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Rich Hall's California Stars (2014)

California's first settlements were born of missionary zeal. It promised a haven from marauders and mercenaries. Since then it has tempted us with unlimited gold, boundless harvests, silver... See full summary »


Chris Cottam


Rich Hall


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Rich Hall ... Himself - Presenter
Monica Ganas Monica Ganas ... Herself - Author, Under the Influence
Theodore Hovey Theodore Hovey ... Himself - Family Service Counselor
Drew Johnson Drew Johnson ... Himself - Curator of Photography and Visual Culture, Oakland Museum of California
JoAnn Levy JoAnn Levy ... Herself - Author, They Saw the Elephant & For California's Gold
Dave Alvin Dave Alvin ... Himself - Singer-Songwriter
Richard Rayner Richard Rayner ... Himself - Author, The Associates: Four Capitalists who Created California
Gray Brechin Gray Brechin ... Himself - Historical Geographer and Author, Imperial San Francisco
Allen Ginsberg ... Himself (archive sound)
David Meltzer David Meltzer ... Himself - Poet & Musician
Mario Savio Mario Savio ... Himself (1964) (archive footage)
Mayor of the Streets Mayor of the Streets ... Himself
Jamis MacNiven Jamis MacNiven ... Himself - Owner, Buck's Restaurant
Simon P. Worden Simon P. Worden ... Himself - Director, NASA's Ames Research Center (as Pete Worden)
LeRoy Hankel LeRoy Hankel ... Himself (voice) (archive sound)


California's first settlements were born of missionary zeal. It promised a haven from marauders and mercenaries. Since then it has tempted us with unlimited gold, boundless harvests, silver screen-stardom, dotcom salvation, and hi-tech silicon marvels. It has always been a place that promises success-if you're youthful or white. And if you're Mexican, it at least promises a decent chance of survival. The Californian dream has always eclipsed its facts or history. Most other US states are named after geographical place-names, Indian tribes or British royalty: eg. New York, Nebraska, Maryland. California was named after Calafia, a mythical Spanish queen, a kind of Spanish Snow White. True reality has never been good enough for Californians. They are always vaguely dissatisfied with themselves, their bodies, their spirituality, their government and their present car. Yet they still believe they shape both American culture and character. And to a large degree, they have. In his unique and... Written by Anonymous

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20 July 2014 (UK) See more »

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Did You Know?


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User Reviews

Entertaining Piece Whose Sum is More Effective than its Parts
17 May 2016 | by l_rawjalaurenceSee all my reviews

The point about RICH HALL'S California STARS is that the content should be separated from its form. As a narrator/ presenter/ writer, Hall cuts an imposing presence as he tells the tale of the state of California from its origins in the mid-nineteenth century to its current status as a state of plenty that remains heavily in financial debt.

Hall himself has an ambivalent attitude towards his material. While admiring the sheer guts of many of those who have achieved success in the state, he is particularly censorious on those who have achieved wealth at others' expense. Hence he castigates "The Associates," that group of four chancers in the mid-nineteenth century who became fabulously wealthy by building the railroad across the United States. The fact that no one really thought what to do when it was finished was conveniently overlooked. Likewise Hall does not like those residents of Silicon Valley who plagiarize others' ideas and become fabulously rich as a result: Steve Jobs comes across as a ruthless go-getter with little regard for humankind in the pursuit of money.

On the other hand Hall admires those who have had sufficient guts to stand up for themselves against a repressive government, whether local or national. He waxes lyrical about the Beats of the late Fifties, or the hippies a decade later, or the learners of the University of California who stood up to the National Guard. Singer/ songwriters like Woody Guthrie or the Eagles are commended, as are the more localized musical traditions that grew up around Bakersfield.

For Hall California remains an enigmatic state, one committed more to image than truth, financial gain and exploitation rather than community values; but at the same time harboring a fierce optimism and belief in human potential that renders it irresistible to outsiders and locals alike.

Sometimes his rhetoric becomes a little wearing, especially when he addresses a vituperative monologue direct to camera, but as an introduction to the state's history as well as a summary of its current position in contemporary American cultures, RICH HALL'S California STARS cannot be bettered.

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