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Ken Burns - American Lives (Thomas Jefferson / Lewis & Clark / Frank Lloyd Wright / Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B Anthony / Mark Twain / Horatio's Drive / Unforgivable Blackness) (2005)

Edward Herrmann , Hal Holbrook , Ken Burns , Lynn Novick  |  NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (251 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Edward Herrmann, Hal Holbrook, Adam Arkin, Philip Bosco, Julie Harris
  • Directors: Ken Burns, Lynn Novick
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 10
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2005
  • Run Time: 1480 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (251 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ANVQ50
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,629 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ken Burns - American Lives (Thomas Jefferson / Lewis & Clark / Frank Lloyd Wright / Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B Anthony / Mark Twain / Horatio's Drive / Unforgivable Blackness)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Additional Features

Thomas Jefferson
Revered as the author of the Declaration of Independence, the most sacred document in American history, yet condemned as a lifelong owner of slaves, THOMAS JEFFERSON remains the enigma that is America. A young Thomas Jefferson from the Virginia wilderness is transformed by the fire of the Enlightened into his country’s most articulate voice for human liberty. Torn between serene family life at Monticello and his passion for politics, Jefferson suffers heartrending personal loss, even as he gives voice to a new era of democratic government. He then journeys to Paris as U.S. Minister to France for George Washington and supports the rising French Revolution. Returning from France, Jefferson strives to preserve the new, fragile American government and helps create the first political party through his bitter struggles with the Federalists. As third President of the United States, he doubles the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase, but faces controversy and scandal, finally retiring to his beloved Monticello. His last years are spent founding the University of Virginia and re-establishing his friendship with John Adams. By the end of his remarkable life, he had advanced the cause of religious, political and intellectual freedom everywhere and had changed the course of human events.

Lewis & Clark
It was the most important expedition in American history, led by two utterly different men -- the brilliant but troubled Meriwether Lewis and his friend, the outgoing and steadfast William Clark. With them, were an African-American slave; the Shoshone woman, Sacagawea; French-Canadian boatmen; a crew of young American army soldiers -- even a Newfoundland dog. Charged in 1803 with locating the mythical Northwest Passage to the Pacific, this intrepid band of explorers instead discovered a varied and breathtaking landscape and encountered a dizzying diversity of Indian peoples. Drawing from the magnificent journals and stories from Indian oral tradition, the film recreates the real-life adventure of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright was the greatest of all American architects. He was an authentic American genius, a man who believed he was destined to redesign the world, creating everything anew. Over the course of his long career, Wright designed over eight hundred buildings, including such revolutionary structures as the Guggenheim Museum, the Johnson Was Building, Fallingwater, Unity Temple, and Taliesin. Wright's buildings and his ideas changed the way we live, work and see the world around us. Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural achievements were often overshadowed by the turbulence of his melodramatic life. In ninety-two years, he fathered seven children, married three times, and was almost constantly embroiled in scandal. Some hated him, some loved him, but in the end, few could deny that he was the most important architect in America -- and perhaps the world. With exquisite live cinematography, fascinating interviews, and rare archival footage, this riveting film brings Wright's unforgettable story to life.

Not For Ourselves Alone: Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony
Two women. One allegiance. Together they fought for women everywhere, and their strong willpower and sheer determination still ripples through contemporary society. Here lies the story of two of our century's most celebrated pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Recount the trials, tribulations and triumphs of these two women as they strive to give birth to the women's movement. Not until their deaths was their shared vision of women's suffrage realized. A powerful historical introspective.

Mark Twain
Samuel Clemens rose from a hardscrabble boyhood in the backwoods of Missouri to become, as Mark Twain, America’s best-known and best-loved author. Considered in his time as the funniest man on earth, Twain was also an unflinching critic of human nature who used his humor to attack hypocrisy, greed and racism. He created some of the world’s most memorable characters as well as its most quoted sayings. And, in his often-misunderstood novel Huckleberry Finn, he brought forth a masterpiece that Ernest Hemingway called the true beginning of American Literature.

This remarkable film tells the story of Twain’s extraordinary life – full of rollicking adventure, stupendous success and crushing defeat, hilarious comedy and almost unbearable tragedy. With fascinating interviews of Hal Holbrook, Arthur Miller, William Styron and many others, the story is told primarily through the words of Twain himself, so viewers of all ages can be personally introduced to this compelling yet contradictory genius, who said with some justification, "I am not an American, I am the American."

