The ubiquity of cable and
streaming services like The History Channel and Discovery+ has led to the
need for tons of content like this highly entertaining hybrid mini-series.
It is not quite a historical drama – although most of the main characters
are played by actors and there are some massive, very complex recreations of
historical events, including multiple actors, many real and reimagined
locations, period airplanes, automobiles and technology.
Yet, at the same time, it
is not exactly a documentary series, for all the reasons listed above. This
is even though it does use many features of documentaries. It mixes in
regular bits of historical film footage, photos and audio. It is narrated
straight through by actor Campbell Scott, and the story often has
interspersed talking head experts from the worlds of industry, finance,
academia, journalism and the military.
The Titans That Built
essentially a series of three two-hour(-ish) programs following the lives
and careers of five of the most important entrepreneurs of the early
twentieth century, from their (sometimes) humble beginnings at the tail end
of World War I, through the Roaring 20s, The Great Depression and to the end
of World War II.
The “Titans” being
surveyed are Pierre du Pont (du Pont Chemical and General Motors), Henry
Ford Jr. (Ford Motor Company), William Boeing (Boeing Aerospace and United
Airlines), J.P. Morgan Jr. (J.P. Morgan Financial) and Walter Chrysler
(Chrysler Motor Company).
Other historical figures
also play a big part here (and are also portrayed by actors), including
Ford’s son Edsel, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, pilot Charles
Lindbergh, photographer Margaret Bourke-White, and fellow execs Henry Kaiser
(Kaiser Permanente), William Knudsen and John Raskob.
It is a fascinating look
at the history of the first half of the century, how men with big ideas and
big ideals changed the world. In fact, the final episode shows how these
five businessmen played a huge, somewhat unsung part in winning World War
II. In such a politically divided world, it is inspirational to see the
titans – despite their many deep problems with FDR – banding together with
him to help with the war effort. They put country first, instead of profit
or politics. If only more people had that kind of patriotism today.
Titans slightly whitewashes the characters’ histories – Henry Ford’s
anti-Semitism is only briefly acknowledged, they show but slightly
soft-pedal Charles Lindbergh’s apparently pro-Nazi beliefs and the
anti-union sentiments of the Titans are also discussed but never totally
However, The Titans
That Built America still shines a deserving light on the ingenuity that
helped to make the country great.
Jay S. Jacobs
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted:
October 12, 2021.