Ponder the dilemmas faced by the plain-speaking politician from Missouri. Thrust suddenly into the presidency, Harry Truman faced down some of the greatest crises of our time. Track the unlikely rise of an American origina... more »l who ended the Second World War, used the atomic bomb on Japan and confronted the expanding Soviet threat.« less
"First of all, let me begin by saying, I would suggest that you get this and American Experience: FDR together and watch them in order with FDR first. Two great presidents, two great documentaries. By the time you finish them, you feel as though you know both men as well as you know your own family.
I've always liked Truman, he called it like he saw it, and he didn't take any guff from anyone. Watching both videos, it made me shake my head, and fear the future of our nation. We will never see men like Truman and FDR again.
The documentary covered Truman from birth to the end of his presidency, and brought up a fact about the Marshall Plan that I never knew. It was packed with his personal life and his public life, and put a human face on a simple farmboy, his struggles in life and his ability to overcome. It showed what made Truman, TRUMAN."
What POTUS and broadcast journalism used to be
Great Movie Addict | New York City | 02/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To echo a previous reviewer, there has been and will forever be only one President Harry S. Truman. Hisorians rate him among the 10 greatest Presidents in our history, a fact that makes it seem inconceivable that he left office branded as a Commie (thanks to the McCarthy maniacs) and unpopular because of the lingering Korean War. Fortunately, that unpopularity didn't last. What makes this PBS biography indispensible, aside from the fascinating subject, is its presentation. Just as there have been few leaders of Truman's quality (especially recently), so there have been few commentators and writers like David McCullough. The narrative itself has to be one of the finest examples of broadcast journalism, a profession dismally absent from today's media. As for Truman, here's a guy who stood so far above the ideology and partisanship of his day and ours that he puts our own era to shame. For those who don't know Truman, this presentation will introduce you to a humble man who had it tough his whole life but kept right on going, living and acting on basic moral principles that have all but disappeared. I recall a hit record during the Watergate era from the rock group Chicago titled simply "Harry Truman". As you meet Harry through this video you'll be saying to yourself some of the words from that song: "America needs you, Harry Truman. Harry, could you please come home?""
Leadership Missing Today. . .
J Keistler | Lake Jackson, Texas USA | 02/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As have been so many of our prior Presidents, Mr. Truman would be un-electable today. We live in an atmosphere of sound bites and spin on our national political arena, fueled by television and 24-hour 'fair and balanced' news. Mr. Truman had absolutely no television charisma. His flat Missouri accent, particularly coming after Mr. Roosevelt, would never stir souls. Other than his flamboyant leisure shirts, he had no star appeal. His shirts came from JC Penney, and he washed his own underwear. To his death, he had no illusions about his abilities. We have never had another man in the Presidency who so respected the office and its responsibilities. He had to learn the hard way that, once he had served as President, he would never be able to retire to relative anonymity. He was probably the most poorly-prepared man to assume the Presidency in a century, and he overcame that handicap through sheer work and the desire to learn the job. And isn't it amazing that he accomplished what he did with a White House staff a fraction the size of today's, and no chief of staff?
How different than the grinning, primped and prepped candidates we are facing on both sides of the aisle this election year!
I have studied Mr. Truman and his times since college in the 70's. The romantic notion that the man was simple has long since been disproved. Though he was not college educated, he had an intellect and curiosity that has been sadly lacking for the past several years in the White House.
This will prove an entertaining introduction to Mr. Truman for those who don't know much about him--as with other American Experience episodes, the documentary footage is invaluable.
I doubt these documentaries are shown in American schools, and more's the shame. This series brings history to life, with dignity."
At last,, the definitive Truman documentary !!
karenkat | Menlo Park, CA | 05/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a knockout documentary, with Robards' fine narrative style not intruding on the dandy old film and newsreels and with Mc Cullough doing his usual fine commentary job. At last, we see Truman and his world from the start to the near-finish, and it is indeed a documentary, which should most certainly be preceded by the just as fine FDR one, that school children should study and write essays about. They need to learn FDR's and Truman's times as well as their Presidencies, and these two together show us both. They had some monumentally tough situations to deal with as Presidents, and while their performances weren't flawless, they were remarkably appropriate to their times.
This was a critical time in 20th century American history from the Depression thru the first years of the Cold War, and I can't imagine any other two Presidents doing anything close to the good jobs they did.
What really grabs one who is already familiar with the history, tho, about this Truman documentary, is the man. If there's one sentence in this 4.5 hours of film that stands out in my mind, it's his refusal to drop any more but the first two atomic bombs on Japan - "I don't want to kill any more kids."
That simple probably unrehearsed sentence says it all about him. Duty-bound in his own view to order those first two bombings to save what could have been hundreds of thousands of Japanese and American lives in a continuation of the traditional war and defending his decision to his death, he still knew what he had done, and he cared. And I believe that he was privately bothered about those kids in particular until he died.
And the presentation of that segment of the documentary, which pulled few punches with its imagery, was beautifully "neutral" in tone and style. It simply told the story of what he believed was needed and of what that led to.
Bravo, PBS. :)
A New Look at an Old Favorite
John P Bernat | Kingsport, TN USA | 06/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before his death, Harry Truman collaborated on a book called "Plain Speaking." That was intended to record Harry's views and philosophies for posterity's sake.
Given the sheer historical magnitude of his decisions (such as deciding to bomb Hiroshima), he was nevertheless overshadowed by the political and intellectual horsepower of his predecessor, FDR.
In Plain Speaking, he share his hardheaded, simplistic views of life and politics. Unintentionally self-revealing, he actually comes across more than a little like Babbitt. He was not ashamed to play the political game as he saw it necessary, "getting in bed with" whoever he had to to gain favor and power.
That stands in sharp contrast to his legendary stubborn willingness to do what he thought was right, once he attained power. However, when he is idolized by advocates of social or economic liberalism, the irony is cast in Truman's documented political willngness to cater to segregationists, to bow down to "big labor" and to overlook rank corruption with the greatest of ease.
He was far from the smartest president of the twentieth century - that honor has to rest with FDR or maybe Bill Clinton. And the wisdom of some of his decisions will be questioned by history for a long time to come. But he did come to stand for American character.
Intransigence - sometimes there is just no substitute for sheer cussedness!"