Image of Ken Burns

Ken Burns

Celebrated American documentarian who gradually amassed a considerable reputation and a devoted audience with a series of reassuringly traditional meditations on Americana. Burns' works are treasure troves of archival materials; he skillfully utilizes period music and footage, photographs, periodicals and ordinary people's correspondence, the latter often movingly read by seasoned professional actors in a deliberate attempt to get away from a "Great Man" approach to history. Like most non-fiction filmmakers, Burns wears many hats on his projects, often serving as writer, cinematographer, editor and music director in addition to producing and directing. He achieved his apotheosis with The Civil War (1990), a phenomenally popular 11-hour documentary that won two Emmys and broke all previous ratings records for public TV. The series' companion coffee table book--priced at a hefty $50--sold more than 700,000 copies. The audio version, narrated by Burns, was also a major best-seller. In the final accounting, "The Civil War" became the first documentary to gross over $100 million. Not surprisingly, it has become perennial fund-raising programming for public TV stations around the country. Burns arrived upon the scene with the Oscar-nominated Brooklyn Bridge (1981), a nostalgic chronicle of the construction of the fabled edifice. The film was more widely seen when rebroadcast on PBS the following year. Though Burns has made other nonfiction films for theatrical release, notably an acclaimed and ambiguous portrait of Depression-era Louisiana governor Huey Long (1985), PBS would prove to be his true home. He cast a probing eye on such American subjects as The Statue of Liberty (1985), The Congress (1988) (PBS), painter Thomas Hart Benton (1988) (PBS) and early radio with Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (1991) (PBS). Burns returned to long-form documentary with his most ambitious project to date, an 18-hour history of Baseball (1994), which aired on PBS in the fall of 1994. He approached the national pastime as a template for understanding changes in modern American society. Ironically, this was the only baseball on the air at the time, as the players and owners were embroiled in a bitter strike.


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Born:
Jul 29, 1953 In Brooklyn, New York, USA
Movie/TV Credits:
9
First Appeared:
In the series Today 1952-01-14
Latest Project:
Movie OETA's On The Record: Ken Burns 2014-09-15
Known For
Poster of OETA's On The Record: Ken Burns
Poster of The Colbert Report
Poster of The Tim McCarver Show
Poster of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Filmography
Movie OETA's On The Record: Ken Burns 2014-09-15
Movie Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself Himself 2012-10-03
Series The Tim McCarver Show Unknown 2005-02-06
Series The Colbert Report Unknown 2005-10-17
Series The Tony Danza Show Unknown 2004-09-13
Series The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Himself 1996-07-22
Series Late Night with Conan O'Brien Unknown 1993-09-13
Series This Week Unknown 1981-11-15
Series Today Unknown 1952-01-14