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Mary Silliman's War (1994)

Not Rated | | Drama, History, War | TV Movie 11 May 1994
Mary Silliman's War is a unique, award-winning film on the American Revolution.


Stephen Surjik


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nancy Palk Nancy Palk ... Mary Silliman
Richard Donat ... Selleck Silliman
Diane D'Aquila Diane D'Aquila ... Abby Nash
Paul Boretski Paul Boretski ... Captain Hawley
Joanne Miller ... Amelia
William Colgate ... Isaac Bunnel
Tom McCamus ... Rev. Elliot
Linda Busby Linda Busby ... Esther Clover
Ellis Williams Ellis Williams ... Peter
Allan Royal ... Judge Jones
James B. Douglas James B. Douglas ... Governor Trumbull
Michael Keating Michael Keating ... Col. Moylan
Brian Babineau Brian Babineau ... Jemme Silliman
Calhoun Keating-Malay Calhoun Keating-Malay ... Samuel Silliman
Simon Richards Simon Richards ... Tom Nash


Shot on location in Nova Scotia, the film relates the true story of a remarkable woman, whose husband, a patriot leader, was kidnapped from their home by a band of Tories -- Americans loyal to the King of England. Left to fend for herself and their children as she sought her husband's release, Mary Silliman's story presents the War for Independence in a way that is fresh and engaging to a modern audience. Mary Silliman's War was produced by Heritage Films, under the auspices of The Institute for Early American History in Colonial Williamsburg, VA. It is based on the biography by Richard and Joy Day Buel, The Way of Duty (Norton, 1984). Written by Anonymous

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Drama | History | War


Not Rated






Release Date:

11 May 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

L'appel du devoir See more »

Filming Locations:

Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, Canada See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Surprisingly, this film very accurately depicts the environment of colonial New England by including in the film several aspects that were prevalent during the era in which colonial Americans began to act ag
31 October 2002 | by gilby1See all my reviews

`Mary Silliman's War,' directed by Stephen Surjik, is the tale of an 18th century colonial woman who gets caught up in the political upheaval of America's fight for independence from the British. Surprisingly, this film very accurately depicts the environment of colonial New England by including in the film several aspects that were prevalent during the era in which colonial Americans began to act against British taxation.

During this time, many towns, including those in Mary Silliman's home of New England, became split between supporters of colonial independence and British loyalists. However, there were some people who felt no connection with either side of the revolutionary movement, but were still caught up in the violence and hardship of America's fight for autonomy. These people, including the Quakers who did not believe in any sort of violent behavior, simply wanted to be left alone because they cared little about the complicated politics of the war. In fact, one such neutral colonial man once quoted the phrase `a plague on both our houses.' Mary Silliman is a perfect example of one of these people and her struggle throughout the movie with both political officials and her fellow townspeople suggests that the lives of almost everyone in colonial America were affected some how whether you were a loyalist, a patriot, or neutral. The film is also accurate in the way that it portrays the patriots' behavior towards neutral people such as Mary Silliman. After her husband is taken hostage by a group of Tories, Mary Silliman begins a campaign to expedite the liberation of her husband. However, she is met with cold shoulders and turned heads as she attempts to persuade the governor to lessen the punishments of Tories to some how reduce tensions between the town and the British. Mary also attempts to gain some sort of peace of mind by talking to her local priest. However, when she asks the priest why God would take her husband from her, she is met with answers in the form of questions and irrational circular logic. She is basically told that she should accept the will of God because it is good and holy. This behavior is exemplary of revolutionary America's notion of self preservation and the tendency to do what is best for the good of the group rather than sacrificing for one person. The film also hits the mark with the character of Mary Silliman's slave, or servant as she likes to call him. When Mary Silliman's town finally got involved in the major war effort, her slave expressed a strong desire to enlist in the war. However, the fact that Mary Silliman seemed so understanding when he asked for permission to enlist is, perhaps, not the most accurate depiction of slave - owner relationships in the mid 18th century. Even more important is the fact that Mary's slave wanted to enlist on the American side of the war. Most slaves, 90% to be precise, ran away from their owners during the conflict to enlist with the British who promised freedom to all slaves who would help. Aside from the misrepresentation of slaves' roles in America's fight for freedom, `Mary Silliman's War' is an accurate representation of the tense and sometimes violent situation in the colonies during the conflict with Britain. Subtle elements such as the separation of genders in the church, the exclusion of women from political matters, and even a scene in which one of the characters is shown as stricken with smallpox - a widespread epidemic during the time - make this film a truthful account of the life of colonial Americans during the time of Revolution.

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