The first time I heard of Steven Spielberg was at lunch with a friend of Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws. “My God,” the friend said, “this kid director thinks he can build a great white shark. I don’t think so.”
That was the last time anyone underestimated Spielberg, who quickly became a legendary master of creating memorable, instructive and daring stories on the big screen and small. What other director in the history of cinema has given us such a range of indelible films — Lincoln, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan to go with E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind mixed in with the Indiana Jones series and that seminal classic Jaws?
However different their subjects, Spielberg’s productions have a common thematic DNA of humanity, so we are enlightened as well as entertained. His work on Lincoln alone was worthy of enduring acclaim, for it brought to life as no other film has this quintessential American President struggling with the greatest moral dilemma of our history. We were there in the mid–19th century, at Lincoln’s side, and it was thrilling. The power of the film remained long after the closing credits, and so it is with Steven’s career.
Brokaw is a television journalist and an author
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