The Donner Party
Monday, February 1 at 9:00 p.m. on WPBT2
A cautionary tale of human endeavor and failure, hope and despair, greed and ambition, “The Donner Party,” the acclaimed documentary from filmmakers Ric Burns and Lisa Ades returns to AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Monday, February 1 at 9:00 p.m. Narrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and historian David McCullough, "The Donner Party" chronicles the harrowing tale of the ill-fated emigrant group who set out for the promised land of California in the spring of 1846, only to meet with disaster in the snows of the Sierra Nevada mountains the following winter.
Using archival photographs, paintings, and maps; diaries, letters and memoirs of the party members; interview with writers and historians; and original cinematography from across the Oregon and California trails, “The Donner Party” traces the emigrants’ 2,500-mile journey from Springfield, Illinois, to Sutters Fort in California. The letters, memoirs and diary selections are read by Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Frances Sternhagen, George Plimpton, Lois Smith and Eli Wallach, among others. “The Donner Party” has been honored with a George Foster Peabody Award and a Writers Guild Award.
The Bombing of Germany
Monday, February 8 at 9:00 p.m. on WPBT2
On September 1, 1939 — the first day of World War II in Europe — President Franklin D. Roosevelt appealed to the warring nations to “under no circumstances undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations.” Just six years later, British and American Allied forces had carried out a bombing campaign of unprecedented might over Germany’s cities, claiming the lives of nearly half a million civilians. Weaving interviews with WWII pilots and historians with stunning archival footage of the bombing and its aftermath, the program is a haunting reminder of the dilemma imposed by war’s civilian casualties, a topic that continues to resonate as America enters the eighth year of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Monday, February 15 at 9:00 p.m. on WPBT2
On August 25, 2008, just two months after undergoing surgery for a malignant brain tumor, “The Lion of the Senate” and the Kennedy family’s lone male survivor — Edward M. Kennedy — surprised attendees with an unscheduled speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. “As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship. So many of you have been with me in the happiest days and the hardest days. Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat,” Kennedy said. The Kennedy story is unlike any other: a saga of ambition, wealth, family loyalty and personal tragedy. From patriarch Joseph Kennedy’s rise on Wall Street and frustrations in politics, John Kennedy’s march to the White House, Robert Kennedy’s near-certain presidential victory, preempted only by his tragic death, through Edward Kennedy’s withdrawal from the 1980 presidential race following the scandal of Chappaquiddick, the family legacy continues to influence politics.
Monday, February 22 at 9:00 p.m. on WPBT2
Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first to cross the North American continent alone. Her exploits as an aviator, her beauty and intelligence, her independence and charm made her a national heroine. Seemingly invincible, Earhart tirelessly traveled and lectured, a champion of aviation and equal opportunity for women. But her cheering public didn’t know the cost of her courage. The record-breaking flights, the aerial exhibitions and races, the interviews to support her favorite causes, the endless speeches and promotional commitments, together with household responsibilities, health problems and financial worries, combined to push Earhart to the point of exhaustion. In 1937, she set out to accomplish yet another first: to circle the earth along the equator on an east-west flight. Friends warned that her preparations were hurried, even careless. When her plane disappeared without a trace, the “First Lady of the Air” was instantly transformed into an American legend.
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