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Where Are All The Revolutionary War Films?

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Alyssa Rosenberg (whose work I think is fantastic) poses a great question:

…it struck me all over again how few movies we have about the Revolutionary War. I’d looked into this a couple of years ago, but it’s really kind of stunning. The success of America’s war for independence from Great Britain is incredibly remarkable, the people who prosecuted that war are referenced constantly in our current political conversations, and yet we don’t have more than a handful of movies about the conflict or the people who ran it. April Morning, Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor, The Crossing, John Adams, and Valley Forge are all television projects. The last big Revolutionary War blockbuster, The Patriot, came out in 2000, and even that wasn’t that enormous a success: it netted $113,330,342 at the domestic box office, just $3 million more than the movie cost to make.

She poses a couple of possible answers, neither of which I find particularly satisfactory, but then I don’t have any good answers either.

First she notes how poorly 18th century battle scenes translate to modern movie screens and the expectations of audiences for big fight scenes. Perhaps that’s true, but then we’ve never had a lot of Revolutionary films, even in the silent era. So while I think a studio executive would make that statement today, I don’t think it really explains the overall lack of Revolutionary War films in movie history.

Second, she looks at the characters and intellectual universe of the time and suggests it’s not good movie material. George III is far away, Jefferson is busy with Sally Hemings, Madison is reading Locke, etc. And if movies really bothered with the intellectual universe of their real-life characters or cared much about reality either way, that’d make a lot of sense. But since when did movies portray real-life people accurately? Movies frequently flatten stories into good and evil and make characters do whatever the filmmakers want them to do, even if characters based on real people have some limitations placed upon this. After all, it’s not as if the Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of John Adams is really all that accurate.

And that leads to another point, which is to say that maybe there is room for more Revolutionary War movies. After all, I’d argue that TV has replaced mainstream Hollywood movies as the place where real stories are being told. And people love that Adams miniseries. The popularity of Revolutionary War biographies and sweeping histories and that miniseries suggest some room for film, even if only in the biographical/hagiographical sense.

It’s also interesting to think about portrayals of the Revolution in American film and literature compared to other wars. The French and Indian War has never much interested Americans, though there are significant exceptions to this, including James Fenimore Cooper and John Ford’s Drums Along the Mohawk. The Revolution has never much inspired American authors or filmmakers. Of course, American literature in the late 18th century was in its infancy so this makes sense. The Civil War inspired hundreds if not thousands of movies (usually short silents) in the early years of film and a lot of cheesy literature from the same period (with apologies to Stephen Crane), but not much literature of note from actual participants in the war. World War I on the other hand has always been beloved by both authors and filmmakers. World War II produced an endless number of mostly bad movies in the 1950s and 60s, but some very great films too; same scenario essentially with literature. Korea has always existed on the outskirts. Vietnam has produced plenty of both. Be interesting to see what the Middle East wars do, not much yet, but there’s plenty of time.

What does this all tell us? Not much I guess. World War I, the Civil War, and Vietnam were all heavily contested wars where good and evil were very muddled. That does tend to make good art. On the other hand, actual Civil War art tended to obscure the actual causes of the conflict, i.e. slavery, slavery, and slavery. Also, slavery. World War II was good versus evil for all intents and purposes and maybe that’s why so much of the art around it is so mediocre. People in 1955 might have loved watching Jimmy Steward in Strategic Air Command, but for whatever psychological work films like that did for the generation who lived through the contract, it sure doesn’t play well today.

But this lengthy discussion still doesn’t give me much of a clue as to why we’ve never had a lot of films about the American Revolution? Were the Founding Fathers (a term invented by Warren Harding even if the sentiment was there long before) too godlike to portray in film? But given the constant invocation of them throughout American history, it seems shocking that filmmakers did not join in.

So I don’t know, what do you think?

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  • Chet

    Uh, not that this is really a rebuttal (for sure), but … “1776” and “Johnny Tremain”? Both movies I watched in …. high (middle?) school?

    Which doesn’t change your point — that aside from those, I can’t think of any others — -any- others.

