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When I was six my Dad took me to a breathtakingly grand old movie
palace to see 'Johnny Tremain.' Vivid and fond are my memories of Dad
and my memory of the film - and of pestering Dad with endless questions
about what the characters were doing in the film...and why they were
doing what they were doing. Without hesitation, my WWII veteran Dad
whispered to me all the right answers and I've never forgotten them.
I just saw 'Johnny Tremain' again on DVD and from nostalgia - for Dad, for those times richly populated by exemplary WWII vets, for my youth, for the American spirit that has since been besmirched by the lamp-blacking sweep of academia's and media's insistence on blaming-and-shaming-America-first - I wept.
Never had I forgotten the song "The Sons of Liberty" and often, throughout my life, its tune has just popped into my head; and sometimes - I'm unashamed and downright proud to say - with belief and vigor I sing it as lustily as I can manage to. I wish kids and grown-ups could sing it in Burma, in Iran, in Saudi Arabia, in North Korea. Maybe if children there could see 'Johnny Tremain,' and sing "The Sons of Liberty," they wouldn't grow up to be serfs, losers, nihilists, and bitter mass-murderers.
Yah, so Disney simplified the book. From the film, as a wee first-grader, I got the book's stark, simple, central, eternal message in spades: liberty has a price no one dares to decline to stand up to pay, a price which everyone must, when the times require it of us, join hands to pay, one for all and all for one.
"And we are the Sons, yes, we are the Sons, The Sons of Liberty!" And don't you, and everybody else, ever forget it.
I've loved this book since I was a boy, and still think it's a wonderful way to get children reading about the birth of our nation. The movie does a good job of keeping the important historical facts front and center. Unfortunately, much of the book's richness, and darker shades, are cut away to make this more of a film for the entire family, five year olds included. As is often the case, entire characters are omitted in the interest of time and simplicity. On its own terms, though, a fine film and worth seeing.
When I was 7 years old I was taken by my older brother to the local 'flea pit' to see a double feature, the main film was 'Bambi' and the supporting film was 'Johnny Tremain'. Being only an ankle biter at the time, the film I was looking forward to seeing was Bambi, I had never heard of Johnny Tremain and had no interest whatsoever in watching it, however, once the lights went down in the cinema and the film started, I found myself enchanted by what I was watching, being an English boy I knew little or nothing about the American War of Independence, I had never heard of the Boston Tea Party and had always presumed that Britain and America had always been on friendly terms, we were never taught about it at school, which is hardly surprising I guess, seeing as the Colonists took on the might of the British military and won! The story of Johnny Tremain was told in such a simple and enjoyable way, in a way that only Disney could tell a story, that even a 7 year old English kid could understand the plot and historical background. It is 52 years now since I saw the film but it made a such a lasting impression on me that I can still remember the words to the song (which admittedly being a very short song with few words, is probably not saying much). I would assume that to todays youngsters this film would prove to be dated and uninteresting, after all there is no sex,no bad language and the violence is sanitised, but it was made in a time when values were a lot different and Disney was the king of family movies. Times have changed, but for all the digital special effects and hype, I for one, reckon you can't beat a good old fashioned movie telling its story in an uncomplicated way, standing or falling on plot, direction and good acting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am fully aware that no film adaptation of a novel can remain
completely faithful to its source. It is just not possible to do- most
novels are too nuanced and large to be comfortably fitted into a two
hour movie. However, it is possible for a film to capture the message
and tone of a novel by keeping true to its narrative. Yet Disney's film
adaption of Esther Forbes 1943 novel for young and old, "Johnny
Tremain," failed to stay true to the narrative of the book and the
result is a thoroughly mediocre and bland movie.
