous power in American life.
Love in the Cold War (no website available)
A family torn apart by political beliefs.
Eugene Dennis fled to Moscow to avoid indictment and prison for his work for the American Communist Party in the late 1920s; his wife Peggy and 18-month-old son soon followed. In 1935, they were reassigned to America but ordered to leave behind their five-year-old who spoke only Russian. A second son, born in America, offers an honest and touching examination of the lives of his parents, whose political beliefs tore the family apart.
Mr. Miami Beach
Carl Fisher, the man who invented Miami Beach.
In 1925, Miami Beach was the hottest spot in America, a magical playground by the sea with luxurious hotels, golf courses, swimming pavilions and Beautiful People. Yet just ten years earlier, none of it existed -- not even the sand. Everything was the creation of Carl Fisher, a fast-living dreamer and master promoter from Indiana. A self-made millionaire who built the Indianapolis Speedway, Fisher saw his tropical paradise boom -- until a hurricane, the Crash of 1929, and his own demons brought it all crashing down.
Patriots Day (no website available)
In 1775, local American militias routed the British at the Battle of Lexington and Concord -- but 65 men of His Majesty's 10th Regiment and 67 American rebels are still fighting today.
In 1775, local American militias routed the British at the Battle of Lexington and Concord -- but 65 men of His Majesty's 10th Regiment and 67 American rebels are still fighting today. Who are they, and what has taken them on their personal journeys into the American past?Among the characters on the British side is one-time Off-Broadway theater director turned electrical engineer, Paul Hutchinson, who assumes the role of Major John Pitcairn. Leading the defense of Lexington is 54-year-old Skip Hayward, who plays the militia's Chief of Staff. Among the supporting characters are Henry Liu, a Chinese American banker, Mike Coppe, a pediatric dentist, and Dan Feen, a self-described "forensic historian" who leads discussions about historical accuracy.The film follows the reenactors as they shuffle between their 18th and 21st century lives. It captures them building sets, planning military engagements, drilling, rehearsing battles as well as celebrating Thanksgiving, moving house and working. In the end it celebrates their patriotism, love of costumes, civic duty, willingness to perform, and passion for history.
Reconstruction The Second Civil War
The stories of ordinary people, North and South, in the tumultuous years after the Civil War, when America struggled to rebuild the Union and integrate former slaves into the life of the nation.
In his first speech after the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln began with only a few words to celebrate the recent victory. He went straight to the problem at hand: acknowledging that there was no agreed-upon plan for the future, and warning that the way ahead would be "fraught with great difficulty." Spanning the years 1863 to 1877, Reconstruction tells the story of the tumultuous years after the Civil War during which America struggled to rebuild itself, successfully bring the South back into the Union and integrate former slaves into the life of the country. This three-hour series interweaves the stories of key political players in Washington -- among them Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses Grant -- with the stories of ordinary people, black and white, Republican and Democrat, in the North and South, whose lives were caught up in the turbulent struggles of the era.
Robert Francis Kennedy would almost certainly have been president if his violent death hadn't intervened. This probing and perceptive biography reassesses the remarkable and tragic life of the third Kennedy son, the boy Joe Sr. called the "runt."
Robert Francis Kennedy would almost certainly have been president if his violent death hadn't intervened. He was brave, claims one biographer, "precisely because he was fearful and self-doubting." This probing and perceptive biography reassesses the remarkable and tragic life of the third Kennedy son, the boy Joe Sr. called the "runt."Featuring extensive interviews with family members, friends, journalists, Washington insiders, and civil rights activists, the film chronicles the pivotal role RFK played in many of the major events of the 1960s -- the Cuban Missile Crisis , the civil rights movement , the war in Vietnam. The film looks closely at Kennedy's complicated relationships with some of the leading figures of his day, Martin Luther King and Lyndon B. Johnson among them. And it reveals much about his personal world, his role as family mediator, his involvement with Marilyn Monroe, and his overwhelming grief and guilt following the assassination of his older brother.
The exceptional baseball player and humanitarian whose career sheds light on larger issues of immigration, civil rights and cultural change.