    • firefall

      Revolution .. Al Pacino’s semi-intelligible muttering from mid-80s

      • John F

        I’m still baffled by his “accent” in that movie

        • firefall

          Yes … apparently incredibly ‘authentic’ to the period. Might as well have been sanskrit half the time, though.

  • ajay

    World War II was good versus evil for all intents and purposes and maybe that’s why so much of the art around it is so mediocre. People in 1955 might have loved watching Jimmy Steward in Strategic Air Command, but for whatever psychological work films like that did for the generation who lived through the contract, it sure doesn’t play well today.

    I may be missing your point here, but “Strategic Air Command” is not a World War II movie. It’s set in the 1950s. Jimmy Stewart wasn’t in a position to make that many movies during World War II – he was otherwise engaged – and SAC didn’t exist.

  • ajay

    First she notes how poorly 18th century battle scenes translate to modern movie screens and the expectations of audiences for big fight scenes.

    Not sure about this; there have been a fair number of Napoleonic War films and TV series, and surely the same would apply?

    The popularity of Revolutionary War biographies and sweeping histories and that miniseries suggest some room for film, even if only in the biographical/hagiographical sense.

    Maybe the hagiography is the problem; as Rosenberg notes, maybe people just aren’t ready to see their venerated ancestors portrayed warts and all.

    • timb

      Maybe the hagiography is the problem; as Rosenberg notes, maybe people just aren’t ready to see their venerated ancestors portrayed warts and all.

      I’ll grant that, but what about Morgan and Green and Ethan Allen? Heck, the Patriot was terrible, but how couldn’t you make a great film based upon Arnold’s leadership and then betrayal?

      I was watching “The Revolution” on History Channel on Monday and cannot believe a movie has not been made about Lake Champlain or Saratoga or Ticonderoga. you want real narrow escapes? real underdog fights? Real victory rescued from the jaws of defeat? The Revolution offers it in spades and one doesn’t have to write a hagiography of Washington.

      I’ll be the first in line for the Alexander Hamilton biopic, even if he’s played by Shia LeBeuf

      • dave

        Yah, the man that wanted the Constitutional Convention to institute a monarchy… woohoo!

        • timb

          How about the man who rose from a bastard all the way to the corridors of power as a learned and erudite man?

          I think, Dave, you might be too interested in the “warts”

          • Hogan

            Or confusing “had an interesting and eventful life” with “was admirable in every way.”

            • dave

              No, at this point I’m just poking fun.

    • Ian

      “how poorly 18th century battle scenes translate to modern movie screens and the expectations of audiences for big fight scenes”

      How about a movie about rangers? Battle scenes with an emphasis on individual heroism rather than formations blasting away.

    • r. clayton

      there have been a fair number of Napoleonic War films and TV series, and surely the same would apply?

      Perhaps not, if you take the Napoleonic wars as introducing the idea of total war. Is there anything in revolutionary-era wars equivalent to Napolean’s Russian adventure?

  • Doug M.

    1776 is a fun light musical and looks set to be a staple for high school and community productions for decades to come. But the movie was not a great success and has not inspired anything further along the same lines.

    The John Adams miniseries was (by the standards of an HBO miniseries) a commercial success, and also a major critical hit. It showed both Adams and Jefferson as deeply flawed characters. So I don’t think that “warts and all” is a major problem here.

    Doug M.

    • ajay

      Hmm, fair point, but what’s successful on HBO doesn’t always equate to what’s successful on the big screen. I can’t see any major studios looking at, say, The Wire, and thinking “what we need this summer is a blockbuster about union politics and the decline of the American industrial base!”

    • 1776 is a fun light musical and looks set to be a staple for high school and community productions for decades to come.

      Maybe for all boys high schools. The Internet Broadway Database lists 26 actors for “1776”: 24 male and 2 female. I don’t know about your high school, but at mine there was a bit of an imbalance between the number of boys and girls that auditioned for the musical. A friend tried to start a rumor that the next year’s musical was going to be “1776”.

      • PhoenixRising

        Those roles are not all hard and fast. While I was technically a girl at the time, I was in a production of the musical in 1979. That messenger costume rocked.

