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BACKSTAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE DVD

4.8 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The classic miniseries about two remarkable women and the eight First Families they served
Their unrivaled behind-the-scenes access gives White House staff a uniquely personal view of history in the making. Two remarkable women in one family served as White House maids over a period spanning five decades and eight administrations—from Taft to Eisenhower. Their story and a half-century of American history unfold in this star-studded drama, nominated for 11 Emmy® Awards.

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From the golden age of television miniseries comes this prestigious 1979 production based on Lillian Rogers Parks's memoir, My Thirty Years at the White House, a real-life American Upstairs/Downstairs that chronicles her family's tenure on the White House servant staff through eight presidential administrations. Emmy nominee Oliva Cole stars as Maggie, a proud matriarch with "indomitable spirit and unfailing spunk," and who is determined that her children "are not going to have street ways." She becomes the first colored maid on the presidential family floor, beginning with the William Howard Taft administration. Her polio-stricken daughter, Lillian (portrayed as an adult by Leslie Uggams) eventually joins her during Herbert Hoover's administration and likewise rises through the ranks to to become a trusted confidante of the First Families.

Backstairs at the White House works on several levels. It is the inspiring personal story of two extraordinary women who had a unique and privileged perspective of the people and events that shaped the first half of the 20th century. It also presents vivid snapshots of the presidents and their families in all their quirks (Mrs. Taft felt that bearded servants brought bad luck), failings, and greatness, as well as such now-obscure personages as New York critic Alexander Woolcott. The stellar cast is comprised of stage and screen veterans and TV favorites. Robert Vaughn (as Woodrow Wilson), Celeste Holm (as Florence Harding), and Ed Flanders (as Calvin Coolidge) were nominated for Emmys, as was Roots costar Louis Gossett Jr. as houseman Levi Mercer. Also notable are a pre-Airplane Leslie Nielsen as chief White House usher Ike Hoover, Cloris Leachman as the chilly supervising housekeeper Mrs. Jaffray, Victor Buono and Julie Harris as reluctant president William Howard Taft and his more formidable wife "Nellie," Eileen Heckart as energetic Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harry Morgan, giving 'em hell as Harry Truman. Backstairs at the White can be melodramatic ("You're not married to me, you're married to the White House," Lillian's estranged husband tells her at one point), but it never descends to soap opera. The Emmy-winning makeup is convincing, and the Emmy-nominated screenplay does an admirable job of compressing more than 50 years of history. "What is heard within the walls of the White House is to be forgotten," Maggie is instructed early in her employ. Luckily, daughter Lillian ignored this directive to create a compelling document that puts a human face on the occupants of the real West Wing. --Donald Liebenson


Special Features

  • Companion guide with producer's notes and historical background
  • Photo gallery
  • Cast filmographies

Product Details

  • Actors: Olivia Cole, Leslie Uggams, Louis Gossett Jr., Robert Hooks, Bill Overton
  • Writers: Gwen Bagni, Paul Dubov
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Unknown)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: November 1, 2005
  • Run Time: 444 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000AYELAQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,197 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "BACKSTAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE DVD" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
With all the attention people give The West Wing (I should talk, I've bought them all here), and big screen comedies like The American President (I own that too), here's a REAL look at the White House of the first half of the 20th Century. Olivia Cole stars as Maggie Rogers, a black woman with 2 kids, and a constantly disappearing husband, who gets a job as a maid at "ole 1600" at the beginning of the Taft administration. Leslie Uggams plays the adult version of her daughter Lillian, and between the 2 of them they see the ins and outs of the first families all the way til Kennedy's inauguration. An all star cast of known tv and movie stars, portray the Tafts, Wilsons, Hardings, Coolidges, Hoovers, Roosevelts, Trumans and Eisenhowers, as well as other maids, butlers, chauffers, etc. If you think "The West Wing" gives a great look, at the staffers during an administration, get this classic mini series which you will see the oval through the eyes of the "permanent" staff. Screenplay written Paul Dubov and Gwen Bagni based on their novel which in turn is based on the real Lillian Rogers own autobiography "My 30 Years Backstairs At The White House". Since VCRs were invented, I thought this series was long gone. When The History Channel was born, I thought it would get a new lease on life. Now 25 years later it finally has, Thank you, NBC for finally giving the rights to a local (to me at least) video manufacturer like Acorn to release a DVD copy. I will NOT let this one get away from me.:-)
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Leslie Uggams and Oliva Cole bring to live the true story of a mother and daughter that spent their lives working "backstairs at the white house". The story is beautiful and the performaces match. It has been years waiting for this to come to Home Video (never did make VHS) but at long last it's here. don't miss it.
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Finally, the 4 disc Presidential story of some of our later presidents is available to the public - where it should have been at the early beginning of VHS/BETA! Traces the history of the domestic staff along with the presidents and their families from William Howard Taft to the inaguration of the Kennedy White House.

Each of the four colorful discs is enclosed in a separate holder and all are enclosed in a box with a pamphlet of information. The discs are in much better shape than I thought they would be and would rate the quality a 4 out of 5 and quantity a 5 out of 5. Good but not as good as Eleanor and Franklin: The Early Years - better color and in letterbox! The set is worth the price and will provide hours of enjoyment.
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The release of this DVD is LONG overdue. It is EXCELLENT. Based on the books My 30 Years Backstairs at the White House and Backstairs at the White House it's the lives, trials and celebrations of the first families from President Taft's administration through to the Kennedy inauguration as told by a mother-daughter team of White House staff workers.

No, it's not a scandalous expose as one would expect in this 21st century but rather the historical and human sides of the White House residents and staff within the walls of the executive mansion.

First aired as a 4 or 5 night mini-series in I believe 1979, it has stuck in my memory for these many years!

Again, well worth it and too long overdue.
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This is definitely one of the finest tv miniseries ever. I have waited for it to come out for 25 years and finally it is here!! Thank Goodness since the movies on tv these days are so pathetic!! I hope this will either give the studios incentive to release more of these treasures of the past or to create new ones for all of us to enjoy.
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I first watched "Backstairs at the White House" when it first aired on NBC in 1979. I was just a teenager in junior high back then. I was happy to discover that it had come out on DVD. I ordered it from Amazon. This past Friday night and Saturday afternoon, I sat and watched the entire miniseries on DVD. I remembered so many of the scenes.
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Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I have been waiting for years for this series to become available. I have both books and have read and re-read them many times. This is a wonderful mini-series and a fantastic cast and is too long in coming. If you like American history and want an insight to the ways behind the scenes and the lives of our Presidents, you will enjoy this movie.
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This is perhaps the BEST miniseries ever made. It's about time it has finally been released for all of us who have been searching for this for over 20 years! I plan to get this IMMEDIATELY! This is one series that needs to be shown to schools because it is so great! I just thank God for getting this released finally. Viewers will never see so many great actors assembled together as in this.
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