The Civil War: A Film By Ken Burns 1 Season 1990

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Season 1
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(1,312)
Available on Prime

1. The Cause, 1861 TV-PG CC

The stage is set for war as the nation begins to tear apart. Opposition by the North to slavery in the South fuels a bitter debate, and the country wrestles with conflicts between the Union and States' rights. Commanding center stage are twering figures-- Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. From Harper's Ferry to Fort Sumter, the first chapters unfold in a conflict from which there would be no turning back.

Starring:
Sam Waterston, Julie Harris
Runtime:
1 hour 40 minutes
Original air date:
September 23, 1990

The Cause, 1861

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Season 1
Available on Prime

Product Details

Genres Military & War, Documentary
Director Ken Burns
Starring Sam Waterston, Julie Harris
Supporting actors Jason Robards, Morgan Freeman, Garrison Keillor, Arthur Miller, George Plimpton, Horton Foote, George Black, Philip Bosco, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Irons, Terry Courier, Jody Powell, Studs Terkel, Hoyt Axton, Ed Bearss, Colleen Dewhurst, Barbara Fields, Laurence Fishburne
Season year 1990
Network PBS
Producers Ken Burns
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

One of the best documentaries ever.
George Borchers
This a great ,informative history of the Civil War.
Ronald C. Thompson
The Civil War by Ken Burns is amazing!
B. Pittman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

509 of 523 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer on August 9, 2005
Format: DVD
There aren't too many productions from television that one can call "noble," but Ken Burns' The Civil War qualifies. Burns uses photographs, music, speech, maps and historical context to tell the story of the second most formative event in the nation's history. And since in those days people wrote...diaries, letters, journals...there is the written record not just of the great leaders, the politicians and generals, but of the wives and sweethearts, the nurses and doctors, newspaper editors and farmers. Most of all there are the words of the soldiers. Burns shows the importance and the sweep of the war, but in part he does it through the lives of average people caught up in events they may not have completely comprehended, but which they believed in.

If the words themselves have power, so do the voices. Burns recruited great voices, some actors, some not, to speak the words, distinctive voices that give great resonance to what we see. Julie Harris as Mary Chestnut, Charlie McDowell, a Virginia reporter, as Sam Watkins, Arthur Miller as William Sherman, Jason Robards as Grant, Studs Terkel as Benjamin Butler, Sam Waterston as Lincoln, and many others. He has David McCullough as the narrator. McCullough, an outstanding historian and writer, does a wonderful job. Burns also uses a number of historians to underline key points. Foremost, in my view, is Shelby Foote. Foote is the author of the epic three-volume Civil War. With his Southern accent, common sense and soft irony, he's a fascinating raconteur.

The program is never dry or dull. It is gripping and emotional. Both sides felt they were fighting for a pure cause.
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138 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Roxanne Kean on April 5, 2011
Format: DVD
I first saw this on PBS and was spellbound by it. It is simply everything you need to know about the American Civil War. If you think history is dry and uninteresting, this film by Ken Burns will change your mind. This is filled with comedy and pathos, courage and cowardice, and a balanced explanation that is fair to both sides of the conflict.

Burns used well-known actors to read the diaries and writings of both famous people (Grant, Lee, Lincoln) and average persons and soldiers. It gives one a well-rounded view of both sides. I am in awe of the writings of that time--the people had an incredibly, descriptive way of writing; a command of the English language that has sadly been lost in modern times.

Burns also used still photographs, panning across them, giving the audience the feel of watching an actual movie of the time. That technique has since been adopted by other documentaries.

I've seen the series many times, and each time find something more. If nothing else, see it for Shelby Foot--a writer/historian who speaks about Robert E. Lee, and others, like he personally knew them. Fascinating from beginning to end!
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164 of 173 people found the following review helpful By Michael Henshaw on January 1, 2005
Format: DVD
Ken Burns has established himself as one of the greats in terms of historical documentaries. The Civil War is Mr. Burns' greatest work. The attention to detail brings the history to life. Mr. Burns does an excellent job of bringing humanity to the tragic time in America. With the use of solder's and family letters it is evident what a difficult time it was to be an American. Originally aired on PBS in September of 1990, nearly fifteen years later the series remains the ultimate narrative about the United States darkest time.

The series is finally released on DVD. While the price is a little high the amazing quality of the series makes the cost very reasonable. Ken Burns' Civil War is required for any Civil War historian's collection. The series is also a great way for those wishing to learn more about the Civil War. I would recommend this to anyone that loves historical documentaries. It does not get any better than The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns.
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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Patrick A. Hayden on October 31, 2002
Format: DVD
I remember watching this documentary by Ken Burns when it first appeared on PBS in 1990. It started my lifelong interest in the Civil War. Countless books and trips to battlefields later, it still stands as the finest general work on the war ever made.
The story of the war is told through pictures, narratives, and the unobtrusive narration by David McCoulough, who's voice is pitch pefect for the job. Never before have photos had such a dramatic effect in telling a story. They say a picture says a thousand words, and this series prove that maxim correct. The five discs cover the 5 years of the war, and the 9 parts of teh series. The most effective are "1861: The Cause", "1863: The Universe of Battle", and "1865: The Better Angels of our Nature". They cover the events that led up to the war, the turining points at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and the end and aftermath of the war. Each is suprememly emotional. One episode intersperses an old narrative from the daughter of a former slave as she remembers her father's stories. Shelby Foote, author of the most comprehensive book on the war, offers invaluable advice. High praise must also go to Sam Waterston, who voices Abraham Lincoln. In the final segment of the 1863 disc, Waterston recites the Gettysburg Address, and I must admit it brought me to tears.
The music is also a key factor to the success of the film. Burns went back and found the old music that was popular among the people and the soldiers, both North & South during the war. It is moving, from the haunting opening music, to the old spirituals that are found on disc 2's "1862: Forever Free".
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