  • I’d suspect that the average Hollywood weasel/mogul imagines that the average American’s view of the Revolutionary period is that it’s dry & ancient history that was forced down everyone’s throats in high school, & no one cares any more.

    And the subtext of a bunch of guys in wigs & breeches sitting around talking about ideas & stuff is downright French!

    • elly

      I don’t have an authoritative answer to the question, but M. Bouffant’s rings true – at least for me. Although I developed some interest in history post-high school, I instinctively avoided anything on the Revolutionary War period – the coverage in school was impossibly bland and formulaic, so I had no idea that there was anything interesting about it.

      That changed when (believe it or not), I joined the “Book of the Month Club.” On whim, I ordered Richard Rosenfeld’s “American Aurora,” a book which completely took me by surprise. The founding fathers were anything but the dull, cardboard characters they were made out to be in school. That book broke the ice (so to speak).

      I imagine that most filmmakers fall into one of two categories: a) as uninformed and incurious about the period as I once was; or b) uninterested in challenging the dominant narrative (after all, any reality-based film would surely draw the ire of the tea party and its enablers).

  • I was going to suggest that there was a lot more written about the revolution in the 30s, but the more I think about it the more I think it was novels and plays and not so much movies.

    I do believe that Disney did a number of things in the 50s, but those were I think mostly for TV.

  • cpinva

    wow, just…………wow! first, jefferson’s a rapacious sexual predator/rapist, you’ve added adulteror/child rapist to your growing list of his “accomplishments” (“jefferson was busy with sally hemmings”). hemmings, born in 1773, would have been 2 (roughly) when the revolution began, and 9 when martha jefferson died (1782).

    according to mr. loomis, mr. jefferson was raping 2 year-olds during the revolution, making him too boring for film. not even jefferson’s most ardent political foes accused him of this.

    mr. loomis, based on the intellectual depth you’ve displayed on this site so far, i would strongly urge you to consider a profession more suited to your “talents” (research clearly isn’t one of them): ditch digger comes to mind. although, in fairness to ditch diggers, they have to at least know when to stop digging.

    with this, whatever small amount of credibility you retained, after your last bit of historic revisionist drool, has been spit into a tissue, to be seen no more.

    do the owner’s of this blog actually read your posts?

    • R. Porrofatto

      Yeah, he didn’t research every bit of biographical data for a fucking blog post. You on the other hand, seem to have never learned the rather simple rules of capitalization, thus relegating Mr. Jefferson to the status of a common noun. You also got Sally Hemings name wrong despite its being spelled correctly in the post above, an illiteracy only matched by your deficiency in the etiquette department, which seems roughly proportional to the size of your ego.

      • A flip, throw away line such as

        Jefferson is busy with Sally Hemings

        causes cpinva to foam at the mouth in anger? If I didn’t know better, and I don’t, I would conclude that cpinva had his outrage meter set to 11 and was just waiting for an accuse to let loose and that was the best he could do.

        Eric, Thomas didn’t have relations with Sally until around the time of the writing of the Constitution. Please give yourself 20 lashes as penance for the error.

        • “accuse” should be “excuse”. I don’t know what happened but I’ll accuse the gotcha media of misquoting me.

        • gmack

          Right, but it’s also possible to read the reference to Sally Hemings as a metonym for Jefferson’s rather unsavory relationship to slavery in general. Read in this way, the whole line passes by without any objection at all.

      • timb

        He may suffer a misconception about forests and trees

  • dave

    Well, if you were going to depict events of the so-called ‘revolutionary war’ accurately, you’d have to show that many good Americans wanted nothing to do with it; that many of those were persecuted and vilified; that just keeping an army in the field was an arduous task due to the unwillingness of many men to serve on anything beyond a purely local level; that many of the ‘famous’ battles look like street-corner skirmishes; that the British treated slaves and ex-slaves better than the Americans; that much of the ‘action’ especially outside New England amounted to a rather dirty guerrilla war; that the set-piece battles, such as they were, were won with substantial French assistance…

    So, you could do all that, or you could make The Patriot, and go home…

    • Ditto.

