Brother, Can You Spare A Billion? The Story of Jesse Jones  

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.