With apologies for the length of this...
All the episodes feature the usual clips, stills, ephemera, memos, letters, etc., in addition to the interviews. And there are brief intermittent glimpses of narrator Ed Asner touring the actual studio structure and archives.
One reason to see more than just the Welles episode, at least the preceding parts, is it gives one a greater sense of the kind of resources, mostly human resources, that distinguished RKO's technical department. Gregg Toland gets a lot of praise as a kind of midwife on KANE, but the studio technicians that were in place at RKO and honed their craft in the decade preceding Welles have quite a share in the final products as well. It's interesting to consider, in light of the unhappy conclusion with RKO, whether the two extant films produced there would have been possible, as Welles made them, anywhere else. (Those are just my thoughts, incidentally, not the documentary's.)
Episode 1 - "Birth of a Titan"
This is the most ecclectic of the series, first focussing on the studio's founding, the early talkies, and the first critical success for the studio, CIMARRON. Three of the interviews for this section will turn up later with Welles: camera operator, Joseph Biroc; the marvelous James G. Stewart, sound engineer; and Murray Spivak, sound effects man. Then there are interviews with Katharine Hepburn and Pan Berman about her arrival and early career with the studio.
But the most interesting and in-depth discussion is of Merian C. Cooper and KING KONG. The talk of Willis O'Brien's stop-motion work and the personality and career of Cooper is pretty fascinating. Interviews include Cooper's wife, Cooper's secretary, Fay Wray, Ray Harryhausen, and Spivak again, who made all those growls and roars. Cooper would head the studio briefly.
Finally, there's a section on the innovations of the Short Subject Dept., which bred talents like Mark Sandrich and George Stevens and where the playback system was invented. The episode ends with a discussion of FLYING DOWN TO RIO, notable here for the first appearance of Lynwood Dunn, who did the optical effects (which were not inconsiderable). It also boasts the first appearance of Astaire & Rogers, leading into part 2.
EPISODE 2 - "Let's Face the Music and Dance"
Notable for being the only profitable chapter in the RKO saga, this will only be interesting to fans of the team, for whom I'm fairly sure there's no better documentary. Lengthy discussions with Fred, Ginger, and Astaire's choreographer at the time, Hermes Pan, detail the rehearsal and filming process, the relationship and personalities of the stars, etc. Other interviews include Pan Berman, accompaniest Hal Borne, writer Allan Scott, and other designers and costars. Irving Berlin is discussed in some depth as well. Features a color home movie of Fred rehearsing filmed by George Gershwin.
EPISODE 3 - "A Woman's Lot"
This installment is almost entirely comprised of interviews with Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Pan Berman, and accompanying clips, BUT BEFORE YOU SKIP AHEAD... folks here will may find this interesting for its Lynwood Dunn interview, in which he discusses the effects for Howard Hawks' BRINGING UP BABY. Next to KANE, this has to be among Dunn's greatest achievements and, again, great practice for the work he would do so confidently with Welles. Other incidental topics: George Stevens, who made his A-picture debut on ALICE ADAMS, George Cukor and the SYLVIA SCARLET debacle, and Gregory La Cava and STAGE DOOR.
Ends with Pan Berman talking about George Schaeffer taking over, running the studio out of New York and bringing in all these independent units working outside of Berman's control. Berman quit over this state of affairs but regrets not having had a chance to work with Welles.
EPISODE 4 - "It's All True"
Discussing the Mercury Theatre's arrival in Hollywood and the making of KANE and AMBERSONS are: William Alland, James G. Stewart, make-up man Maurice Seiderman, Toland grip Ralph Hoge, John Houseman, Robert Wise, Welles' secretary Shifra Haran, and Welles' studio-contracted researcher on how to make films, Meriam Greiger. Giving the "brass" side of the story is George Schaeffer's assistant, Reginald Armour, a distinctly humorless individual. (Alland, Stewart, and Seiderman are all great story-tellers and are featured at length in every segment of the episode, as are Wise and Armour.)
Discussing the South American experience, in addition to those already mentioned, are: Richard Wilson, Joseph Biroc, secretary Betty Amster, and Rio dance star Grande Otello and a couple of other locals. Features a clip of RKO's 1945 PAN-AMERICANA, the hokey take-off on Welles' plan, and extensive use of cables, letters, memos, and documents.
EPISODE 5 - TITLE NOT CREDITED (there is no superimposed title)
This episode is most interested in McCarthyism and the blacklist. This storyline in woven through a discussion of the B-picture unit and its film noir successes. Interviews include: Edward Dmytryk, Richard Fleisher, Ginger Rogers, Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, wp Allan Scott, screenwriter Bert Granet, and William Fadiman, an assistant to Dore Schary.
Of these, Dmytryk and Scott would be part of the original "Unfriendly Ten" blacklisted. Paul Jarrico, a contract writer, also interviewed, would be part of the "Grey List" wave to follow. Features in-depth discussions of Tourneur's OUT OF THE PAST, Dmytryk's FAREWELL MY LOVELY and CROSSFIRE, Mitchum's marijuana arrest, as well as newsreel footage of HUAC testimony and a Jarrico-produced documentary on the blacklist from the period.
During this span, Howard Hughes buys the studio. No friend of the red was Hughes, and there's a lengthy interview with one of Hughes' first hires, a man named Kemp Niver, whose job it was to compile FBI-style dossiers on every RKO employee.
EPISODE 6 - "Howard's Way"
Probably the most compelling of the series, simply because Hughes was such a strange man, this one is all Hughes history and eye-witness accounts of the boss. Interviews include: Fleisher, Fadiman, Mitchum, Jane Russell, Jane Greer, Ruth Warrick, Joan Fontaine, Janet Leigh, Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger, Lynwood Dunn, recordings of Hughes, and some of Hughes' staff-members and publicity men. Features in-depth discussions of Russell vehicle THE OUTLAW and the "Spruce Goose" airplane, two of Hughes' great obsessions from this period.
Episode and series ends with Hughes selling the studio to a company interested its back catalog to show on TV. Later, Desilu would own the soundstages, and the Lucille Ball interview continues, wrapping up the history.