      You might also have added the role that the desire to expropriate Indians from their land (i.e., the protests against the Proclamation of 1763) played in encourage some Americans to clamor for Independence.

      • DrDick

        Also the fact that the taxes the Americans were protesting were to pay the costs of the French and Indian War or, as it is known in Europe, the Seven Years War in the colonies. The only major war started in the Americas, by British colonists illegally seizing Indian lands in violation of the Proclamation of 1763.

        • The only major war started in the Americas, by British colonists illegally seizing Indian lands in violation of the Proclamation of 1763.

          Ummm… the French an Indian War ended in 1763.

          • DrDick

            Oops, my bad. I blame it on too early (we are talking MDT here) and not enough coffee. While the incursions were illegal, they were violations of specific treaties with the Indians rather than the Proclamation, which was intended to draw a bight line against all settlement west of the crest of the Appalachians.

            • No worries. I agreed with the sentiment, but the pedant in me is insatiable.

        • timb

          Don’t forget the role of the “Father of the Country” is almost single-handedly starting a World War

          • timb

            the word “guilty” was unfortunately not typed.

    • I love your comment Dave and would like to have relations with it. Is it seeing anyone at the moment?

      • dave

        Sorry dude, nobody gets between me and my sass.

        • timb

          I think the last line seriously underestimates the French commitment! But, otherwise, spot on

          • dave

            At that point, I was being polite to our hosts…

    • DrDick

      I think you may be on to something here. Any reasonably accurate portrayal of the Revolutionary War would severely challenge the prevailing mythology and show a much messier and more problematic event. Much harder to sympathize with notorious smugglers (John Adams) and those illegally trafficking in Indian lands (Washington).

      • Woodrowfan

        I thought Hancock was the smuggler, not Adams..

        • DrDick

          You are correct. Adams was his lawyer.

          • timb

            well as the latter, stop blaming him for his client’s sins!

            • DrDick

              First we hang the lawyers!

    • John F

      I thought The Crossing was quite well done, men were deserting, the civilian populace was less than totally helpful…

      One scene stands out, when Washington decided to cross the Delaware one of his aides protests that they don’t have any boats- Washington pulls him aside, “There is a mill down the river a few miles from here”
      “But how does that help us, the Mill has boats we don’t”

      Wash basically hauls him by his ears, we have guns, take the damn boats.

      Plus the battle was portrayed accurately insofar as the size of the two “armies” was concerned- a film made for theatrical release would undoubtedly see its producers demand that the Battle of Trenton be scaled up ten fold

      • Mr. Upright

        I also enjoyed “The Crossing.” I was skeptical about the casting of Jeff Daniels, but I found him to be a likeable, human, and believable Washington.

        Also, while I’m not sure how accurate the portrayal was, there was at least one scene that showed how Alexander Hamilton was not afraid to “get his hands dirty,” so to speak.

    • “Well, if you were going to depict events of the so-called ‘revolutionary war’ accurately, you’d have to show that many good Americans wanted nothing to do with it.”

      True enough, but there’s no way that’s ever making the screen.

  • Bobby Thomson

    The last deeply serious Revolutionary War movie was Revolution, which obviously was very memorable.

    It almost killed Al Pacino’s career.

  • uncle rameau

    I would love to see the Kenneth Roberts novels Arundel and Rabble in Arms made as a movie or even better an HBO series. Quebec City locations would be awesome as many of the buildings are still there.

    • firefall

      or Bernard Cornwell’s Redcoat

  • Vlad

    One contemporary answer, I suspect, is that audiences for war movies expect to see battles, and from the American point of view there aren’t that many good stories to tell about the battles of the Revolutionary War. The big American victories, like Saratoga and Yorktown, tended to take the form of the British surrendering after being maneuvered into a corner, which presumably doesn’t translate well to film. Most of the other battles in which the armies actually faced each other on the field were either inconclusive, or outright British victories; both ended with American retreats. Again, not the stuff of an American war film. There’s a reason that the producers of the Patriot felt the need to close their movie with the battle of Cowpen’s Farm, and to inflate its importance by suggesting it was the turning point of the war — it was one of the very few clear American battlefield victories in the entire conflict.

