NOTES ON THE HISTORY CHANNEL DOCUMENTARY:
Mary and I went to the premier of "Duel"
First we went to the Princeton/Columbia Club for the Rotary Club luncheon.
Kevin introduced us to his fellow members as being on the way to the New York Historical Society.
(The premier of the movie Duel: Hamilton and Burr was shown to us that night.)
Kevin told them I played Burr's second William Van Ness in Weehawken last month.
So the speaker, Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx Borough President,
changed his talk to say that he just read Ron Chernow's Hamilton
and then he looked at me and said he read Gore Vidal's Burr a few years ago.
In the lobby, someone stopped me and told me his wife is a teacher,
and he saw the reenactment in Weehawken.
Also in the lobby hang portraits of the Princeton presidents.
Kevin took this picture of Mary and me in front of Aaron Burr Sr.
That evening, at the cocktail hour in the lobby of the New York Historical Society,
we met with many friends and chatted about the History Channel film to be premiered.
Richard Dreyfuss could not be there, but authors in the film and the producers were there.
In the lobby are two life sized bronze statues of Hamilton and Burr.
My picture phone took this blurry picture of Burr.
It was sculpted by Kim Crowley of New Mexico.
24 year old Marco who is studying medicine at Mt. Sinai joined us for the film.
We then met Kevin, Marjorie and Brooke for a nice dinner nearby.
I loved the documentary.
After it aired in the auditorium, I congratulated the producer and writer.
They then returned my books that Richard and they had read.
They had returned my pistols and other items earlier.
My certified replica pistols and scene of old Weehawken were used, but my name is not in the credits.
My cherry case was used in the commercial ad for the show.
But Hollywood pistols were used to make the smoke, since the black powder I use is complicated.
Thanks to Willie, they did fire in Weehawken, but the history channel did not have a comparable expert.
I like to think that when Richard met with us in Weehawken,
our enthusiasm for Burr reinforced his opinion that history was unfair to Burr.
See it yourself on Sunday night at 8pm Eastern Standard Time.
From History Channel.com:
The Duel with Richard DreyfussTune In:
Sunday, August 29 @ 8pm ET/PTIn a 90-minute special, Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss ponders the 1804 duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Novelist Gore Vidal, biographer Ron Chernow, journalist Rick Brookhiser, and historian Joanne Freeman join Dreyfuss to lay bare the personal and political rivalry, while questioning the conventional story. And at a Manhattan eatery, the experts duel with each other over the events that led to Hamilton's death. TV PG
Here is the letter we tried to get printed in the NYTimes, Wednesday, but it didn't make it.
Bravo to Richard Dreyfuss and the History Channel for their excellent documentary on the Duel! After it premiered at the New York Historical Society on Tuesday evening, a teacher in the audience complained to the panel of actors and producers. For 45 years he has taught his students that Hamilton was good, while Burr was bad. This film questions that. Perhaps he should start teaching the truth.
Stuart Johnson, Esq.
President, Aaron Burr Association, Washington DC
On Saturday:Pete: We read an article this morning in the Daily News that said there's going to be a program on tomorrow night at 8 o clock on the History channel about the Duel narrated by Richard Dreyfuss. Thought you would like to know. Hope you had a nice anniversary yesterday Mom & Dad
Kay Gardella is a longtime Daily News TV columnist. Her column appears on Saturday.
Past ColumnsNow you can visit our complete archive of Kay Gardella's entertainment columns. Click below for the complete lineup and a free sneak preview of each column, plus info on our affordable purchase options!
BITTER RIVALS: Portraits of Aaron Burr ...... & Alexander Hamilton
Has history misjudged Aaron Burr?
That's the key question posed in "Duel: Hamilton vs. Burr" tomorrow night at 8 on the History Channel. The conflict between former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr escalated into a showdown in Weehawken, N.J., on July 4, 1804, that left Hamilton mortally wounded.
This 90-minute special - narrated, co-produced and co-written by Richard Dreyfuss - offers educated opinions by a host of talking heads: journalist Richard Brookshire, author Gore Vidal, biographer Ron Chernow and numerous historians.
Between Dreyfuss' narration and the commentary, the story is moved along verbally, not dramatically. Being talked at for nearly 90 minutes is trying, but the show is well-researched and passionate.
Costumed actors appear as the feuding principals, occasionally speaking the words of Hamilton, Burr and even Thomas Jefferson, but more reenactments would have been better.
The show does a good job of describing the different backgrounds of the two men. Hamilton was born out of wedlock and grew up in poverty on St. Croix; Burr came from an educated and influential New Jersey family.
Both men distinguished themselves during the American Revolution - Hamilton at the Battle of Yorktown, Burr at the Battle of Quebec. Both became lawyers, living on Wall St.
