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The Bower Family Band petitions the Democratic National Committee to sing a Grover Cleveland rally song at the 1888 convention, but decide instead to move to the Dakota territory on the urging of a suitor to their eldest daughter. There, Grampa Bower causes trouble with his pro-Cleveland ideas, as Dakota residents are overwhelmingly Republican, and hope to get the territory admitted as two states (North and South Dakota) rather than one in order to send four Republican senators to Washington. Cleveland opposed this plan, refusing to refer to Congress the plan to organize the Dakotas this way. When Cleveland wins the popular vote, but Harrison the presidency due to the electoral college votes, the Dakotans (particularly the feuding young couple) resolve to live together in peace, and Cleveland grants statehood to the two Dakotas before he leaves office (along with two Democrat-voting states, evening the gains for both parties).Written by
Manus Hand <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Based on the memoirs of Laura Bower Van Nuys, the 1888 presidential election serves as the backdrop for this lovestory between Laura's older sister, Alice (Leslie Ann Warren) - a teacher and the eldest daughter in the Bower family's musical act, and Joe (John Davidson) - a spin doctor at odds with the families' political views.
The hostilities between Democrats and Republicans over the hotly contested Cleveland/Harrison race and state's rights are more relevant today than ever in light of the 2000 Presidential Election night debaucle. And when Democrat Grandpa Bower, the patriarch of the family, substitute teaches for Alice at the local school, his decision to teach the children his views about the Civil War - very different from the views of the primarily Republican Dakotans - causes an uproar among the settlers and threatens to divide the young lovers forever.
The romantic moments are sweet. The show-stopping numbers which make perfect sense in a musical about a musical act are quite impressive, especially the rousing "Ten Feet Off the Ground" high-kick routine by Warren and Janet Blair, and "West O' The Wide Missouri" featuring a young blonde dancer named Goldie Jean Hawn. Other standout performers are the incomparable Buddy Ebsen, comedian Wally Cox, a very young Kurt Russell and "Walton"/rock guitarist Jon Wamsley, and, as Grandpa, the great Walter Brennan.
As both a musician and political analyst, this movie strikes a "chord" with me (that and the fact that I remember my parents taking me to see it in the theatre and owning both versions of the soundtrack!) An overlooked gem, this is family entertainment that doesn't insult your intelligence. It teaches alot about tolerance without being preachy, and, of course, it all works out in the end.
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