CLASS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY {EPISODE 2} (TV)

Summary

The second episode in this twelve-part miniseries hosted by Richard Dreyfuss examining the important people and events of the 20th century, featuring comments by various influential "class members," intended as a time capsule of sorts for the year 3000. This installment covers 1930-1939, and Beverly Sills, Dan Rather and James Garner talk about their humble childhoods and the prevalent "cowboy ethic" of many Americans. Radio was an escape for many people, and Steve Allen, Sid Caesar, Chuck Berry and others comment on their memories of using their imaginations to illustrate the audio programs. Shows like "The Lone Ranger" and "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy," with their heavy reliance on exciting sound effects, were popular with the likes of Joan Baez, Maya Angelou, Tom Brokaw and Mike Wallace, and Neil Simon acknowledges how the dialogue-focused productions influenced his later playwriting. Many families used the radio to listen to messages from President Roosevelt, who was widely considered to be a "savior" during a time of high unemployment and poverty. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. comments on his "star quality," and Dick Gregory notes that he was considered a paternal figure for his compassionate tone and creation of the New Deal. Downs states that Roosevelt was hated by others as strongly as he was loved, however, and Julia Child and Harry Belafonte talk about their families' strongly opposite feelings about the president, with Norman Lear adding that his grandfather had a habit of writing personal letters to the Commander in Chief.

In 1936, Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson, and news of the scandal spread quickly from the U.K. to America. Downs, Simon and Art Buchwald comment on the monarch's memorable speech on the radio and subsequent ostracism, while others including Betty Friedan and Helen Gurley Brown discuss the relative romantic nature of the gesture. Michael E. DeBakey and William F. Buckley Jr. recall Edward's strong "dependence" on Wallis, speculating that he was never truly happy. In America, child star Shirley Temple became a huge celebrity with her charm and signature curls, serving as "the ultimate optimist" during a time of great stress and difficulty in American life. Joan Ganz Cooney recalls her great excitement at once meeting Temple as a child, though Ben Bradlee acknowledges that many people had trouble reconciling her later adult self and her work as an ambassador with the little girl from the movies.

The rivalry between boxers Joe Louis and Max Schmeling represented both the contentions between blacks and white and between Americans and Germans; Schmeling defeated Louis in their first bout in 1936, but in the 1938 rematch, Louis knocked Schmeling out within minutes in the first round. Rather, Andrew Young and others recall hearing the match on the radio and the strong reactions from both sides when the black American beat "the Nazi," as he was regarded. Dreyfuss and Sills then comment on Lou Gehrig, known as "the Iron Horse," the Yankees first baseman who earned fame for his athletic skills and dignified personality before being stricken by the disease that would eventually bear his name. Mickey Mantle recalls Gehrig's famous speech in 1939 in which he called himself "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth" despite knowing that he was dying. Airships known as zeppelins were a popular method of travel, though Downs points out that they were essentially bombs because of the chemicals within, and the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937, which killed 35 people, was immortalized by radio broadcaster Herbert Morrison's horrified, unscripted reaction. At the same time, many in the still-devastated Germany were drawn to the "peculiar magic" of Adolf Hitler and considered him their progressive "salvation." Philip Johnson admits that he believed Hitler to be a force for good at first, though Billy Wilder and Benjamin Spock recall the racism and violence that grew as a result of his messages, and Elie Wiesel explains how Hitler was different from other dictators. The episode concludes with the interviewees offering advice to the viewers of 3000, in particular advising them not to be hindered by prejudice. Commercials deleted.

Details

  • NETWORK: A&E
  • DATE: January 9, 1992 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:00:00
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:23861
  • GENRE: Documentary
  • SUBJECT HEADING: 20th century
  • SERIES RUN: A&E - TV series, 1992
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Martin L. Waldman … Executive Producer
    • Charles Grinker … Executive Producer, Interviewer
    • Merrill M. Mazuer … Producer, Director
    • Pamela Blafer Lack … Producer, Writer
    • Holly Jacobs … Associate Producer
    • John C. Feld … Coordinating Associate Producer
    • John Toben … Theme Music by
    • Richard Dreyfuss … Host
    • Beverly Sills … Interviewee
    • Dan Rather … Interviewee
    • James Garner … Interviewee
    • Steve Allen … Interviewee
    • Sid Caesar … Interviewee
    • Chuck Berry … Interviewee
    • Joan Baez … Interviewee
    • Tom Brokaw … Interviewee
    • Mike Wallace … Interviewee
    • Neil Simon … Interviewee
    • Maya Angelou … Interviewee
    • Douglas Fairbanks Jr. … Interviewee
    • Dick Gregory … Interviewee
    • Hugh Downs … Interviewee
    • Julia Child … Interviewee
    • Harry Belafonte … Interviewee
    • Norman Lear … Interviewee
    • Betty Friedan … Interviewee
    • Helen Gurley Brown … Interviewee
    • Art Buchwald … Interviewee
    • Michael E. DeBakey … Interviewee
    • William F. Buckley Jr. … Interviewee
    • Joan Ganz Cooney … Interviewee
    • Ben Bradlee … Interviewee
    • Andrew Young … Interviewee
    • Mickey Mantle … Interviewee
    • Philip Johnson … Interviewee
    • Billy Wilder … Interviewee
    • Benjamin Spock … Interviewee
    • Elie Wiesel … Interviewee
    • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
    • Joe Louis
    • Max Schmeling
    • Wallis Simpson
    • Edward VIII
    • Shirley Temple (see also: Shirley Temple Black)
    • Lou Gehrig
    • Herbert Morrison
    • Adolf Hitler