Horatio's Drive
Horatio's Drive recounts the simultaneously inspirational and hilarious saga of Horatio Nelson Jackson, an eccentric Vermont doctor, who in 1903 - on a visionary whim and a 50-dollar bet - became the first person to drive an automobile across the continent, heralding the future of the "horseless carriage" as a vehicle destined for more than inner-city travel and as a machine that would transform American life.

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, a new documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns, tells the story of the first African-American boxer to win the most coveted title in all of sports and his struggle, in and out of the ring, to live his life as a free man.

This riveting two-part documentary follows Jack Johnson’s remarkable journey from his humble beginnings in Galveston, Texas, as the son of former slaves, to his entry into the brutal world of professional boxing, where, in turn-of-the century Jim Crow America, the heavyweight champion was an exclusively "white title." Despite the odds, Johnson was able to batter his way up through the professional ranks, and in 1908 he became the first African-American to earn the title Heavyweight Champion of the World. Johnson’s victory set in motion a worldwide search for a Great White Hope to restore the title to the white race. And when no one could be found to beat the champion in the ring, his own government tried to destroy him in the courts, using his relationships with white women as the excuse to prosecute him. Determined to live his life regardless of the confines imposed by his color, Jack Johnson emerges as a central figure in America’s ongoing struggle to deal with the question of race.

Product Description

Ken Burns American Lives (7 Disc Gift Set) - Ken Burns American Lives Collection is a compilation of seven outstanding biographies and stories of some of America's most celebrated pioneers and historical events. Programming in this series began with Thomas Jefferson in 1997 and concludes with Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson in 2005. The 7-disc Gift Set collection includes:
- Thomas Jefferson (1997)
- Lewis and Clark (1997)
- Frank Lloyd Wright (1998)
- Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (1999)
- Mark Twain (2002)
- Horatio's Drive (2003)
- Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2005)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Collection of PBS Documentaries January 14, 2006
I bought all of these individually. As he did with The Civil War and Baseball (as well as his earlier works which are now also in a box set, not to mention The West, New York and Jazz). Ken Burns continues to present his "American Stories" with pictures and narration that bring the past alive. 1 tiny nitpick note however. This is an 8 not a 7 disc set (for some reason the Jack Johnson story was released on 2 discs rather than a double sided disc like Mark Twain and Lewis and Clark which are of equal length to it). Other than that, you're getting a good deal on this and it will fit nicely along side the "America" box set (or your copies of those individually) and Ken's award winning "mini series" (plural). Get em all, and all other documentaries will just fade away. Ken Burns is the KING of the modern documentary film. Keep em coming, Ken, we'll keep buying em (on DVD) :-) Update 10/10/10: I have just noticed that newer copies of Lewis and Clark on 2 single sided discs rather than a flipper. So for some of you, this box set may be a 9 bagger (as Mark Twain is still a flipper). Update 1/30/11: I have now learned that Mark Twain has been reissued on 2 single sided discs as Lewis and Clark. Therefore, this is now a 7 title, 10 disc set. Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony and Horatio Nelson Jackson 1 disc each = 4. Lewis and Clark, Mark Twain and Jack Johnson 2 discs = 6, total 10 as in current description.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ken Burns' American Lives DVD Collection September 9, 2012
By jim_boy
Format:Amazon Instant Video|Verified Purchase
This collection of Ken Burns videos was, as usual, excellent in its treatment of the biographical material. The ca. 3-hour length of each film allowed treatment of each topic in a fair amount of detail, and although academics were involved in the production of the films, they're almost never stuffy; for me they are just detailed enough to awaken interest to allow me to follow up with additional reading or research, if desired. The biographical approach usually follows a predictable pattern (birth, early life, and formative years; achievements for which the individual is known; later life and death; and legacy), combined with Ken's usual still photos/black-and-white movie clips, background instrumental music, and early morning video shots. It can become a bit formulaic at times, but the formula is effective in most cases. With the exception of "Horatio's Drive", which laid out the adventurous coast-to-coast motoring exploits of a youthful and impossibly optimistic Horatio Nelson Jackson, the films always left me a little bit saddened as each character one has gotten to know inevitably grows old and dies.

My relatively low star rating was not due to shortcomings of the content, but to the inconsistencies in video formatting. The biggest disappointment for me was the two-sided Mark Twain DVD, from which the last 20 minutes of material on each side could not be accessed at all! Thus, I missed out on the whole discussion of the writing of Huckleberry Finn and on Twain's final years and his "going out with Halley's Comet".

