Itzhak Perlman: American Masters

The World Of Nat King Cole

Season 19, Episode 2 of 8

This film focuses not just on Cole's celebrity, but on the civil rights movement and how this performer uniquely broke through major racial barriers in the entertainment industry -- he was the first black American to have his own national radio show, in 1948, and he was the first black American to have his own television show, in 1956. His musical origins were as a young Chicago jazz pianist but he became known as -- and accepted as, even in those turbulent times -- a melodious, smooth singer of such popular songs as "Mona Lisa," "Too Young," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Unforgettable" and the Christmas season perennial "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire." With open access to the Cole family -- including, of course, his daughter Natalie -- and his record label (EMI) archives, a picture of great courage is painted.

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