A one-hour program for the American history series The American Experience (PBS), the film traces the economic boom—the “New Era” of prosperity—which ends with the great stock market crash of 1929.
In 1929, while the stock market was rising, seemingly without limits, there were few critics. Based on eight years of continued prosperity, presidents and economists alike confidently predicted that America would soon enter a time when there would be no more poverty, no more depressions—a “New Era” when everyone could be rich.
The Crash of 1929 captures the unbounded optimism of the age and the shocking consequences when reality finally hit, exploring a fateful year through the words and experiences of the descendants of several titans of finance.
Produced and Directed by Muffie Meyer & Ellen Hovde
Writer: Ronald H. Blumer
Editor: Alison Ellwood
Director of Photography: Alicia Weber
Associate Producer: Susan Kipp
Executive Producer: Judy Crichton
A Middlemarch Films Production for The American Experience.
This title is currently out of print, but is available for online viewing at pbs.org
The Crash of 1929 is a sobering reminder that what goes up, must come down. “It is something that happens every 20 or 30 years,” economist John Kenneth Galbraith says of the dramatic Wall Street plunge, “because that is about the length of financial memory.” This episode… is a further reminder that this weekly PBS documentary history series is one of the finest and most enjoyable programs on television…This episode conjures the warning that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Duane Dudek, Milwaukee Sentinel
Tonight’s installment of The American Experience is an instructive and timely documentary entitled The Crash of 1929 (9-10 p,m. EST, on PBS; PBS air times and dates vary, so check local listings). Any number of people around can remember the great depression. but there are significantly fewer left to tell about the event that started it all. This crisp and oddly mellow look back at the crash provides relatives and other intimates of the big Wall Street players, who tell what life was like in the age of unbridled optimism. The son and daughter of banker Charles Mitchell reflect, as they sit in the baronial mansion that was their childhood home, that they had 16 live-in help, not counting chauffeurs. Their father and other titans of Wall Street never had to stop for a traffic light because the New York City police – who at the time still operated the lights by hand – turned the signal green for them.
The speculators of the time had nothing on the inside traders of today (except the law on their side). Men like Michael J. Meehan, William Durant and Jesse Livermore made fortunes by conspiring to inflate stock prices. But even the crash could not undo a great manipulator like Livermore. The day it all happened, his wife, convinced they were ruined, had the servants moved all their possessions into a small cottage. But Livermore, who came home to an empty house, had in fact made more money on Black Tuesday than ever before. Still, the stock market game as the speculators had known it, the game that was life itself to some, was over for him, too, and Livermore would end up taking his life not too many years later, just like the men who had been wiped out. It is fitting that the crash be treated as an epic, the way it is treated here—and grippingly.
Dorothy Rabinowitz, The Wall Street Journal
In hindsight, perhaps there are a few lessons to learn from tonight’s excellent The American Experience edition special on PBS called The Crash of 1929. Considering the economic mood of the country, nothing could be more timely…
New York Daily News
It’s easy to be bullish about The Crash of 1929.
The Los Angeles Times
The Crash of 1929 has all the ingredients: larger-than-life characters, great fortunes that are won and lost, and highly emotional drama….Producers Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer have done a marvelous job of telling the story.
Detroit Free Press
…clear and unexpectedly entertaining…