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Benjamin Franklin


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Everyone knows about the kite and the key, the Declaration of Independence, and Poor Richard's Almanac, but nonscholars will find much to learn in this documentary tracing the epic of Benjamin Franklin's life. Using actors Dylan Baker and Richard Easton as Franklin speaking his own words, the makers of this PBS offering bring his writings to life without resorting to corny dramatizations. The documentary first explores his education as a minister, career as a printer, and retirement to a life of science at the age of 47. The second part explores his transformation to revolutionary: his life in England and eventual rejection of its domination, the resulting painful split with his son, and his colonial radicalism at age 70. The final chapter of his life takes place in France, where he operates with subterfuge to win France's support against the English and more or less invents diplomacy. --Kimberly Heinrichs

From the Back Cover

"Benjamin Franklin" traces Franklin's epic life from humble beginnings to fame as a scientist, founding father and America's first diplomat to France. Tony Award-winner Richard Easton and a cast of distinguished actors bring Franklin's 18th-century world vividly to life. Surprising, moving and full of Franklin's own wit and wisdom, "Benjamin Franklin is the exuberant portrait of a true American original.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Dylan Baker, Richard Easton, Colm Feore
  • Directors: Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer
  • Format: 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: Unrated
  • Studio: Pbs (Direct)
  • DVD Release Date: November 19, 2002
  • Run Time: 210 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00007KE63
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,068 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Tom B. VINE VOICE on January 17, 2008
Format: DVD
This clever and entertaining look at the life and times of Benjamin Franklin would be a great addition to the library of any Franklin buff or history buff for that matter.

It is well written, and entertainingly presented with a mix of narration and live action. Richard Easton does a fantastic job portraying Franklin and the cast does well acting out actual correspondences and written first hand accounts from the time.

The film is broken down into three segments showing the life of Franklin. Let the Experiment Be Made, The Making of a Revolutionary, and The Chessmaster.

Let the experiment be made shows the early life of Franklin, how a genius was made and his contributions to science.

The Making of a Revolutionary shows how a man who once considered himself a loyalist became a fierce proponent of independence.

The Chessmaster detailed his years in France gaining support for the war, the treaty of France, and the building of the American Experiment in democracy.

Ultimately this film does a great job portraying Franklin as a man. Sometimes flawed, as we all are, but a man who contributed so many things to making America what we know today.
It does it with wit, humor, and narration that moves quick and keeps you interested.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a superbly entertaining documentary capturing the brilliance, boldness, and bawdiness of Ben Franklin. It covers Franklin's rise to wealth as a businessman who, among other things, established perhaps the first organization for young entrepeneurs to network. It chronicles his role as a scientist (experimenting with electricity) and inventor (e.g., the Franklin stove and bifocals). Then we see how Franklin's role as diplomat helped secure the American colonies' success in freeing themselves from British rule. This documentary captures both Franklin's genius and his impishness. Franklin was a shrewd strategist who achieved his aims through calculation, perseverance, and a nimble wit. Not the typical marble statue portrayal of one of our founding fathers, "Benjamin Franklin," shows the real flesh and blood character of Franklin who was nothing if not colorful.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By subtitles on November 3, 2006
Format: DVD
I fell on this by accident, and loved it. I was in a real history mode about 2 years ago, and grabbed this. I really can't remember why, but I have to admit out of all the documentaries from the channels that sell life insurance this is my favorite.

Its informative, accurate, and if watched on your laptop/desktop - you may want to investigate the background materials online that are discussed (or acted).

The acting is good. Richard Easton is a true professional, and the rest of cast does an above average job as well - for a documentary. The commentary from experts is equally as pleasing, and quite balanced. It stays on point and leads from beginning to end like a good book.

Well worth a buy for the facts, acting, and return value. I give this 4 stars as it is not anamorphic, but letterboxed widescreen (not enhanced for 16x9 TV's).
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By I. Chiang on May 31, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This film is about another founding father of the United States, Benjamin Franklin. It categorizes three parts to decipt him and I think this arrangement is pretty adequate.

The first part, Let the Experiment Be Made, is about his enthusiasm on the science and the impacts to the world. The most famous story may be the kite and the lightning. In addition, this part also talks about his early life. Some of his scientific works are scattered in the other parts of this film.

The second part, The Making of a Revolutionary, is about how he becomes a Patriot rather than sticking to a Loyalist. It is somewhat ironic since he regards himself as an Englishman rather than an American most of his life. At last, this turns out to be his darkest time since he and his son, who helped him in the kite and lightning experiment, are separated for different political beliefs.

The third part, The Chess Master, is mostly about his endeavors in France during the Revolution War. After winning the independence, he is also a key man for the peace treaty with England and France and the U.S. Constitution. It is not straightforward as we might think to reach the peace treaty with the European powers because they had their own agendas. The U.S. Constitution is also not seemed to work at that time since no one is satisfied with it due to so many compromises and fears. Overall, these make him the only one sign in the three most important documents in the early U.S. history, the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris and the U.S. Constitution.

The time is well spent after I have finished it. The narration and comments from experts are smooth and on focus. It's very pleasing to watch during the whole running time. I recommend this DVD to anyone interested in Benjamin Franklin, who deserves his fame.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Herndon on July 24, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is one of my favorite documentaries to date. The acting is top notch for the young Franklin, the elder Franklin, and others in Franklin's life. Re-enactments and unique footage fill the majority of scenes instead of musty paintings or drawings. The whole documentary has a fresh and witty feel.
What impressed me most, though, was how clearly and informatively the documentary sets out the life of Franklin, his character, and his effect on early America and the world. Not only is he revealed as a genius and a founding father, he is shown as a humorous man and the quintessential American. Franklin displays all the unique traits that define the American character, from the refusal to accept social status as fixed by birth to the constant search for scientific truths.
Two parts, both excellent. The documentary should have great appeal to any age with even the vaguest interest in American history.
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