"Sometimes they were on the same side, sometimes on the opposite side," says Chernow, who describes both men as the same height, handsome and charming. Burr was called the first gentleman of the United States.
How could these two brilliant men end up in a duel? What irreconcilable differences led to the tragedy, which, Dreyfuss reminds us, has since "cast Hamilton as a slain hero ... Burr as the notorious villain?"
The program reviews the accomplishments of both men and their different beliefs about the role of the federal government - Hamilton supported a strong central authority, and Burr sided with Jefferson, who feared the Federalist Hamiltonians would infringe on individual liberties.
On a more personal level, there were poison-pen attacks by Hamilton against Burr that ultimately ignited the duel.
One historian, Arnold Rogow, believes that the rivalry not only caused the death of Hamilton, but ruined what could have been a brilliant career for Burr.
"Burr will come into his due in the future," he says. "Not as a great man, but as an American who - had he been President - would have been a good President, perhaps one of the best in American history."
Listen closely and you'll reap rewards from this informative and illuminating report on one of the more bizarre and tragic events in American history.
Thanks Lauren for forwarding this from the Seattle Times:
Kay McFadden / Times staff columnist Shot still rings out in long-ago duel
We are a nation of increasing civilization.
We have fluoride in the water. We no longer own other human beings. Our vice president and former secretary of the treasury do not shoot at each other to settle differences. Yet civilization and civility are not the same. Given how modern politicians argue their positions, it might even seem cleaner for Dick Cheney and Paul O'Neill to just haul out a pair of pistols.
That's what Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton did two centuries ago, as viewers are reminded in the fascinating and weekend-topping "Duel: Hamilton vs. Burr," which airs 8 p.m. Sunday on the History Channel.
Anyone caught up in the turbulent voyage of the Swift boat had better pay attention. The great, maddening lesson of "Hamilton vs. Burr" is not that negative campaigning and media attacks are eternal, but that even the best minds haven't figured out how to cope with them.
There's much to learn from this one-hour documentary, and perhaps the least is solving why two eminent statesmen went bang on the cliffs of Weehawken, N.J. Although the program suggests conditions that may have contributed to the face-off, it stops short of unveiling a Rosetta Stone theory.
Instead, an impressive roster of scholars and writers aided by history-buff host Richard Dreyfuss focuses on the three R's of history: relevancy, reappraisal and revisionism.
"Hamilton vs. Burr" swiftly assembles a profile of each man, and what emerges is a kind of doppelganger theme. Despite early differences — Burr was a well-born American and Hamilton a boot-strapping, illegitimate foreigner — both attended what today are Ivy League schools, became lawyers and eminent upper-crusters.
A viewer is struck by the ruling-class resemblance to our two main presidential choices, George W. Bush and John Kerry. And just as back then, both men today face the difficulty of being ambitious and trying to simultaneously distance themselves from nastiness while reaping its rewards.
This is dandy stuff. Early 19th-century America enjoyed a freedom of the press that came virtually responsibility-free. Along with crafting a nation and government, our Founding Fathers spent an extraordinary amount of time either defending themselves or attacking each other in articles for partisan newspapers — which all of them were.
Having been educated in the statuary era when Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and their ilk were treated with blind reverence, I find this reassuring. The same minds that created the Declaration of Independence and that brilliant constitutional foundation called the Federalist Papers also were brass-knuckle politicos.
Still, relevancy alone isn't the main thing here; it's merely a starting point so audiences can appreciate the eventual media conflagration that arguably kills Hamilton and destroys Burr's career.
Lending spice to the proceedings in "Hamilton vs. Burr" is a kind of partisan scholarship. Ron Chernow, author of the recent (and terrific) biography of Alexander Hamilton, is a convincing advocate for his subject's insufficiently hailed genius.
Then there's Gore Vidal, who may have set the entire revisionist approach to our Founding Fathers in motion 30 years ago with his sympathetic biographical novel "Burr" (not to mention the sequel, "1876").
Along with these two, other historians weigh in. Their comments constitute most of the narrative with an occasional lively assist from Dreyfuss and a few, mercifully short, re-enactment scenes.
The result is a satisfying dramatic build to what in retrospect seems inevitable, given an atmosphere of unrelentingly vicious assaults in print, the character of the two protagonists and the task of trying to deal with consequences instead of truth.
If Burr made the mistake of subscribing too deeply to the "Never complain, never explain" rule of media behavior, then Hamilton believed in it all too deeply. Two hundred years later, politicians still are trying to steer a middle course. Lots of luck.
So I am glad that Aaron Burr was treated well by the History Channel.
And I am glad that at the end in the list of credits, they spelled my name correctly:
"Archival Images Courtesy of..... "