“The automobile changed our dress, manners, vacation habits, the shape of our cities and positions in intercourse,” muses an anonymous essayist cited in the new American Experience documentary on Henry Ford that airs on Connecticut Public Television on January 29. Henry Ford did more to create that revolution than any other man, but as filmmaker Sarah Colt’s latest offering shows, success came with a heavy price tag for the inventor of the Model T and the assembly line.
“You lifted us up out of the mud,” a farmer’s wife wrote in gratitude to Ford, who grew up on a farm in Michigan, praising him for making a reliable, affordable automobile that “brought joy to our lives” and mobility and opportunity to a nation. Hailed as a man who “never ran out of ideas,” a “visionary” and even “prophet,” Ford, as the PBS documentary shows, also had his dark side. A titan of industry, Ford was burdened with what narrator Oliver Platt quotes a contemporary describing as “a massive ego, and a compulsion to grab center stage.”
This ego led him into conflict with investors, lawyers, Wall Street, the press, unions and intellectuals, all of whom as the film notes Ford despised. Ford’s anti-Semitism and his forays into social engineering are also explored, as is his tyrannical nature and compulsion for control, traits which broke the spirit of his only son, Edsel (for whom the library at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut’s Northwest Corner is named).
Ford’s story is told through period newsreels and still photos, with commentary from professors and historians including Yale’s own Beverly Gage. While it focuses on Ford the man, the film is also a history of the early days of the American automotive industry, and of how it changed the nation.
Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) is airing this latest offering in The American Experience series from 9 to 11 P.M. on Tuesday, January 29 (which would have been Ford’s 150th birthday), with a repeat broadcast the following Monday, February 4, from 1 to 3 A.M.
Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with over 30 years of experience as a ghost-writer, author and columnist. As a union man (and the son and grandson of union men), and for the decade of the ‘90s a Ford owner, much of what is depicted in PBS’s Henry Ford resonates personally with Mark.
An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln. To view and pre-order what will be Mark's 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit http://www.gmtgames.com/p-238-rebel-raiders-on-the-high-seas.aspx
Mark’s latest work, the science fiction adventure novel Princess Ryan's Star Marines, is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats at http://www.amazon.com/Princess-Ryans-Star-Marines-Save/dp/1466218487/ref...
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