Mark Twain: A Film Directed by Ken Burns
January 14, 2002 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Mark Twain: A Film Directed by Ken Burns started on PBS tonite, on my local station. I know we have discussed Mark Twain's writting before, but I found this as I was looking for other sources about Twain. What do you think? Was he racist or was he trying to expose racist thinking? Or just weaving a good story?
posted by bjgeiger (15 comments total)
Is Wynton Marsalis involved in this one too?
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:34 PM on January 14, 2002

He wasn't a racist, and was trying to expose racist thinking and blah blah blah. Next topic?
posted by raysmj at 7:36 PM on January 14, 2002

He was clearly opposed to racism, but he is certainly deserving of more than a blah blah blah. I haven't yet watched the first part of the documentary. How was it?
posted by sudama at 7:44 PM on January 14, 2002

I was poking fun at the question, actually, which was . . . goodness, could anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Twain's history think he was a racist? Sheesh.
posted by raysmj at 7:50 PM on January 14, 2002

I thought the film was very well done, several very good interviews with authors and Twain scholars. Also an interview with Hal Holbrook.
posted by bjgeiger at 7:51 PM on January 14, 2002

If any other proof were needed, there is this story. It is deeply moving.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:23 PM on January 14, 2002

Simple minds grasp at simple interpretations.
posted by rushmc at 9:06 PM on January 14, 2002

there is this story

Amazing. Thanks, Steven.
posted by diddlegnome at 9:18 PM on January 14, 2002

On the whole, it's rather good, but I have to agree with the New York Times review by Caryn James on its slight defects, insofar that it is a Ken Burns production, (nothing works for me anymore but metafilter/metafilter on the login). I especially agree with her about the music: hum drum.
posted by y2karl at 9:40 PM on January 14, 2002

The first part of the documentary wasn't bad, but they seemed to skim over Twain's pre-Finn years as a lackidaisical muckraker (specifically, the police criticisms) and the satirical implications of The Gilded Age, almost implying that Clemens had never thought politically until the advent of Finn. But then what do you expect from a Ken Burns documentary? They'll probably cover Twain's contributions as a thinker in the second half.

As for the Falwell-like generalization that Twain was a racist, Lenny Bruce has a few things to say about that.

And I'll second the welcome presence of Hal Holbrook, a great underrated actor who has spent a substantial portion of his life appearing as Mark Twain on stage.
posted by ed at 10:26 PM on January 14, 2002

It's a good bio so far, but it seems like this is more of a documentary on Samuel Clemens, the personality, rather than an exploration into the works of Mark Twain. The novel of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was mentioned off-hand, and wasn't given nearly the spotlight I would have expected (a boy posing as a girl, for one such issue).

This would be acceptable for an hour-long biography, but this Ken Burns doc doesn't seem as topicly well-rounded as—well—the other Ken Burns docs.
posted by Down10 at 11:37 PM on January 14, 2002

Only the simplest of simpletons would fine Twain's work 'racist'.
posted by glenwood at 6:22 AM on January 15, 2002

I honestly enjoyed what I saw of the documentary, but Keith David has such a soothing voice, I fell dead asleep on the couch after the first hour. Best nap I've had in months, though.
posted by jennyb at 6:49 AM on January 15, 2002

Sure, only a simpleton would find Twain racist, but those very same simpletons have raised hell all over the country getting Huck Finn banned in many schools. So simple minded or not, it has come up as an issue on more than one occasion.
posted by bob bisquick at 11:09 AM on January 15, 2002

Thank you, bob bisquick.
posted by bjgeiger at 6:55 PM on January 15, 2002

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