On New Year's Eve 1972, Roberto Clemente, a thirty-seven-year-old baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, boarded a DC-7 loaded with relief supplies for earthquake victims in Managua, Nicaragua. A native of Puerto Rico, Clemente had established a special relief fund for his devastated neighbors. Shortly after takeoff the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, a mile off the Puerto Rican coast. Clemente's body was never found. Roberto Clemente's untimely death brought an end to a spectacular career. In his eighteen seasons with the Pirates, he led the team to two World Series championships, won four National League batting titles, received the Most Valuable Player award, and earned twelve Gold Gloves.
Scandalous Mayor (no website available)
James Michael Curley and his sophisticated political machine dominated Boston for almost half a century.
James Michael Curley dominated Boston's politics for almost half a century, building a sophisticated political machine based on rhetoric, old-fashioned patronage and sheer personal will. In 1903, he ran a campaign from jail and won; he overpowered opponents with charisma and intelligence, and if that didn't work, he smeared them. Curley's colorful, combative style seized the imagination of the community because he thumbed his nose at the Yankee establishment.
The long shot horse that captured America's heart.
He was boxy, with stumpy legs that wouldn't completely straighten, a short straggly tail and an ungainly gait, but though he didn't look the part, Seabiscuit was one of the most remarkable thoroughbred racehorses in history.In the 1930s, when Americans longed to escape the grim realities of Depression-era life, four men turned Seabiscuit into a national hero. They were fabulously wealthy owner Charles Howard, silent and stubborn trainer Tom Smith, and the two hard-bitten, gifted jockeys who rode him to glory. By following the paths that brought these four together and in telling the story of Seabiscuit's unlikely career, this film illuminates the precarious economic conditions that defined America in the 1930s and explores the fascinating behind-the-scenes world of thoroughbred racing.
The Boy in the Bubble
When David Vetter died at the age of 12, he was already world famous: the boy in the plastic bubble. Mythologized as the plucky, handsome child who defied the odds, his life story is in fact even more dramatic.
On February 22, 1984, Carol Ann Vetter touched her 12-year-old son's hand for the first time. David Vetter had spent his entire life inside a sterile isolator, with a protective layer of plastic shielding him from the world around him. Afflicted with a rare hereditary disease, severe combined immunodeficiency, David was defenseless against any germs. Now, his doctors were gambling on an experimental procedure to free him from his isolation -- but David would live only two weeks in the outside world before succumbing to infection.In his own time, many regarded David's twelve-year odyssey inside his bubble as a triumph of technology. To others, it was a bizarre experiment that exemplified medical hubris. Since his death, David's name has receded; millions have come to know him simply as "the boy in the bubble," popularized by Paul Simon's hit song, a feature film, and television's "Seinfeld."
Joe Louis and Max Schmeling fought for their people, and for their nations on the brink of war. Most of all, they fought for themselves.
On June 22, 1938, 70,000 fans crammed into Yankee Stadium to watch what some observers have since called "the most important sporting event in history." Millions more tuned in to hear a blow-by-blow description on the radio.The rematch between the African American heavyweight Joe Louis and his German opponent Max Schmeling was riveting -- "one hundred and twenty-four seconds of murder," as one newspaper put it. But for most spectators the fight was much more than a boxing match; it was an historic event freighted with symbolic significance, both a harbinger of the civil rights movement and a prelude to World War II.In this first feature-length documentary about the momentous encounter, American Experience captures the anticipation the bout generated, the swirl of events leading up to it, the impact Louis's victory had on black America and its significance for Jews on both sides of the Atlantic.
Little more than a decade after his rise to fame, Walter Freeman was decried as a monster, and his procedure was labeled one of the most barbaric mistakes of modern medicine.
In the early decades of the 20th century, before the development of psychiatric medications, there were few effective treatments for mental illness. For most patients, the last stop in their anguished journey was an overcrowded state asylum. An ambitious young neurologist named Walter Freeman advocated a more radical approach -- brain surgery to reduce the severity of psychotic symptoms.Despite mixed results, by the early 1940s, some fifty state asylums were performing lobotomies on their patients. The procedure was hailed as a miracle cure, Freeman himself a visionary who brought hope to the most desolate human beings.Yet only a decade later, the story would come full-circle again. Freeman would be decried as a moral monster, the lobotomy as one of the most barbaric mistakes ever perpetrated by mainstream medicine.
