The Song of a Nation (1936)

Approved  |   |  Short, Biography, Drama  |  4 July 1936 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.0/10 from 51 users  
Reviews: 3 user

This historical featurette dramatizes the events that led to Francis Scott Key writing the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner."



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Complete credited cast:
Claire Dodd ...
Mary Key
Joseph Crehan ...
Col. John Skinner
Addison Richards ...
British Adm. Cochrane
Lt. Richard West
Virginia Brissac ...
Mrs. Callan


In 1814 Georgetown, lawyer Francis Scott Key believes the government is not doing enough to protect the country from the warring British. He is not afraid to air his views, unpopular amongst the military/political circle in which he travels, especially as it is coming from a civilian. His views embarrass his wife, Mary Key, who believes they are unpatriotic. As such, those views unknowingly threaten their marriage. Francis believes someone or something needs to bring the nation together as one, but doesn't yet know who or what that is. After a night-long battle where the British attacked Fort McHenry, the still flying American flag at the fort "by the dawn's early light" and comments made to that fact representing the resilience of Americans inspires Francis to write a poem which his friend Col. John Skinner thinks could be the means to bring the nation together. That poem would become the lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner". Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Release Date:

4 July 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Broadway Brevities (1935-1936 season) #29: Song of a Nation  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The copyright date under the main title reads MCMXLVII which is 1947, identifying the print as from the 1947 re-release. See more »


Edited into March On, America! (1942) See more »


The Star-Spangled Banner
Lyrics by Francis Scott Key
Performed by studio orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

Decent Warner Short
7 January 2010 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

Song of a Nation, The (1936)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Warner character actor Donald Woods stars in this Technicolor short and has him playing Francis Scott Key, the man who would write The Star-Spangled Banner. In the film we see his early views of the war and how he would eventually be inspired to write the song. I'm really not sure how historically accurate this thing is but fans of the Golden Age will certainly want to give this one a shot as the Technicolor is pretty impressive and makes this worth seeing. Fans of Woods will also like seeing him here in a pretty good role that has him turning in a fine performance. The ending has the actor "thinking" out the words to the song as he writes them and I thought Woods did a pretty good job here even if it was handled a bit tacky by the director. If you know the events surrounding how the song was written then you're not going to learn too much here. The Technicolor is what really sticks out even if the print shown by TCM was in pretty rough shape at certain spots.

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