A 2-hour documentary for American Experience, featuring Tony Award-winning Broadway actor Brían F. O’Byrne as America’s most controversial founding father. The program covers the full sweep of Hamilton’s short life, one that had more than its share of heroism, scandal and tragedy.
Alexander Hamilton’s story is one that the most gifted novelist could not have invented. Too much of it would seem implausible,” says Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow, who is featured in the documentary. “It’s better than any novel.”
In many ways, Hamilton was the embodiment of the American dream–precocious, self-made, an immigrant. He was born illegitimate on the Caribbean island of Nevis in an age when society was dominated by rank and family background. Eventually, he rose to the highest levels of society not on the basis of who he was, but on pure merit. He was educated on a scholarship at New York’s Kings College (Columbia University) and “adopted” by General George Washington, who recognized both Hamilton’s recklessness and his genius. Washington made him his most valued aide de camp and entrusted him to lead the battle of Yorktown, the decisive win in the Revolutionary War.
“In the turbulent years of the young republic, when the very character and soul of America were matters of fierce deliberation, Hamilton shaped the debate,” says program executive producer Catherine Allan. As the Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton championed a strong central government and an economy based not upon plantations and farming, but upon commerce and manufacturing–ideas considered radical by most Americans of the time. He opposed slavery and promoted the idea of a country based–not on inherited position–but on meritocracy–a world where talented men like himself could succeed. These views collided dramatically with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson’s vision for America. Eventually, opposition to Hamilton led to the birth of America’s two-party system.
“At the time of his death, the scope of Hamilton’s legacy was not yet known,” says American Experience executive producer Mark Samels. “But it’s a legacy that is still alive today.” Under Hamilton’s watch, the newborn country quickly developed into one of the strongest economies in the world, making possible the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States, the building of canals and railroads, and the heavy industry that fueled the growth of the nation’s largest cities.
“Hamilton devoted his whole life to one thing, and that was creating the United States,” says historian Richard Payne. “And although there is no major monument today to Hamilton, he doesn’t need one. We live in Hamilton’s monument—this United States.”
The Making of an 18th Century New York Street Scene
Behind the Scenes
The Battle Over the Creation of a National Bank
Alexander Hamilton’s Widow Eliza Speaks
Producer/Director Muffie Meyer
Writer Ronald Blumer
Narrator Colm Feore
Co-Producers Ronald Blumer, Sharon Sachs, Eric Seuel Davies
Editors Sharon Sachs, Eric Seuel Davies
Director of Photography Tom Hurwitz
Production Designer Andrew Jackness
Costume Designer Candice Donnelly
Composer Richard Einhorn
Program Executive Producer Catherine Allen
For a full list of credits, see www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/hamilton/filmmore/filmcredits.html
A Production of Twin Cities Public Television in association with Middlemarch Films, Inc. for American Experience.
… solidly turned by Twin Cities Public TV in association with Middlemarch Films, as produced-directed by Muffie Meyer and smartly written by Ronald H. Blumer… our righteous, deadly honorable star is played grit-jawed by the gifted Irish actor Brian F. O’Byrne.
Irv Letofsky, The Hollywood Reporter
In this edition of the American Experience series, Hamilton’s psychology and peccadilloes get plenty of attention. Yet it’s his public life and the policies he pushed that are the most interesting. We’re still feeling the fallout today… What’s most fascinating in all this is the inevitable comparison between then and now, and how the war of ideas that began soon after the new nation was established is still very much with us.
Nancy DeWolf Smith, The Wall Street Journal
…the film – directed and produced by Muffie Meyer and co-produced and written by her husband, Ronald H. Blumer – strives mightily to go beyond the tragic death to flesh out an extraordinary life…Dominating Alexander Hamilton is Tony-winning Irish actor Brian F. O’Byrne, as Hamilton (, who) captures Hamilton in his complexity
Steve Hedgpeth, Newark Star-Ledger
…for unpredictable drama, it’s hard to beat our founding fathers… Thanks in large part to Twin Cities Public Television, those pioneers are now getting a second, juicier look… New York’s Middlemarch Films and TPT, which previously produced Liberty! and the Emmy-winning Ben Franklin, is behind Alexander Hamilton, a riveting documentary about a man whose genius was outmatched by his arrogance… what makes the two-hour film more than just a history lesson is its attention to Hamilton’s contradictory personality.
Neal Justin, Minneapolis Star Tribune
(The) performers, especially Tony-winner Brian F. O’Byrne as Hamilton, bring edge and passion to their speeches…the past (is) presented with theatrical flourish… Director Meyer and writer Ronald Blumer end the documentary in stirring style.… Alexander Hamilton offers exhilarating views of New York, Wall Street and the stock exchange. “(Hamilton) doesn’t need a monument,” historian Payne says. “We live in Hamilton’s monument—this United States—this is Hamilton’s monument. And when we talk about the American dream, we’re talking about Hamilton’s dream.”… Of himself, Hamilton said, “Mine is an odd destiny.” This handsome, stylish and slightly odd documentary fits the man.
Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel
Alexander Hamilton was a “Pick of the Week” in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Sunday, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, and Detroit Free Press.