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S2 Ep6
Maurice Sendak: Mon Cher Papa
Best known for, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Maurice Sendak has spent the past fifty years bringing to life a world of fantasy and imagination. His unique vision is loved around the globe by both young and old. Beyond his award-winning work as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, Sendak has produced both operas and ballets for television and the stage.
Premiered: 8/31/1987
S7 Ep1
Paul Simon: Born at the Right Time
In the 1960s, Paul Simon’s moving lyric “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was an anthem for a generation. With Art Garfunkel he made moving testaments to the times, fusing folk and rock music. In the 1980s he pioneered a popular cross-cultural music that brought South African musicians into mainstream America. Recently, Simon finished his most ambitious project yet — “The Capeman,” a Broadway musical.
Premiered: 3/8/1993
S4 Ep9
W. Eugene Smith: Photography Made Difficult
The war in the South Pacific, a country doctor in Colorado, victims of industrial pollution in a Japanese village — all of these were captured in unforgettable photographs by the legendary W. Eugene Smith. No matter where, what, or whom he was shooting, Smith drove himself relentlessly to create evocative portraits that revealed the essence of his subjects in a way that touched the emotions.
Premiered: 9/25/1989
S14 Ep7
The Source: The Story of the Beats and the Beat Generation
William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg
When Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs met in New York City in the 1940s, they had no intention of starting a social revolution. According to Ginsberg, “We were just trying to propose our own souls to ourselves.” In the midst of post-war conservatism, these young writers had become disenchanted and were experimenting with new forms of communication.
Premiered: 5/31/2000
S5 Ep2
Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer
Preston Sturges
Considered the father of the screwball comedy, Preston Sturges was recognized as one of the great early writers in Hollywood. Sturges was born in 1898 in Chicago, Illinois. His mother, Mary Desti, was an Irish immigrant with dreams of stardom. When Preston was still an infant, she left his father and later pursued a career as a singer.
Premiered: 7/2/1990
S10 Ep2
William Styron: The Way of the Writer
William Styron
The work of William Styron, which includes novels such as SOPHIE’S CHOICE and THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER, has generated both praise and controversy over the past fifty years. Grounded in history and epic in sweep, his fiction has grappled with some of the most harrowing events and unresolved moral questions of our time.
Premiered: 1/22/1996
S19 Ep2
Sweet Honey in The Rock: Raise Your Voice
Sweet Honey in the Rock
A quintet of African-American women, singing as a unit of the vocal workshop of Washington D.C’s Black Repertory Theater Company, organized an a cappella group and called themselves “Sweet Honey In The Rock.” It would not overstate the case to add the overworked – but definitely applicable – phrase “and the rest is history.”
Premiered: 6/29/2005
S14 Ep4
Paul Taylor: Dancemaker
Paul Taylor
In 1952, a 22-year old athlete with little training or experience won a work scholarship to the American Dance Festival. Powerfully built, he immediately captured the attention of dance giants Martha Graham, José Limón, and Doris Humphrey. This young dancer had a commanding presence, instinctive talent, and a unique way of moving.
Premiered: 1/5/2000
S12 Ep2
Vaudeville: An American Masters Special
Vaudeville
At the turn of the century in America, the Wright Brothers made their first successful flight, Jack London wrote Call of the Wild, Henry Ford started his motor company, and thousands of people escaped small apartments in big cities to see the amazing acts of vaudeville. Vaudeville was made of comedians, singers, plate-spinners, ventriloquists, dancers, musicians, acrobats, and animal trainers.
Premiered: 11/26/1997
S14 Ep5
Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light
More than an actor (and Academy-Award winner), Sidney Poitier is an artist. A writer and director, a thinker and critic, a humanitarian and diplomat, his presence as a cultural icon has long been one of protest and humanity. His career defined and documented the modern history of blacks in American film, and his depiction of proud and powerful characters was and remains revolutionary.
Premiered: 2/2/2000
S6 Ep4
Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One
Sarah Vaughan
"The most important singer to emerge from the bop era.” Ella Fitzgerald called her the world’s “greatest singing talent.” During the course of a career that spanned nearly fifty years, she was the singer’s singer, influencing everyone from Mel Torme to Anita Baker. She was among the musical elite identified by their first names. She was Sarah, Sassy — the incomparable Sarah Vaughan.
Premiered: 7/29/1991
S17 Ep6
Muddy Waters: Can't be Satisfied
Muddy Waters is, in many ways, the archetypal bluesman. He was raised as a sharecropper in the Mississippi Delta, where he learned to play an acoustic guitar. He went to Chicago in 1943, and the band he assembled established the electric blues sound. Over the next three and a half-decades, his band became a springboard for many of his sidemen, launching a prominent school of blues performers.
Premiered: 4/23/2003
S9 Ep2
Tennessee Williams: Orpheus of the American Stage
Tennessee Williams at age 54 in 1965.
He was brilliant and prolific, breathing life and passion into such memorable characters as Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski in his critically acclaimed A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. And like them, he was troubled and self-destructive, an abuser of alcohol and drugs. He was awarded four Drama Critic Circle Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Premiered: 12/19/1994
S2 Ep2
William Wyler: Directed by William Wyler
A pillar of the American film industry, William Wyler directed some of the best loved movies of his time. Known for his sensitive direction of great actors, he worked with some of the best, including John Barrymore, Bette Davis, Humphry Bogart, and Myrna Loy. Today he is considered both a master director and a substantial influence on American culture.
Premiered: 7/13/1987
S21 Ep1
Novels Reflections on the American Dream
Novel Reflections Re-enactment
The American novel is a powerful story. It unifies us, it motivates us, it gives meaning to our lives. It is a story affirming that success in this country is not a matter of inheritance but, rather a matter of determination. It is a story assuring us that we can, indeed, define our own destiny. Yet, experience tells us there is another American story.
Premiered: 4/4/2007

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