Tuesday on Utah TV: Henry Ford — great industrialist, vile anti-Semite
Published: January 29, 2013 01:54PM
Updated: January 29, 2013 01:54PM
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Henry Ford was a giant of industry, an American icon and a vile anti-Semite. All of which plays out in the American Experience (8 p.m., PBS/Ch. 7) profile of the man.
"I struggled with him." said director Sarah Colt, who admitted there were times when she decided, "I would really like Henry Ford. It's a long process, and you have kind of your highs and lows as you go through making a film like this. But by the end, I think I felt very close to him."
She compared it to having a father or an uncle who "you don't like his politics but you love him."
But that's not really a fair comparison. If it was just Ford's politics, it would be one thing. He was a bigot who even bought a newspaper to espouse his hatred of the Jews. And, to her credit, Colt doesn't shy away from that in the documentary.
"It's just very hard to not let it overshadow things," she said.
Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University and the author of "Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress" - who is interviewed in the documentary - didn't defend Ford, but he did attempt to explain him.
"Here was a guy who was a genius at machinery, and, suddenly, we're asking his opinion on world events, on sociology, on everything under the sun," he said. "And he was an ignoramus about it.
"Boy, when he gets into politics, it's painfulg. And the anti-Semitism, guys, isn't just a little strand of it. He bought the Dearborn Independent and was starting to promote a kind of worst kind of anti- Semitism. It's not an anti Semitic slip or a kind of comment.... You cannot come away from not feeling that he had just a great disdain for Jews, and it's a sickening part of his legacy."
It made Ford a very bad man, but makes for a very good documentary.
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