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In Shenandoah, Virginia, widower farmer Charlie Anderson lives a peaceful life with his six sons - Jacob, James, Nathan, John, Henry and Boy, his daughter Jennie, and his daughter-in-law and James' wife Ann Anderson. Charlie does not let his sons join the army to fight in the Civil War that he does not consider their war. Jennie marries her beloved Lieutenant Sam, but they do not have a honeymoon since Sam has to return to the front. Charlie's youngest son Boy is mistakenly taken prisoner by soldiers from the North so Charlie rides with his sons to rescue Boy, while James and Ann stay on the farm. It is time of violence and war, and tragedy reaches the Anderson family. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
James Stewart gives a riveting performance in Shenandoah
In may important ways,this is one of Hollywood's most accurate attempts to show what the Civil War was like,both on the battlefield and at home. But director Andrew McLaglen,the 45-year old son of famous movie director Victor McLaglen,and writer James Lee Barrett never let strict adherence to accuracy get in the way of their historical soap opera,and that why the film has been such an endearingly popular hit. When it was released in 1965,it came out during the time of the Vietnam War(when it was still a hot issue),and the violence of racial turbulence that occurred during the Southern United States. Not to mention during the height of the Civil Rights movement. It was also the basis for a very successful Broadway musical(which had nothing at all to do with the film itself).
In the fictional community of Shenandoah Gap(in the hills of Virginia),widowed patriarch Charlie Anderson(James Stewart)rules his clan of six sons and two daughters and is determined not to pay any attention to what is happening beyond the boundaries of their 500-acre farm. "This war is not mine and I take no note of it," he states without hestination or doubt. Anderson does not believe in slavery and has no thoughts on the preservation of the Union. He's more concerned with the raising of his children and the running of the farm. During the first part of the movie,it takes almost an hour to limit in the details of that world-the conflicts with neighbors and authorities,and the romance between daughter Jennie(Rosemary Forsyth) and Sam(Doug McClure of The Virginian TV series),a young Confederate officer. About half-way through,Anderson is forced to take action,and the pace of the film quickens. Well-timed coincidences keep things moving briskly,but the whole tone of the film takes on a sad quality as the family comes to understand how badly the war is going for Virginia. By far the best scene is an encounter between Anderson and Colonel Fairchild(George Kennedy),a Union officer whose warweariness seems absolutely authentic. In that moment,the film has the tough-mindedness associated with the James Stewart-Anthony Mann westerns of the 1950's. But McLaglen quickly reverts to the sentimental melodramatics and breathtaking action scenes that were always his strong suit. If the battle scenes(which are brilliant in detail)give some of the scope of other Civil War epics,then they are true to the individual combatants and greater more tactics as engagements. As such,they're believable,though in appearance and sensibility,the film has the standards characteristics of a western. Since the producers pitch this as a western picture in further perspectives.
At the time Shenandoah was made,the top three westerns of their day were at the top of the TV ratings:"Gunsmoke","The Virginian",and "Bonanza". It was the TV series "Bonanza",that was the top rated show on television and at the time was at the peak of its popularity. Any similarity between these two families is intentional since in character and story setting the TV series Bonanza was based in the regions of the Nevada Valley,while the motion picture Shenandoah was based during the height of the Civil War in the hills and valleys of Virginia. For the most part,McLaglen wisely keeps the camera on his star,and James Stewart carries the film and gives one of the most riveting performances of his career. While several of his younger supporting cast adopt unfortunate Southern accents,he sticks to the voice that everyone knows. That's a good thing,because Stewart is called upon to deliver many long,weighty and wise monologues since on a actual note was to be the most pontificatory role of his long established career. The speeches work because they're grounded in a believable sense of reality. The locations for shooting of the picture did not occur in the Southern regions of the United States,but in areas of Oregon that are similar to the Shenandoah Valley. Slavery was not as prevalent there as it was in other parts of the South;smaller farms were prevalent since the central crops were tobacco,corn,and cotton(in some areas)and not to mention a lot of chicken production and turkey farms(they grow a lot of turkeys down there). Finally,the film's refusal to take sides in the war serves as well. This was not only a sensational action-western flick,but one of those Hollywood tear-jerking melodramas that means to entertain while remaining fairly faithful to history. It does just that.
Shenandoah was one of the highest grossing movies of 1965,and was nominated an Academy Award for Best Sound. It was right up there with some of the biggest movies of that year.."In Harm's Way","The Sound Of Music","The Greatest Story Ever Told","Thunderball","Doctor Zhivago", and "The Sons Of Katie Elder".
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