    This doesn’t explain why there hasn’t been a good movie about Bunker Hill and the eviction of British forces from Boston, though, or about Washington’s campaign along the Delaware River. The latter seems practically made for Hollywood — you could open with the American forces retreating from New York, apparently beaten for good, and end with the victory at Trenton

    • John F

      The latter seems practically made for Hollywood — you could open with the American forces retreating from New York, apparently beaten for good, and end with the victory at Trenton

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crossing_(2000_film)

    • Richard Hershberger

      “…inflate its importance by suggesting it was the turning point of the war…”

      Many war movies do this, claiming that whatever minor or peripheral action the film depicts is vital to the entire war effort. I take this as a sign of lazy or insecure writing. A well executed film will make us care about the characters even if they aren’t critical to a life and death struggle to change the world. But if the filmmakers don’t think they can manage this (and are probably correct about their limitations) then they substitute overwrought hype.

      • LosGatosCA

        I think it reflects simply what the writer/producer/director collaborative team thinks will make them the most money. The gap between their expectation and the reality of the monetary reward is a direct reflection of their ability to create a work they can successfully monetize.

        Everything else is a random event.

    • witless chum

      Wiki informs me that the movie combined Cowpens (an unambigious American win) and Guiliford Courthouse (a pyrrhic British victory) into one battle.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guilford_Courthouse

      I really think its a shame that the scene where Mel Gibson stabbed Jason Isaacs with the American flag wasn’t portrayed with more historical accuracy.

      • wengler

        It was almost as good as the Mel Gibson remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

  • Sherparick

    One correction, but “Drums Along the Mohawk” was set in the Revolutionary War, not the “French and Indian Wars.” And it is based (loosely) on actual events – the siege of Fort Stanwix and the Battle of Oriskany.

    The lack of movies on the Revolution is an interesting question (although I note that despite “Gone with the Wind” and “Raintree County,” and “Glory” that relatively few movies have been made about the Civil War, and many of them were set in mythical events in the West (and of course the Western itself has been a fairly dead genre since 1970).

    Which leads me to make two speculations which might be worthy of a book or at least an article if someone had the research inclination.

    First, and the major speculation. That films are a directors medium and directors like making moving on subjects they are comfortable and familiar with, and what most current directors born since 1950 are familiar with is an urban, technical, automobile world, filled with large parts of “gee-whiz” stuff and with large shadows of industrial decline, corruption, and alienation of large groups from the elite. They are not familiar with a pastoral world where most people raised there own food and either walked or rode horses. And when they try to tell these stories, it comes across as false (I met Isaac Bashevis Singer at an event in college, and when asked why he only wrote stories about the Jewish Pale of Eastern Europe, and the afterlife of its survivors in America, he said that when telling stories, he found that the only ones he could tell were about the world he had known, and that this was good guidance for any writer).

    Second, minor speculation. When Hollywood was doing historical blockbusters from the late 1930s to the 1950s, there was a strong British influence, and the British were in the process of becoming U.S.’s closest ally, first against the Axis, and then against Russia/China. But movies about the Revolution of necessity puts the British in a very bad light (going up and down the coast burning cities and towns, placing captured rebels in prision ships to die, bayoneting Continental and militia soldiers in the Battle of Long Island, etc). In a 1955 Cornell Wilde melodrama for instance, “The Scarlet Coat,” it had really only nasty old George Sanders as bad British character, and it went to great efforts to put Michael Wilding’s Major John Andre in a favorable light (although if what I have read of the Benedict Arnold affair, and the affection Hamilton, Tallmadge, and other young officers formed for Andre, the movie got the spirit that right).

    Although few and far between, and of course, old, I would say that there have been a couple of outstanding films on the two subjects, the French and Indian War and the Revolution. On the French and Indian War, besides the “Last of the Mohicans,” there is King Vidor’s “Northwest Passage,” (the depiction of the Indians is not nice, but I would argue that Tracy’s Robert Rogers is also not “nice,” and is in fact a rather dark picture of what war does to corrupt a man. And if the movie does a accurate job of portraying the actual feelings that then existed amongst the English colonists about the Indian allies of the French, then that is not racism, abut rather the avoidance of “presentism” and the telling of an uncomfortable truth).

