The Men Who Built America Blu-ray by Lions Gate
Description of The Men Who Built America Blu-ray by Lions Gate
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The Men Who Built America were quite a quintet. Cornelius Vanderbilt, who had already made a fortune in ships, saw which way the wind was blowing, invested in railroads, and became the richest man in America. John D. Rockefeller revolutionized the oil business, from refining to delivery, with Standard Oil. Andrew Carnegie was the first great steel magnate. J.P. Morgan controlled the electricity market, consolidated the steel industry after Carnegie, and was "the creator of modern finance," while Henry Ford constructed the automobile assembly line and made cars affordable to everyone. But these were not merely brilliant entrepreneurs, visionaries who had great ideas and the will and wherewithal to see them through to fruition, in the process helping America emerge from the ruins of the Civil War and become the greatest nation on Earth in just a few short decades. The way this History Channel production tells it, with its bluesy theme music, emphasis on dramatically re-created Big Moments, and generally overheated POV (a challenge from a competitor is nothing less than "a declaration of war"), Vanderbilt et al. were outlaws and rock stars, tough, macho men who strode the Earth like colossi, crushing lesser beings with their ingenuity, acumen, and very large piles of money. Indeed, although it has some typical documentary elements (like occasional use of file footage and photos), The Men Who Built America is really more of a docudrama; the characters are all portrayed by actors (none of them household names, except maybe in their own homes) mouthing scripted dialogue; and while there are a few historians, academics, and biographers on hand, most of the people who offer their modern-day insights are celebrity business figures like Donald Trump, Mark Cuban, Steve Wynn, Ted Turner, Charles Schwab, and Carly Fiorina. This is not a bad thing. The style takes some getting used to, but in the end, the eight-episode miniseries is both entertaining and enlightening, providing information about such events as the financial panic of 1873, how the refinement of oil into kerosene brought light into Americans' homes, the role played by Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Morgan in the election of President William McKinley in 1896, and the efforts of reformers like William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt to put an end to the vast monopolies they'd created. --Sam Graham