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American Experience - Eugene O'Neill: A Documentary Film

16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The author of such innovative works as "The Iceman Cometh" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night," Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Eugene O’Neill wrote 20 long plays in fewer than 25 years. Much of his writing was influenced by his troubled childhood and relationships. This AMERICAN EXPERIENCE production, by award-winning director Ric Burns, tells O'Neill's turbulent story from his childhood to his painful death at the age of 65.

Special Features

  • Performances and dramatic readings by Al Pacino, Liam Neeson. Christopher Plummer and others
  • Interview with director Ric Burns
  • Additional interviews with Jason Robards, Tony Kushner, John Guare and others

Product Details

  • Actors: Ric Burns, Eugene O'Neill
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: March 21, 2006
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000CNEQWI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,830 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Harley Hammerman on February 12, 2006
Anyone can make a documentary. It's become quite formulaic. You start with a story you want to tell, have a narrator anchor your tale, illustrate with moving images or still images over which you move, layer music and sound effects to create a mood, and add a healthy dose of "talking heads" to gain intimacy and credibility.

Put together Muhammad Ali, Lloyd Price, Zaire, "Rumble in the Jungle," and George Plimpton, and you get Leon Gast's ninety-minute "When We Were Kings." Put together Babe Ruth, Billy Crystal, Ebbets Field, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and Bob Costas, and you get Ken Burns' eighteen-and-a-half-hour "Baseball."

Anyone could have made a documentary on Eugene O'Neill. Of course it helps to have a big brother, who plucks you from the Columbia University campus to help him fight nine episodes of "The Civil War." It helps to have already made a highly acclaimed documentary of your own on the Big Apple. It helps to have enlisted the venerable Arthur and Barbara Gelb, who know more about your subject than you can ever hope to know. It helps to have a bit of luck - to have your hand slapped by a PBS executive for stretching a two hour documentary into three, and then being told that your next project on Eugene O'Neill, which you had planned on running four hours, WILL come in at two - or more precisely, 112 minutes. And it helps to be a genius.

On Monday evening, January 23rd, some 150 invited guests filled the MGM Screening Room at 6th Avenue and 55th Street in New York City. They previewed the American Experience PBS documentary "Eugene O'Neill," which will premier on Monday, March 27, 2006. They previewed the genius of Ric Burns.

"What does it cost to be an artist? What did it cost to be Eugene O'Neill?
Read more ›
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Vaughan Dawson on March 28, 2006
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I just saw the preview on PBS last night, and came straight here this morning to get a copy - it's that good. Kushner and Gelb have great insights, the music and photos are wonderful, and Plummer does a heartbreaking rendition of James Tyrone's Booth speech from Long Day's Journey. If you've ever been a fan of America's greatest playwright, you must have this DVD.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. R. Harrison on January 9, 2007
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It has been said that great conflict makes for great drama. The life of Eugene O'Neill is living proof of this fact. His was a life of physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish, and yet he is arguably the greatest American playwright, an artist whose work still speaks to us today. As a matter of fact, it was the very torments that he lived through that fed his genius. His Muse was his pain, and this is what this film explores in detail.

The man that we encounter in this documentary is not one who was crushed by his trials, but rather, he was a survivor, who used his experiences to create some of the greatest works of dramatic literature to ever grace a stage. He was a man who was truly dedicated to his art, and this film gives us a chance to realize and appreciate exactly what that means.

Narrated by Christopher Plummer, and drawing on interviews with playwrights and actors of today, we are given a chance to see what made Eugene O'Neill the man that he was, and to appreciate just what he has done for the American stage. It is the portrait of a tortured soul, who at the same time was a great artist.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alejandro A. Reyes on September 28, 2009
I got exposed to Eugene O'Neill via this PBS documentary. I watched the second half of it and was so moved that I had to buy it. I hadn't bought anything from PBS in some years and I have many PBS works in my library, but I just couldn't resist after seeing this. I didn't even know that I had only caught the second half until I got the DVD and watched it in its entirety. Truly brilliant work on the part of Ric Burns. I then ordered some of the DVDs of O'Neill's plays and saw first hand why the subject of this film was so admired. This film does O'Neill and his work justice. The readings of his plays from Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer, Liam Neeson and others are fantastic. Jason Robards who performed in the original productions of some O'Neill plays says some great words on theater acting. This is yet another great work from Burns. Very moving and inspiring in its depth of exploration of such a powerful figure as O'Neill.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gordon B. Coffey on February 28, 2008
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American Experience - Eugene O'Neill: A Documentary Film

Utterly moving, well made documentary about America's first and greatest playwright. Written by Barbara and Arthur Gelb, the difinitive biographers of O'Neill. Narrated by Christopher Plummer (none finer)and both the Gelbs - with tour-de-force acting from excerpts of O'Neill's works by Al Pacino, Jason Robards, Zoe Caldwell, Liam Neeson, Robert Sean Leonard, Vanessa Redgrave. Additional narration by no less than two of the former Deans of the Yale School of Drama (arguably the finest in the country): Robert Brustien and the late Lloyd Richards. As an acting major at the Yale School of Drama(66), I had the privilege to peruse a few pages of O'Neill's original manuscripts. (O'Neill's works are housed in the Yale Bieneke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Helena on October 17, 2009
If internal emotional turmoil contributes to any writer's talent, then Eugene O'Neill has certainly earned his rights. From the day he was born, life on this earth was difficult for him. This documentary explores his life from his early childhood to his forming years as a writer. We learn how O'Neill's experiences shaped him as a writer that made him one of the most prominent american playwrights and eventually Nobel Prize winner for literature.

At the end of this documentary, you may not like O'Neill as a father or a husband; but you will definitely find a path to better understanding of his craving for privacy and why he made both personal and professional choices that he did.
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