Set in Revolutionary era Boston, Forbes' novel is the story of a bright, talented, and cocky fourteen year old silversmith apprentice, Johnny Tremain, who because of an accident which cripples his hand finds himself without a profession. Without a future as a silversmith, Johnny must find a new life and career. Along the way he finds himself swept up in the events around Boston in the mid 1770's that culminated in the American Revolution. Johnny becomes involved in the clandestine activities of the Sons of Liberty. He participates in the Boston Tea Party, spies on the British, and mingles with such patriots as John Hancock, Sam Adams, and Paul Revere. The strength of the novel is how Forbes so effortlessly weaved the fictional story of Johnny in with actual historical events and persons. It is just a brilliant work of historical fiction.
One would think that a film studio could not make a complete hash of such terrific source material. Yet Disney did. Disney did what is usually expected of film versions of novels- it jettisoned "minor" characters and subplots to streamline the story. That's understandable. What is not forgivable is completely changing the message and tone of the novel in order to have lots of action scenes and a happy ending. In the book, Johnny only hears of about the fighting at Lexington and Concord- in the movie Johnny is shown in the thick of the fighting. That's understandable (film's need action), but what is not forgivable is the ridiculous joyousness of the battle scenes- Johnny and his friend, Rab, hide behind trees, shoot at redcoats, and seem to be having a grand time! They also occasionally break out into song- "Oh, we are the Sons, oh, we are the Sons, the Sons of Liberty!" (It's just as bad as one could imagine.) Disney selling war as a boys' adventure is exactly the opposite of what Forbes intended in her novel.
Forbes was not cynical about the ideal of American Revolution- the war was fought so that "a man could stand up." However, Forbes let the reader know that that simple hope came at a terrible price. The character of Rab, Johnny's best friend, is a remarkable seventeen year old boy. He's smart, handsome, fearless, and oozes charisma. He's a boy destined to be a great man. Yet it's not be. At Lexington Green, as Rab stands among the Minutemen confronting the might of the British Empire, he is mortally wounded in the first volley. He never even got a chance to fire his own musket. He dies the next day, propped up in a chair with blood pouring from his mouth. Forbes wanted young readers to know that war is not a boy's adventure- it robs the world of its best and brightest at a very young age. By having Rab walking around, alive and well, and singing that awful song at film's end, Disney succeeded in completely botching its film adaption of "Johnny Tremain." This is one book that is crying for a remake!
Disney makes another book-movie in 1957 with "Johnny Tremain," based on
Esther Forbes' award-winning novel of the same name. It is about a boy
named Johnny Tremain, who worked as an apprentice until his hand
touched hot molten silver. Now he had to find a new job, until he
decided to go into battle. This had taken place in Boston back during
such wonderful events in history like the Boston Tea Party and the
invasion of the British (One if by land, Two if by sea).
I have read this book in Calvert School back in 7th grade, I believe. It was such a wonderful book; my mom even enjoyed it, too. Our library had a classroom version of this movie on DVD (although a regular version can also be purchased), and we had just checked that movie out and we enjoyed it so.
"Johnny Tremain" is real good Disney, indeed: a great book made into a great movie portraying terrific American history.
In the 1700's, England had in it's possession perhaps the most lucrative colonies in the world, securely in its grasp. However, due to poor management and a royal arrogance, it instead created enough resentment to establish a growing uprising which led instead to The Revolutionary War. That is the setting which author Esther Forbes used to write her book. The Walt Disney film directed by Robert Stevenson, which used her book is called " Johnny Tremain. " The story follows the exploits of young silversmith apprentice Johnny Tremain (Hal Stalmaster) as he does his best to stay out of the approaching conflict, seek his mother's brother and keep to his trade. Unfortunately, events soon engulf him and his country, beginning in Boston with a rebellion over an imposed Tea Tax. Thereafter, the movie traces the growth of the Sons of Liberty and their efforts to secure their rights as Englishmen. Thrown in for good measure are the key figures of the Revolution including Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Adams, his cousin Quincy and James Otis (played by Jeff York). Key events like The Battle of Lexington, Concord Bridge and the "Shot Heard round the world" are added to coincide with American history. Although, his life is central to the story, it's added only for continuity to the War and it's place in history. Nevertheless, it's a good and wholesome movie and easy for students to learn of the important segments of our early country. Easily recommended for the entire family. ***
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not entirely sure what constitutes a "spoiler", revelation of the plot
lines, if I could have, I would have put a "?" in that box instead of a
check mark. If talk about the song does that... Still, it takes a tiny
piece of detail to provoke interest in a film, surely a song isn't a
I know the 1950's style of Walt Disney seems pretty corny to many folks today. But if old-fashioned values of integrity and honesty and straightforward dealings with other people is corny, then this nation could stand a pretty healthy dose of it, if you ask me.