Also, while each film was divided into two parts of about 1.75 hours each, the method used to access the two parts varied widely. Sometimes Part 2 was on a separate disk or on the opposite side of the single two-sided disk.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Series January 16, 2012
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Ken Burns does a fabulous job on all his titles. Some have been better than others but all are worth the time. In this package we've enjoyed all the titles. Lewis and Clark, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth C. Stanton, Frank Lloyd Wright and the others have just come alive for me. I am an audio learner so reading a book is not a good way for me to learn. Watching these DVDs and hearing the stories narrated, retold and opined engraved it all in my memory. We let our kids watch these and they love it. According to my experience Ken Burns documentaries hold your attention well with lots of facts. Subjects I never found interesting have become thoroughly intriguing thru this series. My only experience with a Ken Burns documentary I had a hard time getting through is the Jazz one, but it's not in this package. I love Jazz and figured I would love the DVD but it was a bit long and some things were repeated too much. I'm glad I stuck it out though because I learned a lot I didn't know about a subject I thought I knew a lot about. Another series not included in this package that we really liked was the one on civil rights. I think it was a full 6 hours long but we really enjoyed it, appreciated the approach and learned a good bit too.
All in all: this is a great purchase, well worth the price. We watch and re-watch these titles.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars i love ken burns' films January 29, 2012
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I love the films by Ken Burns and crew. I've bought this set as a gift a few times. It's a great sampler of his smaller works. Highly recommended for fans of documentaries!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exellent Examination of Jefferson October 28, 2011
By Melissa
I never took an interest in examining the lives of those who shaped our history; this biography by Ken Burns has changed me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome, little known documentary August 6, 2011
Im a fan of historical documentaries and docudramas. And I've previously seen just about every other Ken Burn's Film. I never knew about this one before, and haven't seen it on PBS, so I was intrigued enough to purchase it. I particularly like documentaries of scientific and exploration expeditions...such as the Lewis and Clark Ken Burns Doc, and several documentaries about John Wesley Powell's journey down the Colorado river.

This video is a gem. Ken Burns has reunited the whole gang from the Lewis and Clark Documentary it seems. Which is a good thing for me, because that is one of my favorite docs of all time. A 2 hour long doc, which presents the cross country trip of Horatio Nelson, a doctor from California who in 1903 decides to be the first person to travel by car across the country. Anybody who has seen Ken Burn's Lewis and Clark documentary (or other Ken Burns films) will remember such people as Dayton Duncan and William Least Heat Moon. These guys tell the tale of another cross country journey, but 100 years later and going the other way!

Awesome early history of the car, and footage, and dialogue. Its not as slow and filled with old letters as some of Burn's more recent docs like the National Parks one is. Its fast paced and interesting, and really gives you a sense of what the country was like in 1903 when Nelson drove through it. A remarkable tale and im surprised more people haven't heard of this documentary.

Please make more like it! and Amazon please make more of these available for direct download!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars History comes to life !!
Ken burns does his research well ! The series brings the viewer right into the world of past history
Published 2 days ago by Naomi Sohlman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Simply amazing loved every minute of every story recommended highly
Published 6 days ago by Noma Wenzelberg
5.0 out of 5 stars we have become great fans of Ken Burns
As history buffs, we have become great fans of Ken Burns.
Published 10 days ago by judy l. schroeder
5.0 out of 5 stars Great sereis from PBS
An excellent program - typical quality of PBS series.
Published 10 days ago by Tricia
5.0 out of 5 stars I learned a lot!
I really enjoyed Ken Burns' American Lives. I've seen several Ken Burns shows and usually they center around a historic event and in comparison, these are more biographies of... Read more
Published 11 days ago by M. Jacobs
1.0 out of 5 stars Not paying for Amazon Prime until it works with Chromecast from a PC.
This is not a reflection on Ken Burns, but rather on Amazon Prime. I tried to Chromecast the video, since I don't enjoy watching my 15" screen for an hour at a time. Read more
Published 12 days ago by I'mbuyingthis!
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thoughtful and insightful.
Published 12 days ago by Melissa M. Flynn
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great info and well made.
Published 15 days ago by William Baptist
5.0 out of 5 stars ... Burns projects "American Lives" is both artistically and factually...
As with all Ken Burns projects "American Lives" is both artistically and factually amazing..
Published 17 days ago by john bauman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Most interesting.... have been enjoying.
Published 18 days ago by Sister Helen
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are these closed captioned?
Feb 15, 2008 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 2 posts
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