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American Experience - The Kennedys (Complete Set)

4.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The Kennedy family, the great American political dynasty, is examined in considerable detail in this "American Experience" documentary. Hosted by historian David McCullough, the production features a host of experts on the Kennedy clan, including author Doris Kearns Goodwin, the late Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, and special counsel/speechwriter Theodore Sorenson, as well as a number of family friends and colleagues who served in political campaigns. The story begins with patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy, who suffered discrimination at Harvard and spent the rest of his life getting even with those who had slighted him. After making a fortune on Wall Street and in Hollywood in the boom of the 1920s, Kennedy became active in Roosevelt's New Deal, eventually becoming the U.S. ambassador to Britain. The father's political miscalculations ended his public role, but the seeds were sown for the political careers of his sons. Copious archival footage from television news organizations is used to present an intelligent and balanced look at Kennedy's performance in office, his rumored personal flaws, and his legacy. With President Kennedy's death, the political force in the family became his brother Robert, who would himself be cut down by an assassin as a senator running for president in 1968. The story winds down with the youngest Kennedy brother, Ted, becoming a powerful senator, but ultimately failing in his own attempt to run for the nation's highest office. The Kennedy family has always fascinated America, and this documentary does a fine job of going beyond the superficial glamour to examine the real workings of the family in politics, the sources of their motivation, and the way the family acted as a cohesive political unit. "--Robert J. McNamara"

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: David McCullough, David Ogden Stiers, Michael Murphy, Oliver Platt, Joe Morton
  • Writers: Henry Hampton, Stephen Fitzmeyer
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, Widescreen, 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 Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: October 5, 2004
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002NY8FS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,058 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "American Experience - The Kennedys (Complete Set)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael K. Beusch VINE VOICE on October 10, 2004
Format: DVD
Documentaries and dramatizations about the Kennedys tend to either portray the family as saints or devils. Either Jack, Bobby and Teddy are the shining knights of Camelot or they're corrupt devils who can't control their sexual urges. The American Experience documentary about the family avoids this heaven or hell approach and does a nice, balanced job of showing the history of Joseph Kennedy and his children.

On one hand, we hear revelations of Joseph Kennedy's anti-Semitism and the capitulation to Hitler that ultimately cost him his chance at the White House. We hear how precarious JFK's health actually was, his initial tepid response to the civil rights' movement and his reckless womanizing that threatened to bring Camelot crashing down. We hear about RFK's service to Joseph McCarthy, his ruthlessness and his inability to compromise. We hear about Ted Kennedy's womanizing and excessive drinking and find out just how irresponsibly he acted during the Chappaquiddick incident.

However, the film also discusses JFK's heroism during World War II, the Kennedy brothers' conversion into champions of the civil rights movement, RFK's conversion into a sincere champion of minorities and the poor, Ted Kennedy's excellent record of service in the U.S. Senate and the family's long and distinguished record of public service. Despite their flaws, when JFK and RFK are assassinated, we feel the loss and mourn what might have been had they lived.
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Comment 49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
If you're wondering which documentary to watch regarding the Kennedy family - especially Jack, Bobby and Ted - then this is the one you want to watch. The production of the DVD includes a wonderful blend of a wide variety of people being interviewed along with actual footage of the Kennedys, dating to the Ambassador's time in England up to the 1980's (or thereabouts).
I've seen a lot of Kennedy films and this one includes new footage that I have yet to see in any other video, which is one of the biggest reasons why I feel it is quite unique and interesting to watch. I was also especially intrigued with the narrative style and the content of the interviews.
So - a Kennedy movie? Pick this one!
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Another excellent episode of American Experience series on the Presidents which shows an interesting and realistic look at how the father molded the sons to run for public office and how he bought the presidency for John. It shows all the warts (which includes Joe's shady business dealing) of the male members and the price the family paid for their ambitions and being over-achievers.
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I first saw this on PBS many years ago. I liked it because it covered all the Kennedy family, not just JFK and RFK. It's only a few hours long, however, but still a good buy.
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Through the entire series, I was continually surprised at the degree to which I had been unaware of what occurred behind the public events before and during the Kennedy Administration. Following JFK's career from the time of the Senate victory,I knew many of the public events.This series, however, placed everything in context. They may have slighted events during the LBJ period but the role of Joe Kennedy Sr. is fully detailed as is the health and personal behavioral issues of JFK. It certainly reminds us the country is capable of great accomplishments despite the human limitations of its leaders. Because there was so much film footage including color film from 1940, the series is technically outstanding as well.
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Format: DVD
With the DVD about 4 hours long, it is a thorough account of the Kennedy family's impact on politics in this country. It discusses Joe Kennedy, the father and his three sons, JFK, RFK, and EMK in detail through their rise in power and the tragic ending of JFK and RFK's lives. This DVD ends with Ted's 1980 presidential campaign. I had thought this dvd was going to be about the entire Kennedy family, Jackie, Ethel, the Kennedy sisters, etc., but it was more focused on the political side of the family with the Kennedy men. It doesn't touch on the 3rd generation, so this is a good dvd to have to learn more about the lives of the 3 Kennedy brothers who changed American politics forever.
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Very informative documentary regarding the Kennedy family. I was especially impressed with the early clips of Joe, Jr., Rosemary & Kathleen, who are often referred to in other programs about the Kennedys, but rarely seen. The color home movie clips of Joe. Jr. & Kathleen playing poolside struck me as both sweet and sad. Another short video clip of Joe, Jr. greeting and shaking hands with his fellow Liberator pilots seems to give a glimpse into the politician he may have become had he lived. Watching him, it is certainly clear to see who got the looks in the family. This documentary is also a wonderful trip through recent American history. Whether you love or hate the Kennedys, I think you'll find this program interesting.
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