Template:Infobox Television The Civil War is an acclaimed documentary film created by Ken Burns about the American Civil War. It was first broadcast on PBS on five consecutive nights from Sunday, September 23 to Thursday, September 27, 1990. Forty million viewers watched it during its initial broadcast, making it the most watched program ever to air on PBS, to this day remaining one of the most popular shows broadcast by PBS. The visitorship to Civil War battlefields and memorial sites measurably increased the summer following the series first airing, a credit to the documentary's impact on viewers. It is considered to be Ken Burns' magnum opus, and is one of the most awarded and most popular documentaries of all time. The film was remastered on the twelfth anniversary of its release, and a book following the movie has also been released.
Ken Burns was inspired to make this documentary because of Mathew Brady's photographs.
The documentary is over 10 hours in length, consists of nine episodes and explores the Civil War through personal stories and photos. During the creation of the movie Burns makes extensive use of more than 16,000 archival photographs, paintings, and newspaper images from the time of the war. This resulted in the coining of the term the “Ken Burns Effect.”
These images were intermixed with contemporary cinematography, music, narration by David McCullough, anecdotes and insights from authors such as Shelby Foote, historians Barbara J. Fields, Ed Bearss, and Stephen B. Oates, and a chorus of voice acted characters such as Abraham Lincoln, Mary Chestnut, Ulysses S. Grant, Walt Whitman, Stonewall Jackson, and Frederick Douglass, who read quotes from the period.
The theme song of the documentary, "Ashokan Farewell," which was performed for the film by its composer Jay Ungar, became so closely associated with the war thanks to the film that people frequently and erroneously believe it was written and performed during the Civil War. In fact, it is the only piece in the entire soundtrack which was not from the Civil War period.
Described as "voices", a large cast of actors read correspondences, memoirs, news articles, and the like from the Civil War. Waterston had also played Thomas Jefferson in Burns' films about Jefferson and about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
- David McCullough as Narrator
- Sam Waterston as Abraham Lincoln
- Julie Harris as Mary Chesnut
- Jason Robards as Ulysses S. Grant
- Morgan Freeman as Frederick Douglass†
- Paul Roebling as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
- Garrison Keillor as Walt Whitman†
- George Black as Robert E. Lee
- Arthur Miller as William Tecumseh Sherman†
- Chris Murney as Elisha Hunt Rhodes
- Charley McDowell as Sam Watkins
- Horton Foote as Jefferson Davis
- George Plimpton as George Templeton Strong
- Philip Bosco as Horace Greeley†
- Terry Courier as George B. McClellan
- Jody Powell as Stonewall Jackson†
- Studs Terkel as Benjamin Butler†
- Hoyt Axton as various
- Colleen Dewhurst as various
- Shelby Foote as various
- Ronnie Gilbert as various
- Jeremy Irons as various
- Derek Jacobi as various
- Kurt Vonnegut as various
- Larry Fishburne as various
- Pamela Reed as various
† Performer voiced other characters as well.
Each episode was divided into numerous chapters or vignettes as detailed:
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Reception and awards
The series has been honored with more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild of America, People's Choice Award, Peabody Award, duPont-Columbia Award, D.W. Griffith Award, and the US$50,000 Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others.
The entire series was digitally remastered in 2002. The soundtrack was also remixed. Paul Barnes, Editor & Post-Production Supervisor, Florentine Films at that time commented:
"Ken Burns and I decided to remaster The Civil War for several reasons. First of all when we completed the film in 1989, we were operating under a very tight schedule and budget. As the main editor on the film, I always wanted to go back and improve the overall quality of the film. The other reason for remastering the film at this time is that the technology to color correct, print and transfer a film to video for broadcast has vastly improved, especially in the realm of digital computer technology."
- Film Descrpitions http://www.pbs.org/civilwar/film/descriptions.html#top Retrieved 2009-11-02.
- Why we decided to remaster http://www.pbs.org/civilwar/film/remaster.html Retrieved 2009-11-02.
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