Sunday, May 13, 2007

Alexander Hamilton, Monday on PBS American Experience

Upcoming on PBS American Experience
Alexander Hamilton
Monday, May 14, 2007
Check local listings

Program description:
One of the most controversial men of his age, Alexander Hamilton was a gifted statesman brought down by the fatal flaws of stubbornness, extreme candor, and arrogance. His life and career were marked by a stunning rise to power, scandal, and tragedy. He had one of the most notorious love affairs of any public figure in American history, and met his death in a startling act of political violence - the famous duel with Aaron Burr.

But his contributions as a statesman survive. As first Secretary of the Treasury during the tumultuous early years of the republic, Hamilton led the transformation of the young country into a commercial and industrial powerhouse. He was the one founder who had a vision, not of what America was, but of what it could become.

This two-hour American Experience tells the story of the underappreciated genius who laid the groundwork for the nation's modern economy - including the banking system, Wall Street, and an "opportunity society" in which talent and hard work, not birth, determined success.

The documentary is reviewed by Jason Davis at While I am not a fan of using actors to play out scenes in historical documentaries, Davis likes the way it worked in this film.

Using actors to perform actual historical documents in period settings created by judicious use of foreground props and background slides, Hamilton breathes life into letters and journal entries written by the eponymous financier as well as historical luminaries like George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson....Irish Actor Brian F. O'Byrne (Oz) embodies the intelligence and intensity of Hamilton with just the right air of arrogance to lend credence to Adams' dislike. Indeed, the dramatic recitations, culled from an incalculable array of historical documents, are the highlight of the film. A variety of interviews with well-regarded historians are interspersed throughout the documentary, but they feel rather like schoolteachers trying to parse Shakespearian dialogue for students they feel unable to do the work themselves. It's not really necessary to explain Jefferson's philosophical dislike for Hamilton when Jefferson's own words clearly state the Virginian's case in more dramatic terms.
For more from Davis, click here.