Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Golden State of Mind: The Storytelling Genius of Huell Howser

This film joins my favorites of 2014, which has been in-progress due to limited availability of certain titles such as this one.  I'm so glad that I finally saw this.

Where you can watch this: KCET schedule (if you live in the service area) or you can buy the DVD online.

For those who don't know, Huell Howser is probably the most iconic figure from California public television, and he was probably the most prolific chronicler of California's history and culture.  His specialty was going all around the state of California with a single cameraman and profiling the various locations and individuals to be found who interested him.  And he was interested in just about everybody and everywhere.  As he got older, though, he was less and less interested in major tourist attractions.
Huell was an extraordinarily friendly and comforting man.  He would put people at ease on their own property when conducting interviews.  You could call him the most trustworthy person on the planet.  He was most known for California's Gold, but also made quite an impact with Visiting and Road Trip with Huell Howser as well as a few other specials.  Road Trip has many of my favorites.

I am quite proud that he chose nearby Chapman University as the home for his life's work (that which he had the rights to).  Click the following for his Chapman-owned archives.  Click the following for the KCET-owned Visiting archive.  In fact, I learned so much about my very own city in his Road Trip  episode featuring Orange.  Click the following to learn about my hometown: the city of Orange.  

Huell Howser was born in small town Tennessee; he is famous for his distinctive voice and strong accent.  Yet he adopted California and California adopted him.  He would say that he was from Los Angeles in many episodes because he came to identify so strongly with the state and the city in which he lived.  He said that he wasn't just part Californian, he was completely Californian.

During the end credits I learned of another documentary that I've since already watched and will review: Huell Howser: California's Dreamer.  Both documentaries complement each other quite well.     

There is a wealth of great footage from his early days as a TV journalist in Nashville.  There is also some footage from his stint in New York, and, as expected, there is a ton of footage from his signature California programs.  I don't want to say much more, I want to leave plenty of discovery for the potential viewers out there.  However, I will finish with a quote*:
The whole concept of our features has been that each person has a story to tell, a story worth listening to, and we found thousands of them.  We've operated with the idea that it's much more important to listen to what people have to say than to what we have to say about them.  In our stories, the people themselves have been the stars. - Huell Howser
* The above quote was from his Nashville reporting days but it is clear that he carried over the same principles to his California programs.

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