Huey Long Movie Review

Pol 301: Huey Long

Kylie Vizier

Institution

Date

Huey Long Movie Review

Ken Burn’s documentary “Huey Long” just as the title suggest is a documentary about the Southern politician who was a populist. The documentary gives the story of a young ambitious man who came from a small parish in Louisiana called Winn and would slowly climb the political ladder to a very successful and respected politician. As he attempted to create a space for himself in the political world, he did not forget where he came from. Throughout the documentary, you will notice his wit and brilliance as well as country manners which may have actually contributed to his success. Huey Long had nicknamed himself “the Kingfish” a character from “Amos ‘n’ Andy” a radio show. The documentary does a really great job in capturing both the economic as well as the social circumstances that made the man.

Huey Long was a man who was respected by many and when he was among the Democratic Party candidate’s nominee for the position of President, Franklin D. Roosevelt stated that he was among the two most dangerous men in the United States the second person he was referring to was Douglas MacArthur. Mr. Burns was able to tell a vivid and clear story through the use of interviews with people who may paint a better picture of Mr. Huey Long. They include Arthur M Schlesinger, a historian, I.F. Stone a journalist, the novelist of the book “All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren who credited the inspiration of his novel to be the rise and fall of Mr. Long and finally on the interview list is Mrs. Holding. Mr. Burns has also utilized old newsreel footage as well as a supplement of interviews from residents of Louisiana who still recollect Long with deepest respect as well as affection.

When Mr. Long took over as the Governor of Louisiana, the state was I a terrible state. They lacked better infrastructure, illiteracy levels were quite high, they had no bridges including across river Mississippi nor did they have good roads. Mr. Long changed all these as he built roads, rails and bridges, in trying to eliminate illiteracy levels, he gave out free text books and lunches to public school. The development that Louisiana experienced when Long was their governor had not been experienced ever. However, these changes in Louisiana came at a cost. There was increased corruption in the state especially for the projects for example it has been projected that every 100 million dollars’ worth of highway took $150 million of the tax payer’s money. The corruption in the state was so rampant that the legislature wanted to remove him from power but he would beat them. In the documentary, Mr. Schlesinger comments that the methods used by Mr. Long outweighed all the good that he had done for his people. He agreed with almost every single thing and seemed to endorse corruption (Burns, 1986).

I believe Mr. Burns did a good job in the documentary but Mr. Long’s life had so much incredible things that could not all be summarized in 90 minutes. Despite his failures, Mr. Burns tries to portray a man who was amazing and appealing to many. You can tell his film was meticulously researched as it is backed by facts and the documentary remains objective (Harlan, 2003). Louisianans still seem to cherish this man for uplifting the states by initiating several projects that were very useful to the residents which can even be felt in the documentary from the interviews with the rural Louisiana residents. His bid for presidency was short lived by an assassination on September 1935. Even after his assassination the praises of the legend still live on.

References

Harlan, D. (2003). Ken Burns and the coming crisis of academic history. Rethinking History, 7(2), 169-192.

Huey Long–A Film By Ken Burns. (n.d.).

Smith, K. B., & Greenblatt, A. (2019). Governing states and localities. Cq Press.