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Thomas Jefferson (documentary)

Thomas Jefferson (documentary)

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Thomas Jefferson is a 1997 documentary directed and produced by Ken Burns
Ken Burns
Kenneth Lauren "Ken" Burns is an American director and producer of documentary films, known for his style of using archival footage and photographs...

. It covers the life and times of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, the 3rd President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....


In this film Jefferson is seen as a true renaissance man. Not only was he a dedicated public servant, but was also a writer, an inventor, and a noted architect. Burns captures both the public and private person.


The film was funded by the following:
  • General Motors Corporation
  • Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting
    Corporation for Public Broadcasting
    The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a non-profit corporation created by an act of the United States Congress, funded by the United States’ federal government to promote public broadcasting...

  • PBS
    Public Broadcasting Service
    The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

  • Virginia Department of Tourism

Actors and historians

Many noted actors read lines of various historical figures and a series of American university professors of history gave background information. They included:
  • Ossie Davis
    Ossie Davis
    Ossie Davis was an American film actor, director, poet, playwright, writer, and social activist.-Early years:...

     - Narrator
  • Sam Waterston
    Sam Waterston
    Samuel Atkinson "Sam" Waterston is an American actor and occasional producer and director. Among other roles, he is noted for his Academy Award-nominated portrayal of Sydney Schanberg in 1984's The Killing Fields, and his Golden Globe- and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning portrayal of Jack McCoy...

     - Thomas Jefferson
  • Blythe Danner
    Blythe Danner
    Blythe Katherine Danner is an American actress. She is the mother of actress Gwyneth Paltrow and director Jake Paltrow.-Early life:...

     - Martha Jefferson
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
    Gwyneth Paltrow
    Gwyneth Kate Paltrow is an American actress and singer. She made her acting debut on stage in 1990 and started appearing in films in 1991. After appearing in several films throughout the decade, Paltrow gained early notice for her work in films such as Se7en and Emma...

     - Jefferson's granddaughter
  • Philip Bosco
    Philip Bosco
    -Personal life:Bosco was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of Margaret Raymond , a policewoman, and Philip Lupo Bosco, a carnival worker. Bosco went to high school at St. Peter's Preparatory School in Jersey City. He attended the Catholic University of Washington, D.C. Bosco married Nancy...

     as Sam Adams

As themselves: Daniel Boorstin, Andrew Burstein, Joseph Ellis
Joseph Ellis
Joseph John Ellis is a Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College who has written histories on the founding generation of American presidents. His book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation received the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2001.-Background and teaching:He received his B.A...

, Clay S. Jenkinson
Clay S. Jenkinson
Clay Straus Jenkinson is an American humanities Rhodes scholar, Danforth Scholar, and author.-Life:...

, Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal is an American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist. His third novel, The City and the Pillar , outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality...

, George Will
George Will
George Frederick Will is an American newspaper columnist, journalist, and author. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winner best known for his conservative commentary on politics...

, and Garry Wills
Garry Wills
Garry Wills is a Pulitzer Prize-winning and prolific author, journalist, and historian, specializing in American politics, American political history and ideology and the Roman Catholic Church. Classically trained at a Jesuit high school and two universities, he is proficient in Greek and Latin...


External links

  • Thomas Jefferson film review at Salon
  • Ken Burns discusses film on C-SPAN
    C-SPAN , an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, is an American cable television network that offers coverage of federal government proceedings and other public affairs programming via its three television channels , one radio station and a group of websites that provide streaming...

    (@ 1hr 2min)
  • Joseph Ellis discusses making of the film