    On the Revolution, besides the aforesaid “Drums Along the Mohawk” and another movie (if a bit corny and talky) that came out in about the same time and that starred Cary Grant, is “The Howards of Virginia.”

    • Hogan

      In 1959 there was a joint British-American film of Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, with Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and Laurence Olivier (as Burgoyne), directed by Guy Hamilton. It managed not to make the British look as bad as all that.

    • Damn it, I was questioning which war Drums was myself, but IMDB was down when I wrote the post and I posted it this morning before catching a flight without doublechecking that.

  • Mike

    “First she notes how poorly 18th century battle scenes translate to modern movie screens and the expectations of audiences for big fight scenes.”

    I’m a big fan of the Daniel Day Lewis version of the Last of the Mohicans, and I think the battle scenes in that movie are among the best ever filmed. They get to some feeling of the interplay of European mass firing tactics, American target fire, and the brutality of melee combat with buttstocks, bayonets, and tomahawks.

    • Allan

      I loved the movie. Yes it was savage in it’s violence, but what war is not. The characters were perfectly cast and the tension level was maintained all through the movie. It is one I pull out every so often just to immerse myself in the visual experience that it is.

  • Rob

    People here are overlooking a big issue that she mentions. To do it right it will be brutal and that will get you an R rating. You can’t make movies with a big budget and a get an R rating. Hell Del Toro couldn’t even get a mid size budget (for a blockbuster) movie made based on Cthulu because he couldn’t see a way to do it without getting an R and his funding fell through.

    • Malaclypse

      You can’t make movies with a big budget and a get an R rating.

      Umm…

      • Rob

        You point to a movie from 1991? Yes for a while in the late 1980s and early 1990s blockbusters got R ratings. Then the MPAA started to hold theaters accountable for underage ticket buyers and things changed. Yes certain film makers can make a R-rated movie with a huge budget (Speilberg) but its not the norm by any stretch.

        • witless chum

          The way they usually get from R to PG-13 is either really quick cuts or less spurting blood. So long as you don’t have spurting blood, you can show almost any kind of violence, per the MPAA.

          I think Peter Jackson got away with a lot of extra gore in Lord of the Rings by making orc blood black, rather than red, and some fast editing when Viggo chops off heads.

          • rea

            Orc blood is black in the books, too, though.

    • Hogan

      To do it right it will be brutal and that will get you an R rating.

      Well sure, but that doesn’t explain why filmmakers aren’t doing it at all. It’s not like they value rightness as such.

    • Jestak

      I’m not sure what you consider “big budget,” but within the last five years, Inglorious Basterds, Sex and the City and 300 were R-rated films with budgets of $65-70 billion.

      • Bill Murray

        I would certainly consider

        budgets of $65-70 billion

        to be big budgets.

        Now of course you meant millions, which is probably medium budget

        • Jestak

          Oops, typo :)

  • Ginger Yellow

    First, and the major speculation. That films are a directors medium and directors like making moving on subjects they are comfortable and familiar with, and what most current directors born since 1950 are familiar with is an urban, technical, automobile world, filled with large parts of “gee-whiz” stuff and with large shadows of industrial decline, corruption, and alienation of large groups from the elite. They are not familiar with a pastoral world where most people raised there own food and either walked or rode horses.

    This doesn’t exactly explain why the Civil War is hugely disproportionately more common in film than the Revolutionary War.

    • ajay

      But it does explain why George Lucas stuck with making films like “American Graffiti”, set in a comfortable and familiar environment, rather than striking out and making lots of movies about space battles and a galactic empire.

      • Rob

        He made WWII films, serials and Kurosawa films set in space. Hardly outside his comfort zone.

        • Davis X. Machina

          No “Dambusters”, no “633 Squadron”, no Star Wars — at least the first (fourth) one.

        • ajay

          Directors like to stay in their comfort zone – the cultural environment they grew up in – which is why George Lucas, who grew up in California, made films based on the work of a Japanese director set in space.

