Aboard the freighter Glencairn, the lives of the crew are lived out in fear, loneliness, suspicion and cameraderie. The men smuggle drink and women aboard, fight with each other, spy on ... See full summary »
In 1918 France, Captain Flagg commands a disreputable company of Marines; his new top sergeant is his old friendly enemy, Quirt. The two men become rivals for the favors of fair innkeeper's... See full summary »
Shiftless Jeeter Lester and his family of hillbilly stereotypes live in a rural backwater where their ancestors were once wealthy planters. Their slapstick existence is threatened by a ... See full summary »
In Revolutionary America, Gil Martin takes his new wife Lana back to his farm in upstate New York. The area is remote and a distance from the fort but they are happy living in their one room cabin. With the declaration independence, the settlers soon find themselves at war with the British and their Indian allies. Their farm is burned out and the Martins take work with Sarah McKlennar. The war continues however as the Martins try to make a new life. Written by
The real William Caldwell (c. 1750-1822), who is played in the film by John Carradine, is based on a Scots-Irish immigrant who settled initially in Pennsylvania and fought in several wars on the British Indian side. He is noted as having fought in the Battle of German Flats in the Mohawk Valley as part of the loyalist Butler's Rangers, although nothing is known about his participation, if any, in the Battle of Oriskany. During the Revolutionary War he also fought in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Although it is suggested that Blueback killed him in this film, he survived to fight on the British side in the War of 1812. See more »
At the end of the movie, the characters are shown seeing the stars and stripes for the first time. In fact, the national flag was adopted in June 1777 and Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown was in October 1781, at which point, American forces had been using the flag for more than 4 years. See more »
An Exception To a Rule About American History Films
It is a strange truism about films concerning American History. While some of those films dealing with the Civil War are great ("The General", "Gone With The Wind") or highly respectable ("The Raid", "Gettysburg", "Glory"), this is less true about films about the American Revolution. It's a sad or mediocre commentary. D.W.Griffith's first great feature length film was the controversial - pro K.K.K film: "The Birth OF A Nation". No matter how you hate the film's racism, it's innovation make it a film landmark. But his attempt at a Revolution film, America, was a flop. Just see the titles: "America", "The Howards Of Virginia", "The Devil's Desciple" (slightly better due to its star cast, especially Olivier as "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne), "John Paul Jones", "Lafayette", "Revolution". There are two exceptions. The musical "1776" was a good film, and (despite some historical errors) told the story of the creation of the Declaration of Independence pretty well. This film is the other. It is the only film by John Ford set in the American Revolution (he was more at home in the Indian Wars of the 1870s). It is in glorious color for a 1939 film. It has a dandy cast from Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert as the young married couple, to Edna Mae Oliver, Ward Bond, Arthur Shields, and John Carridine (except that his motivation as a Tory is never developed - possibly his scenes were cut in the editing).
Perhaps it was the source. Walter D. Edmonds is a forgotten writer today, but when I was growing up in the 1960s his novels, "Drums Along The Mohawk" and "Chad Hanna", were still published and read. Interestingly Henry Fonda was also in the film version of that latter novel. Edwards was a regional historical writer (which may explain his contemporary oblivion). All his novels are set in upstate New York, "Chad Hanna" being set in the 1830s. "Drums Along The Mohawk deals with the warfare between settlers in Western New York and the Six Nations of the Iroquois Indians, the latter allied with Tories. It is a grueling warfare - culminating in the battle of Oriskany, where American troops literally slugged it out in forest fighting with the Indians. Commanded by General Nicholas Herkimer (Ralph Imhof in the film)the Americans barely won the battle. Herkimer died of his wounds a few days later (movingly captured in the movie). He is honored today by a county upstate named for him. These events occurred in 1777, and the film seems to end in 1779. It ends with the settlers of the Mohawk River Valley triumphing over the Tories and Indians. What is not shown is what really crushed the Indians - Washington sent General John Sullivan into the area, and in a foreshadowing of the scorched earth policies of General William Tecumseh Sherman, Sullivan burned the Iroquois villages to the ground. It is not a pretty story now, but in that period Sullivan was considered a national hero. Ford does not even touch on that aspect. Probably just as well. But what he does show is first rate Ford, and we are all grateful for that.
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