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American Experience Season 15 Episodes

13 Episodes 2002 - 2003

Episode 1

Jimmy Carter: Jimmy Who?

Mon, Nov 11, 2002 90 mins

An evocative two-part profile of Jimmy Carter explores how his career has been shaped by what former speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg calls his "moral ideology." Produced by Adriana Bosch ( "American Experience" biographies of Reagan and Grant), the film features comments by Carter's wife, Rosalynn, and son Chip, as well as historians, former Vice President Walter Mondale and a number of key Carter aides. Part 1ends just after the 1976 campaign, which put Carter in the White House. He was, says Hertzberg, "exactly what the American people would say they want." Linda Hunt narrates.

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American Experience, Season 15 Episode 1 image

Episode 2

Jimmy Carter: Hostage

Tue, Nov 12, 2002 90 mins

"Hostage," the conclusion of a two-part Jimmy Carter biography, covers his presidency and post-presidency. Human rights were to be "a basic tenet of our foreign policy," Carter declared in 1977, but he was overwhelmed by events in Iran, and economic woes at home led to a "malaise" so severe that the 1978 Camp David accords didn't even give him a boost in the polls. Then came the hostage crisis. But back in Plains, he and Rosalynn regrouped. And now? As former Carter speechwriter Henrdrik Hertzberg puts it: "His values, his devotion to human rights, keep on resonating in a way that his failures and weaknesses don't." Linda Hunt narrates.

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American Experience, Season 15 Episode 2 image

Episode 3

Chicago: City of the Century - Mud Hole to Metropolis

Mon, Jan 13, 2003 90 mins

"Chicago: City of the Century," a three-part history of the metropolis based on historian Donald L. Miller's book "City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America." Part 1 begins with the arrival of French explorers Marquette and Joliet in 1673, and follows the digging of canals, and the arrival of railroads and industry. It ends with the Great Fire of 1871, which interrupted the city's explosive 19th-century growth only momentarily.

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Episode 4

Chicago: City of the Century - The Revolution Has Begun

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 90 mins

Part 2 (of three) of "Chicago: City of the Century" covers the 1870s and '80s, when the city's can-do business leaders found themselves increasingly at odds with labor. The episode profiles meatpacker Augustus Swift; sleeping-car magnate George Pullman, who established what he hoped would become a utopian workers community; and merchant prince Marshall Field, who had no such notions. Then there were the anarchists. Based on the book by historian Donald L. Miller.

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Episode 5

Chicago: City of the Century - The Battle for Chicago

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 90 mins

"Chicago: City of the Century" concludes by exploring the city's ethnic and class tensions during the 1880s and '90s. Ethnic groups banded together in what narrator David Ogden Stiers calls "a defensive communalism," but most immigrants headed first to the city's worst slum, the Near West Side, which was presided over by Alderman Johnny Powers, the "prince of the boodlers," who traded services for votes. The series is based on the book by Donald L. Miller.

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Episode 6

The Murder of Emmett Till

Mon, Jan 20, 2003 60 mins

Recalling the 1955 murder of a 14-year-old black youth in the Mississippi delta, an incident that could very well have launched the civil-rights movement.

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Episode 7

Transcontinental Railroad

Mon, Jan 27, 2003 120 mins

Charting the race between the Union Pacific and Central Pacific to construct a transcontinental railroad to link the U.S. It ended May 10, 1869, in Promontory Point, Utah. The construction was "the engineering marvel of the 19th century---and a flat-out swindle," says narrator Michael Murphy. It was also "the technological manifestation of Manifest Destiny," says historian Wendell Huffman, one of the program's commentators. And it sealed the fate of the Plains Indians. When the final spike was in place, Murphy says, "America could take its place as the first nation in the world."

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Episode 8

Partners of the Heart

Mon, Feb 10, 2003 60 mins

Chronicling the unlikely partnership between a white surgeon and a black "technician" that led to a procedure to correct blue-baby syndrome in 1944. The principals: Vivien Thomas, a black man with only a high-school diploma, and Alfred Blalock, the patrician chief of surgery at Johns Hopkins. Blalock pioneered the surgery to correct the congenital heart defect, but it was Thomas who devised to procedures that were used. And they did it at a time, narrator Morgan Freeman says, when the two "could not share the same lunch table in the Hopkins cafeteria."

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Episode 9

The Pill

Mon, Feb 24, 2003 60 mins

Charting the development of an oral contraceptive during the 1950s and its effect on "the sexual revolution" of the '60s. It was enormous. Says Sylvia Clark, who grew up before the pill was available: "Women began to see themselves for the first time in all of history as economically self-sustaining." The hour examines reasons why, as it profiles the pill's key figures, including biologist Gregory Pincus and gynecologist John Rock; heiress Katharine Dexter McCormick, who financed the research; and Margaret Sanger, the activist who spearheaded it. Among Sanger's motivations: her own mother, who had 18 pregnancies (seven of them miscarriages) and died at 49. Narrated by Blair Brown.

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Episode 10

Daughter From Danang

Mon, Apr 7, 2003 90 mins

"Daughter from Danang," an Oscar-nominated documentary, chronicles the tearful reunion of an Amerasian refugee with her Vietnamese family 22 years after the war ended. Heidi Bub, who was airlifted out of her homeland as the war was ending, grew up in Tennessee and calls herself "101 percent Americanized." The 1997 reunion is at first joyful, but cultural differences soon emerge, and after a few days she begins to feel "smothered" by her biological mother. Then, when her brother asks for financial support, Heidi turns bitter. It is, says Tran Tuong Nhu, the journalist who accompanied her, "more than she had bargained for."

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American Experience, Season 15 Episode 10 image

Episode 11


Mon, Apr 21, 2003 60 mins

"Seabiscuit" recalls the squat and ugly racehorse that riveted the nation in the late 1930s. Interviewees include author Laura Hillenbrand ("Seabiscuit: An American Legend"), who charts the Cinderella story of this "equine catastrophe," as narrator Scott Glenn calls him, and his hard-luck jockey, Red Pollard, who kept getting hurt. But Seabiscuit won, often inspiringly and most notably in the 1940 Santa Anita Derby, in which both the horse and jockey were coming off injuries.

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Episode 12

War in the Pacific: Bataan Rescue

Mon, Jul 7, 2003 60 mins

"Bataan Rescue," narrated by Scott Glenn, recalls the daring January 1945 commando raid that freed 513 survivors of the 1942 Bataan Death March who were being held in a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines. Rescuers recall how they did it, and POWs describe what it meant to them. "That's the night I was reborn," says one. "That's my birthday."

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Episode 13

Murder at Harvard

Mon, Jul 14, 2003 60 mins

Historian Simon Schama ("A History of Britain") plays sleuth---searching, he says, "not for literal truth, but for poetic truth"---as he speculates about whether an innocent man was executed for a 154-year-old "Murder at Harvard." The victim was prominent Boston physician-turned-businessman George Parkman, who disappeared on Nov. 23, 1849. Remains thought to be his were found a week later in the Harvard Medical College's basement, and chemistry professor John Webster, who owed Parkman money, was convicted of the crime on the basis of circumstantial evidence.

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