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American Experience: Truman

4.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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(Feb 14, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

He was a farmer, a businessman, an unknown politician who suddenly found himself president. Of all the men who had held the highest office, Harry Truman was the least prepared, but would prove to be a surprise. Acclaimed filmmaker David Grubin recounts his struggles and success as an army captain and marriage to his lifelong sweetheart, Bess. When he landed the vice presidency in 1944 he had no idea that his world was about to change forever.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: February 14, 2006
  • Run Time: 260 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BYRCG0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,230 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Verified Purchase
First of all, let me begin by saying, I would suggest that you get this and American Experience: FDR together and watch them in order with FDR first. Two great presidents, two great documentaries. By the time you finish them, you feel as though you know both men as well as you know your own family.

I've always liked Truman, he called it like he saw it, and he didn't take any guff from anyone. Watching both videos, it made me shake my head, and fear the future of our nation. We will never see men like Truman and FDR again.

The documentary covered Truman from birth to the end of his presidency, and brought up a fact about the Marshall Plan that I never knew. It was packed with his personal life and his public life, and put a human face on a simple farmboy, his struggles in life and his ability to overcome.

It showed what made Truman, TRUMAN.
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To echo a previous reviewer, there has been and will forever be only one President Harry S. Truman. Hisorians rate him among the 10 greatest Presidents in our history, a fact that makes it seem inconceivable that he left office branded as a Commie (thanks to the McCarthy maniacs) and unpopular because of the lingering Korean War. Fortunately, that unpopularity didn't last. What makes this PBS biography indispensible, aside from the fascinating subject, is its presentation. Just as there have been few leaders of Truman's quality (especially recently), so there have been few commentators and writers like David McCullough. The narrative itself has to be one of the finest examples of broadcast journalism, a profession dismally absent from today's media. As for Truman, here's a guy who stood so far above the ideology and partisanship of his day and ours that he puts our own era to shame. For those who don't know Truman, this presentation will introduce you to a humble man who had it tough his whole life but kept right on going, living and acting on basic moral principles that have all but disappeared. I recall a hit record during the Watergate era from the rock group Chicago titled simply "Harry Truman". As you meet Harry through this video you'll be saying to yourself some of the words from that song: "America needs you, Harry Truman. Harry, could you please come home?"
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What a knockout documentary, with Robards' fine narrative style not intruding on the dandy old film and newsreels and with Mc Cullough doing his usual fine commentary job. At last, we see Truman and his world from the start to the near-finish, and it is indeed a documentary, which should most certainly be preceded by the just as fine FDR one, that school children should study and write essays about. They need to learn FDR's and Truman's times as well as their Presidencies, and these two together show us both. They had some monumentally tough situations to deal with as Presidents, and while their performances weren't flawless, they were remarkably appropriate to their times.

This was a critical time in 20th century American history from the Depression thru the first years of the Cold War, and I can't imagine any other two Presidents doing anything close to the good jobs they did.

What really grabs one who is already familiar with the history, tho, about this Truman documentary, is the man. If there's one sentence in this 4.5 hours of film that stands out in my mind, it's his refusal to drop any more but the first two atomic bombs on Japan - "I don't want to kill any more kids."

That simple probably unrehearsed sentence says it all about him. Duty-bound in his own view to order those first two bombings to save what could have been hundreds of thousands of Japanese and American lives in a continuation of the traditional war and defending his decision to his death, he still knew what he had done, and he cared. And I believe that he was privately bothered about those kids in particular until he died.

And the presentation of that segment of the documentary, which pulled few punches with its imagery, was beautifully "neutral" in tone and style. It simply told the story of what he believed was needed and of what that led to.

Bravo, PBS. :)
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A number of things become evident in seeing the American Experience: Truman. Everything in life came late to him. He failed at everything in life except the presidency and finding the woman he loved. He ascended to the presidency without ever wanting it. He was never a wealthy man, and he spoke plainly--to everyone. He didn't even have public relations people to tell him what to say, how to act, or what to wear, and it showed. We would never see a president like him ever again.

The man who would take us through some of the most tumultuous times in our history came from a modest background. In school he met the love of his life, Bess and would spend his early years trying to earn a comfortable living to win her hand. He invested in drilling for oil but went broke just a couple of hundred feet before he would have struck it rich. War intervened and blind as a bat he entered the army by memorizing the eye chart. His men elected him captain. After the war, he went into the haberdashery business only to fail in four years. It took him 15 years to pay off his debts. The head of the Missouri political machine was Tom Pendergast who suggested that Harry run for U.S. Senator after he got him elected as a judge. With Pendergast's ability to deliver the vote, Truman was elected. He joined the FDR ticket in 1944, becoming vice president. He would hold that job for only 83 days.
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