Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous New Deal Program is one of the most pivotal government efforts in America’s history. The program puts thousands of Americans who were left jobless and penniless due to the Great Depression back to work. As a result, it led to one the nation’s greatest economic recoveries if not the greatest. Fro all that the program did to benefit Americans and the nation, there are parts of the program that are lesser-known than those infrastructure jobs, etc. One of those programs, the Works Progress Administration, helped put just as many to work as it addressed the arts. Thanks to Corinth Films, the documentary, which originally aired on PBS in April 1981 received renewed attention in July with a first-ever DVD release. The story that makes up the 90-minute program is the presentation’s heart. It will be examined shortly. The booklet that accompanies the DVD adds some interest to the presentation, too and will be discussed a little later. The DVD’s pricing is its own important element, content considered. It will also be addressed later. Each item noted is its own important part of the whole here. All things considered, they make the DVD an interesting addition to this year’s field of new documentaries.
Corinth Films’ presentation of the vintage PBS documentary, The New Deal for Artists is an intriguing presentation. Despite what its title infers, the documentary will appeal to more than just artists and people with any interest in art. That is because of its story. The story, which is narrated by famed actor Orson Welles, explains how FDR’s New Deal Program aided not jut the nation’s infrastructure, but its culture, too. It points out that the program and its WPA Arts Project put artists and photographers back to work as well as actors. They were put back to work as the program created for instance, the model for what would have otherwise become the first federal theater program. It also led to artists creating murals and paintings that mirrored the nation’s people at the time. What’s more, it also balked at segregation, so to speak, as it even gave African-Americans work in theater on stage and behind the scenes of so many plays.
As the program progresses, it delves even deeper in its second half. Audiences learn along the way, that politics (specifically conservatives) led to the eventual demise of the short-lived WPA Art Programs. That is due in part to the fact that said conservatives did not like that many of the pictures, murals, and plays crafted through the programs were very socially conscious. Additionally, some of those who were put back to work through the programs admitted through archived interviews that, yes, they were Communist sympathizers, which played right into the hands of congressional members who were already looking for any reason to cut the programs since their products made them so uncomfortable. That duality exhibited here – the efforts by Roosevelt to preserve the arts and the efforts by his Conservative detractors to shut down the programs just because they hated him – and the way in which it is all presented makes the story in whole fully engaging and entertaining. Keeping all of that in mind, the story featured in this documentary is itself surprisingly interesting. It is just too bad that the doc’s title is so misleading, which is very likely to deter many from otherwise watching.
While there is no denying that the title of The New Deal for Artists is problematic, it is not enough to make the presentation a complete failure. That is proven through the program, as audiences will see when they actually give the documentary a chance. Once audiences realize just how surprisingly intriguing the documentary’s story is, the next thing they will appreciate is the information provided in the documentary’s companion booklet. That information in question comes through a pair of essays written separately by Armond White and Ed Rampell. The essays are for all intents and purposes really just two other reviews of the documentary. What makes them stand out is the additional background that they put into the mix along with their personal opinions. White for instance, explains how the WAP Arts Programs benefited Americans and the nation because it helped improve Americans’ morale. Additionally, he points out Welles’ role as narrator, and its importance even though he is that third person observing it all.
Rampell meanwhile, points out how many people in the nation’s arts community were put back to work. On the surface, the thousands noted seems like it is not much. When that number is considered along with the other thousands returned to payrolls in general, it makes for an even bigger number, showing just how important how the New Deal was. Additionally, he adds his own statement about the impact of those noted Conservatives in Washington, D.C. who worked so hard to shut down the programs just because they did not like that they pointed out how much Americans were struggling. That and so many more from Rampell and White offers audiences plenty to appreciate from the program’s overall presentation. Considering that content and the program’s primary content in whole, it collectively makes the documentary worth watching at least once. It is still only part of what makes the documentary worth seeing. Its pricing rounds out its most important elements.
The average price point for The New Deal for Artists is $21.81. That price is obtained by averaging prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million. It was not listed through Target at the time of this review’s posting. While the average breaks the $20 mark, only Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million break that point from the get go. B&N lists the DVD at $24.99 while Books-A-Million is slightly less expensive at $24.95. So for all intents and purposes they are roughly the same, especially when shipping and handling is added to the mix. Walmart actually lists the least expensive price at $19.28. Amazon and Best Buy each list the DVD at $19.99. So while they will break the $20 mark when shipping & handling are added, they will still be far less expensive than ordering it through the other noted retailers. To that end, the price in general is still not that bad especially comparing the separate listings to the DVD’s average price point. Keeping that in mind along with the positives put forth through the DVD’s primary and secondary content, the whole comes together to make the DVD overall a mostly successful presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.
Corinth Films’ presentation of the vintage PBS documentary, The New Deal for Artists is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining work. It is a doc that will appeal to a wide range of audiences, from history buffs, to art history lovers and students, to even those of theater and photography. The title just does not make that clear enough, though it is really the program’s only shortfall. It does show, though, the importance of proper titling for marketing purposes. The secondary content featured in the presentation that is exhibited in the DVD’s companion booklet adds to the interest. This even though that content is really just a pair of other reviews marketed as essays. Considering the amount of content and the depth thereof, the DVD’s general pricing proves positive in its own right. That is because it is relatively affordable. Each item examined is important in its own right to the whole of the DVD. All things considered, they make this DVD a mostly successful presentation.
The New Deal for Artists is available. More information on this and other titles from Corinth Films is available at:
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