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American Experience: LBJ

22 customer reviews

Additional DVD options Edition Discs
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(Feb 14, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

One of the most controversial U.S. presidents, Lyndon Baines Johnson rose from obscurity to the pinnacle of power, only to suffer disillusionment and defeat. Witness the events that brought LBJ from Texas to Washington, the White House, and a landslide election in 1964. Follow his triumphs in passing passes a wave of social legislation. Then, as war and civil turmoil ravage the country, his downward spiral ends in withdrawal from politics.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: David McCullough, Joe Cervetto, John Connally, Robert Dallek, Homer Dean
  • Directors: David Grubin
  • Producers: David Grubin, Bob M. McCausland, Chana Gazit, Chas Norton, Hillary Dann
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: February 14, 2006
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,243 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "American Experience: LBJ" on IMDb

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 30, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) certainly had the potential to go down in history as one of the greatest presidents the United States ever had. He, more than anyone else, was responsible for the triumph of the civil rights movement, and his war on poverty legislation offered many people a chance where before there was none. Conservatives often deride Johnson's legislation as the cause of the ballooning government expenditures, but that is a phony argument. The programs started by LBJ have been dramatically expanded since then, often under Republican administrations.

However, LBJ was defeated by two powerful forces that he simply could not control. They were the Vietnam War and black anger that spilled out into the streets. In fairness to the man, no one else could have controlled them. Given the political situation in the United States at that time, no American president could have withdrawn from Vietnam. The spectre of the "Red Menace" was overpowering, and no one could possibly consider withdrawing from IndoChina, which would have led to an almost immediate takeover by the Communist North Vietnamese.

What is so tragic is the amount of self-delusion that existed in the United States government at that time. Johnson and his senior advisors really believed that they could win the war in Vietnam, if only they would not falter and show weakness. They never realized that not only was the war not winnable, it wasn't even possible to tie. The best quote about that war is near the end of the tape, when a senior official says, "The North Vietnamese knew that we would eventually leave the country. Therefore, all they had to do was hold out and take over when we left.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Christopher M. MacNeil on February 28, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
PBS' "American Experience" has become synonomous with quality television, and its profile of the country's Vietnam War-embattled president, Lyndon B. Johnson, is one of the reasons why. While Johnson arguably is remembered foremost as the president done in by an unpopular war, he is presented here as a man and politician of much more substance and who apparently did have an honest and compassionate empathy for his constituency, especially the impoverished and disenfranchised. After the obligatory recounting of Johnson's birth and childhood, the documentary takes us to Johnson's early career on Capitol Hill and his gradual ascent to power, starting with his selection as presidential candidate John F. Kennedy's vice presidential running mate. On that count, we get a feeling of a tenuous relationship between the charismatic Bostonian and prairie-tough Texan, a political combination that became even more tenuous by the out-and-out dislike between the eventual vice president and Robert F. Kennedy, brother and attorney general of the president. Of course, the shattering events in Dallas Nov. 22, 1963, vaulted LBJ to the pinnacle of world power, a positioned that was solidifed by a 1964 landslide presidential election victory. From there, LBJ sets off to expand his predecessor's social agenda, from voting rights for the country's disenfranchised minorities to the "war on poverty." But, not surprisingly, the unpopular war in Southeast Asia becomes LBJ's highest priority. In the end, of course, the fire of public opposition to both the war and Johnson's handling of it forced the president who just four years earlier was validated by the American people in a landslide victory not to even seek renomination.Read more ›
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By givbatam3 on March 10, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
From the time Lyndon Johnson left office in 1969 until the
time this film was made in 1990, his reputation was very
negative: the heartless war-monger and the sleazy wheeler-dealer. However, in the 1980's historians, prominent among them
Robert Dallek, had begun to bring out a more balanced, nuanced view of the man. These historians, whose views appear in this film marked a turning point in the public's view of this most complicated man. Long-time associate John Connally points out that he could be compassionate and cruel, crude or charming, generous or selfish. These different traits are constantly brought to the fore by the many people close to LBJ who appear in the film. Various important points that come out are:
(1) The breakthroughs in Civil Rights in the 1950's and 1960's were largely due to his efforts. As a Southerner he was able to get whites in the south to accept desegregation without a large-scale white backlash.
(2) The controversial senatorial election in 1948 which LBJ won by 87 votes with the help of ballot-box stuffing was hardly unusual in Texas or other parts of the country. Johnson was not involved personally in the incident. Although it is said that "Landslide Lyndon"'s career was stained by it, the same could be said of Harry Truman who was also elected in a similar way in 1934, and yet he managed to shake loose of the allegations.
(3) LBJ was well aware of the risks he was taking in committing
US ground forces to Vietnam. I was stunned when former Defense Secretary Clark Clifford states in the film that any other President would have taken the same decision.
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