A curio of its day (and of its participants) as much as anything else
Even those who aren't fans of John Wayne would probably still enjoy this series of vignettes that Wayne narrates almost like the Stage Manager in "Our Town," stepping from era to era through a few centuries of American history. Wayne had been burned in his earliest foray into television nearly two decades earlier: Making a guest appearance on a variety show in 1953 while his movie "Hondo" was in theatres, he was supposed to act like he didn't know why the audience was reacting, and then every time he turned around he'd press a button in his pants and a sign on his back would light up to say "Hondo." The indignity of the appearance embarrassed him enough so that, except for rare guest appearances on shows like "I Love Lucy," Wayne avoided television for most of the next 20 years. "Swing Out, Sweet Land" gave him a chance to show his unabashed red-white-and-blue sentiments and to feel far more comfortable in front of the television cameras.
Still, although it's an enjoyable and a somewhat tongue-in-cheek television special, sticking to many of the clichés of the American history genre, it's also very much a curio of its era -- when you could spend a couple of hours recounting those clichés as history, and also present them by featuring a raft of then-current celebrities often doing their own shtick as a counterpoint to the history -- Jack Benny (of course!) finding the silver dollar that Washington threw across the Delaware; Roy Clark as a banjo player at Andy Jackson's funeral; even Rowan and Martin as the Wright Brothers! You won't find the kind of insight that Ken Burns puts forth on his PBS series, certainly . . . and, as history, perhaps its most poignant feature is realizing just how many of the folks who were well-known at that time (like Wayne himself, Benny, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Greg Morris, and even Ricky Nelson) are themselves already gone.
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