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NO WONDER WE NEEDED INCOME TAX - a Powerful Story Blending Dramatization With Contemporary Interviews
on August 5, 2015
I originally saw this series on the History Channel and liked it so much I bought a copy. Having watched it again now, I think it's an exceptionally well executed way to tell the story of how a handful of Americans made their fortunes in the mid to late 19th century.
Vanderbilt (trains), Rockefeller (oil), Carnegie (steel), Morgan (finance) and Ford (cars) were able to spot possibilities earlier than anyone else and that visionary quality they shared allowed them to amass fortunes even larger than names we know today, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Their lives, intense rivalries, and business acumen are portrayed in this documentary through an effective combination of dramatization and skilled narration.
There is a third element woven throughout -- interviews with contemporary business successes like Donald Trump (real estate), Steve Case (aol), a hedge fund manager, a Hollywood producer, and others -- all talking about their own experiences and what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur today. During my first viewing of this documentary I found these interviews superfluous. But with my second viewing, I recognized that they do add a valuable dimension to the story. They show that the ruthlessness and vicious business tactics used by Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, et. al. are still a critical element in what makes for success today.
There is clearly a "type" of person that makes it "big." And in this documentary you will learn what kind of person that is. And it's not a particularly flattering portrait.
My main criticism of the documentary is that it was clearly created with spaces for commercial breaks. And after each (and there are a lot of them), there is a way too lengthy narrated summary of what transpired previously. That works fine on TV. But when the History Channel converted this series to DVD, those repetitive summaries should have been edited out.