I love the song, "The Songs of Liberty", and when the men returned from one of their enterprises to hang old-fashioned lanterns up all over on that big old oak tree, and their ladies came out of their homes and shops to join them to sing this song, well, it beat a "Hallmark" or Telephone commercial for me, I can tell you. If my sons are home when I watch this, boy do they raze me good! heheheheh I don't care - it feels good to watch this kind of show.
It would be good for America to remember her roots, and a cute show like this does that in a very entertaining way. You wanted to be there. And maybe you might want to learn a bit more about a few of the names that were dropped, as well. Sometimes a bit of curiosity is good for the soul!
Johnny Tremain took a reverse process in attaining success as one of
the best films about the American Revolution. It was a two part program
on Walt Disney's television show and then later it was stitched
together for theatrical release, so popular did it prove. Just like
Disney's Davy Crockett. You can plainly see the seams, but that really
The fictional character of Johnny Tremain who is an apprentice silversmith and his struggle to establish his birthright to the satisfaction of his loyalist uncle Sebastian Cabot is set against the background of Boston in the 1770s. As we well know the seeds of the American Revolution were planted there, it was a hotbed of latent treason to the British crown.
As Johnny Tremain started as a juvenile novel the issues of the American Revolution are quite simply laid out so that even the lay historian can follow the issues and the events of the Boston Tea Party and later the Battles of Lexington and Concord pretty much as they actually occurred.
And the personalities of the Sons Of Liberty come wonderfully alive in this film. Walter Sande as Paul Revere, Walter Coy as Dr. Joseph Warren, Rusty Lane as Samuel Adams step right out from the textbooks. But in the few scenes he has Jeff York as James Otis steals the movie.
There was a touch of genius in the casting of York and who would have suspected it because York normally played rough hewn frontier type characters. It was totally against type that York was cast as the Back Bay Patriot with both genius and madness in his running in his veins. Otis and Johnny Tremain define the real issues of what became the American Revolution in the best acted scene in the film.
Hal Stalmaster was a fine and earnest Johnny Tremain and was 'introduced' in this film. Why his career went nowhere after that is still a mystery. Luana Patten plays the daughter of Will Wright and Virginia Christine the silversmiths that Stalmaster is apprenticed to and Richard Beymer plays Stalmaster's original tutor in radical Sons Of Liberty politics.
If grade school teachers are not using Johnny Tremain as a teaching tool when the kids are learning the American Revolution, shame on them.
Johnny Tremain is quirky Hollywood at its quirkiest. I really liked it though, for all of its uncalculated moves. I enjoyed the fictional character's journey through real events. The battle scenes are okay and the story is serviceable, but what wins it over is the charisma of the main character. Quirky and flawed, but never unengaging or lacking in any sort of good American entertainment, it may not be that well remembered, but I still found it likable. For all the pleasures of 1957 Hollywood including 12 Angry Men and The Bridge on the River Kwai, this is limited, but it still does not fail in being a good time killer and entertainment device.
I have a parent that is not allowing their child to watch Johnny
Tremain. I don't understand why. I have noted that in some cases where
language was a problem, I can understand that. This is based on an
authors book about the American Revolution. Why would anyone want to
keep their child from watching it? It is a clear depiction of the book
and gives a good representation of the historical events. It also shows
the dress and the attitudes of the time rather well too.
Is there something that was done that make it a bad movie, the language or what? Do others object to Disney movies as well especially the early ones?
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