The Man Behind Hitler
This portrait of Joseph Goebbels, delivered in words taken directly from his diaries, offers an insiderÍs view of the rise of the Nazi party.
A symbol of Nazi cruelty and a master of cynical propaganda, Joseph Goebbels was the mastermind behind Adolf Hitler's disturbing success.Goebbels, called the "genius of spin" and the "Reich-Liar-General," was a complicated man whose attitudes fluctuated between extremes of self-pity and grandiose excess. This program shows how Goebbels constantly reinvented himself through the years of his greatest success, and allows the man to speak for himself through the diaries he kept. Actor Kenneth Branagh reads the diary excerpts, revealing a chilling personality whose words justified racism, the Holocaust, and total war.Rare historical footage from German archives traces the path of the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany, exploring his initial attraction to the Nazi party, his adoration of Hitler, his wild extermination fantasies, and, ultimately, his tragic self-delusions and suicide in 1945.
This film presents a complex portrait of Mormonism. It digs deep into the Mormon past to understand the church today. It neither vilifies the church nor extols it, and in doing so it shows that the Mormon story is an American story and that Mormonism is p
An AMERICAN EXPERIENCE/FRONTLINE co-productionMormons have always had a strange hold on the American imagination as licentious polygamists and pioneer heroes, subversives and super patriots, hard workers and possessors of dark secrets. Yet though Mormons have been persecuted more than any other religious group in the nation's history, and though Mormonism is one of the fastest growing faiths, most Americans know little about the religion. In this revealing, provocative two-part documentary, filmmaker Helen Whitney digs deep into the Mormon past to understand the church today. As she reveals, though the Mormons' early story is gaudy, extravagant and scandalous, it is also inspiring and the basis of their theology. At a crossroads, the Mormon Church is now finally confronting its history-what is fact and what is myth?-and reconciling scientific and historic truth with religious doctrine. With unprecedented access to church archives and with the cooperation of church leadership, Whitney paints a more complex portrait of Mormonism than ever before, a portrait that neither vilifies the church nor extols it, and in doing so she reveals that the Mormon story is an American story and that Mormonism is perhaps the most American of religions.
The Radio Priest (no website available)
Father Charles Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest from Michigan, uses the new power of radio to become one of the first media stars.
Father Charles Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest from Michigan, uses the new power of radio to become one of the first media stars; every Sunday he would broadcast his message railing against the nation's economic and social system to millions of listeners caught in the grip of the Depression.
The World That Moses Built (no website available)
Robert Moses built some of the most ambitious public works ever conceived, and some of the most controversial.
From the late 1920s through the 1960s, Robert Moses held almost total power over the landscape of New York. He built bridges, highways, Jones Beach, Lincoln Center and the United Nations, some of the most ambitious public works ever conceived, and some of the most controversial.
Today one of the most-recognized figures in American literary history, poet Walt Whitman was denounced by critics in his own time.
On a hot summer day in 1855, a 36-year-old writer emerged from an undistinguished printer's shop in Brooklyn, New York, carrying a slim volume of his work. To family, friends and neighbors, Walter Whitman, Jr., may have been just a too-old bachelor who lived in his parents' attic, but as he walked the city streets that day, he knew something of himself they could not imagine. With his book of a dozen poems, Leaves of Grass, he was about to introduce America to a savior. Ominous events were on the horizon in America, and Walt Whitman offered up his poetry and his persona as a perfect reflection of the America he saw; it was daring, noble, naive, brutish, sexual, frightening and flawed.
Wildcatter -- A Story of Texas Oil (no website available)
The tale of mavericks whose risk-taking, sweat and dreams changed an American industry.
The tale of mavericks whose risk-taking, sweat and dreams changed an American industry. Starting with Spindletop, the first Texas gusher in 1902, rare archival film and interviews with pioneering oilmen are set against a contemporary story of a modern "wildcatter," gambling to find his fortune in yet another narrow hole in the Texas earth.