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Thomas Jefferson 

A biographical film about The United States' influential and profoundly enigmatic Founding Father.






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Series cast summary:
Ossie Davis ...  Narrator 2 episodes, 1997
Joseph Ellis ...  Himself - Historian 2 episodes, 1997
John Hope Franklin ...  Himself - Historian 2 episodes, 1997
Gwyneth Paltrow ...  Jefferson's Grandaughter 2 episodes, 1997
Michael Potts ...  Isaac 2 episodes, 1997
Gore Vidal ...  Himself - Writer 2 episodes, 1997
Sam Waterston ...  Thomas Jefferson 2 episodes, 1997
George Will ...  Himself - Writer 2 episodes, 1997
Garry Wills Garry Wills ...  Himself - Historian 2 episodes, 1997


A biographical film about The United States' influential and profoundly enigmatic Founding Father.

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Release Date:

1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Thomas Jefferson See more »

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Did You Know?


Blythe Danner also portrayed Martha Jefferson in 1776 (1972). See more »


In recounting the story of the 1800 presidential election, the narrator says "In early 1801, the Electoral College met in the new Capitol to pick the next president." The Electoral College does not meet in Washington. In December 1800 (not early 1801), within each state the electors from that state met to cast their votes for President. What the program should have said was that in early 1801 Congress met in the new Capitol to count the votes of the Electoral College. See more »


Thomas Jefferson: "The life of a cabbage is paradise".
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Featured in Ken Burns: America's Storyteller (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

Split down the middle
7 February 2000 | by HSauerSee all my reviews

I am a fan of Ken Burns films, but "Thomas Jefferson" is probably the nadir of the talking-head living-history documentary style he favors. In many respects "Thomas Jefferson" is a beautiful film, and it is clearly the work of intelligent people. Ultimately it inspires me to visit Monticello, which is admirably photographed. It fails to answer the question it poses at the outset - whether Jefferson the lover of Liberty can be reconciled with Jefferson the Master of Slaves - and by default suggests that raising this question is the film's chief contribution to Jeffersonian discourse. It's a timely question, but it isn't new. The mood of the film is outrageously depressive, a sedate musical score of American chestnuts underscoring lethargic readings from Jefferson's writings, and images of Monticello, slaves, Jefferson (portrait), historically significant parchments, John Adams (portrait), George Washington (portrait), etc. If this film is anything specific, it is a memorial service for the myth of Jefferson. I don't like it, but I appreciate the film maker's effort and the contributions of scholars involved in the project. A related Ken Burns biographical film, "Lewis and Clark," is similar in tone but less confused and more forthright in its storytelling. See it.

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