The Nisei: The Pride and the Shame (film)

Title The Nisei: The Pride and the Shame
Date 1965
Producer Isaac Kleinerman
Writer Earle Luby
Narrator Walter Cronkite
Starring Daniel K. Inouye (interviewee); Mike Masaoka (interviewee); Miné Okubo (interviewee); Eugene V. Rostow (interviewee); K. Patrick Okura (interviewee); Mark W. Clark (interviewee)
Music Glenn Paxton
Editing Charlotte Zwerin
Studio CBS News
Runtime 30 minutes
IMDB The Nisei: The Pride and the Shame

Documentary film centering on the Japanese American wartime experience that was part of CBS television's weekly The Twentieth Century series. The half-hour episode was the first retrospective documentary on the wartime exclusion and incarceration experience.

The Twentieth Century series ran for nine seasons on CBS, from 1957 to 1966. The half-hour documentaries covered a range of both historical and contemporary topics and was narrated by Walter Cronkite. Each season included twenty-six episodes; a total of 219 shows were produced in total. The Prudential insurance Company of America sponsored The Twentieth Century throughout its run, paying the full cost of production—the cost rose from around $21,000 per episode in the early seasons to $58,000 in the last season—as well as for commercial time. Prudential had approval power on show topics and, though it did not have editorial control over production, could opt not to sponsor specific shows after a preview screening. CBS also had close ties to the Department of Defense, which also approved topics. The result, according to Richard C. Bartone, who analyzed the show in a doctoral dissertation, "was recognizable, uncomplicated, uncontroversial, and easily digestible history." The show drew eight to ten million weekly viewers and was popular with educators, who often assigned students to watch particular episodes. Prudential agents also screened the films at public meetings.[1]

The show's producers considered a show on the Japanese American wartime saga in the early sixties, but serious work on the show began in 1964, with the idea of combining the Nisei soldiers story with the incarceration story. The show had an eleven month production timeline, and its writers met with Japanese American Citizens League leaders K. Patrick Okura and Mike Masaoka in the course of revising the script. In addition to Okura and Masaoka, Daniel Inouye, artist Miné Okubo, legal scholar Eugene V. Rostow, and General Mark W. Clark were interviewed for the film. Historical footage for the film came from newsreels, from private collections by David Tatsuno and Eiichi Sakauye and from the United Presbyterian Church, the latter including dramatic footage of Nisei soldiers visiting their families in concentration camps. In telling the story, the show was critical of wartime government leaders, the military, and the Supreme Court, which gave sponsor Prudential "discomfort"; though they agreed to sponsor the show, they requested that it not be rerun. The show was broadcast on January 3, 1965.

The Nisei: The Pride and the Shame inspired the title of the 1970 exhibition Pride and Shame at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. It was also screened at various venues hosting the 1972 exhibition Executive Order 9066 produced by the California Historical Society. Seven years later, NBC produced Guilty by Reason of Race, the second major network documentary on the wartime removal and incarceration.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Bartone, Richard C. "The Twentieth Century (CBS, 1957-1966) Television Series: A History and Analysis." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1985.

Footnotes

  1. For background on The Twentieth Century, see Richard C. Bartone, "The Twentieth Century (CBS, 1957-1966) Television Series: A History and Analysis," Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1985. Quote from page 298.