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• a customer review from amazon.com:
There's plenty of film from the time, and lots of people who have vivid memories of the year are interviewed. In this show, we hear from Hodding Carter, Todd Gitlin, Stephanie Coontz, Phyllis Schlafly, Jann Wenner, Jon Margolis, Rick Perlstein, Robert Dallek, Robert Caro, Mark Kurlansky, and more. Presented in a roughly chronological sequence, it starts with New Year in Times Square, only weeks after JFK was assassinated. Weeks later, the Beatles would appear on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. From tragedy to giddiness, to tragedy again, as the Civil Rights debate, simmering all along, starts boiling over when Lyndon Johnson makes it his priority.
Hearing from historians and biographers helps put things in perspective, but the testimony from some who were there is what makes you realize how people felt at the time. One civil rights organizer, Dave Dennis, recalls the moment when he moved from calling for peaceful change to calling for change at any price. It's powerful, and the fact that there is film to document his moment of evolution is riveting.
Barry Goldwater, Betty Friedan, Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, the Harlem Riots, Bewitched, the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, the Gulf of Tonkin and the escalation of the war in Vietnam, it's all in here, and arranged and edited so that it makes as much sense as a two hour review of a single year can. It could have been a hodgepodge of sights and sounds, but it comes across as a milestone year, musically, politically, socially.
Even if you were there, you will learn something from this well thought out documentary of a year that is still resonating.
• . . . this DVD should prove riveting to watch as an important year in the history of the United States is told. The PBS series "American Experience" has a well known reputation for quality programs and "1964" rates as one of the very best I think. It starts by looking back to that fateful day in Dallas in November 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated and how that event would launch what would occur in the year to come.
It would start of course with Vice President Lyndon Johnson suddenly now the new President [who] inherits all the important issues that President Kennedy has had to deal with. The biggest domestic issue would be civil rights that would come to the fore front in the country in 1964. With resistance in the south among the politicians to even bring a vote for civil rights to the Senate. The documentary does a very good job of showing just how Johnson would go about getting the votes he needed to get the bill passed. He was able to get the votes in a way that Kennedy could never have and it would certainly show the greatest moment in President Johnson's term as he got the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. Of course the documentary also looks at the early beginnings of what would become Lyndon Johnson's downfall as President as he would draw the country into the Vietnam war beginning with the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
As for the civil rights movement itself "1964" looks at the freedom riders and what they would face as they came in buses from the north to the south and how they would prepare for it. It of course covers the murder of the three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi and the emotional impact it brought on the nation at its brutality.
The program also does an excellent job at looking at the beginnings of the conservative movement that would take over the republican party with the nomination of Barry Goldwater as its candidate for President in 1964. It also looks at the beginnings of the women's movement towards women's rights that was started by Betty Freidan with her book "The Feminine Mystic".
There are more lighthearted moments as well covered by this documentary as it remembers the beginning of the British invasion with the appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show and during their stay in the U.S. including getting to meet Cassius Clay shortly before his fight against Sonny Liston for the boxing heavyweight title as well as that fight itself and Clay's finally announcing his conversion to the Islamic faith and change of name to Mohammed Ali.
This is an outstand documentary looking at one important year in the history of our country. There were other important years in our history but "1964" is an excellent presentation of how one year in the United States history would change us as a country.