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Detroit Remember When (DVD Review)

3 May, 2009 By: John Latchem

Detroit RW

Prebook 5/5/09; Street 6/2/09
DPTV Media
$19.98 DVD
Not rated.

Detroit has been known by many names over the years. At the turn of the 20th century, its tree-lined streets earned the city the nickname Paris of the Midwest. The advent of the auto industry made it Motor City, the prototypical industrial town. During World War II it was the Arsenal of Democracy. In 1935 its sports teams made it a City of Champions. And in the 1960s, the music industry made it Motown.

Detroit Remember When, a retrospective documentary produced for public television, looks back at all these phases of the city, from a time its reputation was a bit more positive. Its use of archive footage, old photographs and interviews with ordinary people make a trip through Detroit in the day seem almost like going to Disneyland.

It’s hard to imagine the first volume, focusing on various landmarks and the city’s architectural history — such as the Ford rotunda in Dearborn — having much appeal beyond those who lived in or grew up in the Detroit area. Anyone who should find himself in Detroit might want to check it out as a travelogue.

The second part, focusing on the rise of the auto industry and the city’s sports legacy, should be more fascinating to a general audience.

The episode details how vastly the city changed during the auto boom. But it might not have been. Cleveland had also been calling itself “Motor City” and was hoping to attract potential automakers there. Who knows where Detroit would be today had Cleveland won out.

It’s also a nice reminder that the Lions weren’t always an 0-16 football team.

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