Henry Ford Documentary Set For PBS's American Experience


  • Henry Ford Picture

    Henry Ford Picture

    A new documentary on Henry Ford is set to air on PBS today. | January 29, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • One of the most intriguing and informative views of the life of Henry Ford is likely to be a two-hour segment of the PBS history series American Experience that debuts on January 29 at 9 p.m. ET.
  • The two-hour film attempts to present a balanced view of one of the twentieth century's most controversial figures.
  • In addition to the life of Ford himself, the documentary details the invention of the Model T and the history of the Ford Motor Co. during its founder's lifetime.

DETROIT — One of the most intriguing and informative views of the life of Henry Ford is likely to be a two-hour segment of the PBS history series American Experience that debuts on January 29 at 9 p.m. ET.

The two-hour film attempts to present a balanced view of one of the twentieth century's most controversial figures.

In addition to the life of Ford himself, the documentary details the invention of the Model T and the history of the Ford Motor Co. during its founder's lifetime.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Ford's birth, and the ways in which it will be commemorated include official celebrations by his Ford Motor Co., gatherings of clubs dedicated to its various models and even a writing contest in which children in grades three through 12 are invited to create stories that celebrate Ford's life and times.

At the helm of the Ford PBS production was Sarah Colt, a veteran documentary filmmaker whose previous work for PBS includes "A Nation Reborn" and "A New Light" for the Frontline series, as well as "The Polio Crusade" for American Experience. Colt spent more than a year researching, writing, and directing the two-hour film. During that time she visited Dearborn and Detroit, where Ford lived and worked, and spent hours digging up film footage and still photos at the National Archives in Washington.

The result is a portrait of a man who not only put the world on wheels but also emerged as one of the most controversial figures of the past century.

On one hand Ford was the personification of the American dream, a farm boy who became a tycoon and the driving force behind the iconic Model T, mass production, and the $5 per day wage. But he was, on the other hand, ruthless in business dealings, responsible for sometimes violent opposition to unions, rabidly anti-Semitic (he was the only American praised in Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf), and remarkably cruel to his only son, Edsel.

In the PBS documentary, Colt attempts to present a balanced view of this extraordinarily complex man, acknowledging his world-changing accomplishments while not shying away from his devastating flaws. In the process she tells the story of both Ford and the company he built, which still flourishes in the city he helped put on the map.

Edmunds says: Even for those familiar with the basics of Ford's story — in other words, just about everyone — this documentary looks like a fascinating way to spend a couple hours.

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