  • Story arc is an issue, I think. The timeframe one would be working with would be a longish one, and the dramatic tension in between battles would be filled with a lot of talktalktalk. That may make for okay teevee, but it is a problem on the big screen.

    Scale is another issue. I visit Fort Stanwix and the Oriskany site fairly often and what is interesting about both is that they are so small. So’s the Alamo of course, but a movie that accurately depicted the battle of Oriscany would take place in an area not much bigger than a city block, and would make The Passion of Christ look like a walk in the park.

  • mike in dc

    I think it’s because Ayn Rand never wrote a historical novel set during the period.

  • rburns9519

    I’d like to see a movie that bookends the Nathan Hale and John Andre hangings. Or one that takes Benedict Arnold from hero of Ticonderoga to traitor of West Point. Something of the underappreciated exploits of Nathanael Greene would be nice. Life of Tadeusz Kościuszko might be what this country needs. Life of Lafayette might illustrate that not all American values are just American values. A mini-series featuring two Patriots named Varenus and Pullo might illustrate the entire arc from Empire to Republic. There’s potential for plenty of storylines besides the Gibson revenge flick.

    • Walter the Penniless

      Alternative history in which Arnold dies at Saratoga and is revered as a hero for all eternity.

    • timb

      I said the same thing in a much poorer way above. I think we need to pitch this idea to studio lowlifes

  • News Nag

    The American Revolutionary War is too politically radical for modern America. The Revolution was anti-colonial, and modern America IS THOROUGHLY PRO-COLONIAL, at least as far as American capital has colonized the world – and that’s what’s important now as it was important during American Revolutionary War times.

    Modern America, if told the truth about King George and the British Empire, would be forced to look in a mirror and see a reflection it is not ready to see and may never be ready to see.

    Also, Founding Fathers worship is kneejerk and not a deep vein of thought or affection, even and especially amongst those who proliferate its practice as verification of their conservative/tea party ideology. And those who truly deeply appreciate the Revolution era and its actors are too small in number to populate theaters on opening weekend or would never be satisfied with the superficial treatment a movie would give even an accurate portrayal and therefore not turn out in numbers to see it. This is why I think an extended TV miniseries in the right hands would be a great idea and contribution to a self-scrutinized and better America (The United States of….).

    Call it, Revolution #9 (in nine parts). Use Beatles and Bruce Springsteen music. Hey, even use Paul Revere and the Raiders (Kicks!).

    • ajay

      The American Revolutionary War is too politically radical for modern America. The Revolution was anti-colonial

      It wasn’t really. One of the main complaints of the American rebels was that the British government was stopping them from colonising the rest of the continent. The American Revolution was actually, in this respect, a pro-colonial revolution. (Similar, in this respect, to the Rhodesian UDI.)

      • DrDick

        Also they objected to British restrictions on free trade prohibiting them from trading with the the Spanish Caribbean, which would have been much more profitable than shipping their goods all the way to England.

      • dave

        It really is amazing what some Americans seem to be prepared to believe, in the face of a well-attested historical record, isn’t it?

        Still out there winning the Vietnam War, guys?

        • DrDick

          Hmmm. The restriction of free trade and the restrictions on dealings with Indians were in fact issues in the Revolutionary War. The colonial records on Indian affairs (in the southern colonies) are sources I am intimately familiar with.

          • ajay

            I don’t think Dave was talking to you, doctor – he wasn’t replying to your comment, but agreeing with mine…

  • Dave

    I suspect there is little Great Art to do with the Revolution because there wasn’t much in the way of a national culture until at least 2 generations later. Arguably there’s no national literature until 1941. Culturally speaking, the Revolution is always-already a dusty past, the proper subject of history.

    I’m sure it has nothing to do with the kinds of stories the Revolution presents, in any case.

    • Malaclypse

      Arguably there’s no national literature until 1941.

      Mark Twain? Nathaniel Hawthorne? Melville?

      • Dave

        Yes, but Hawthorne, and Melville came of age in the 1840s, and Twain a generation later. And they were hardly part of a national culture in their day (Twain, maybe). They were wrapped into “American Literature” in 1941.

        Name a novelist or poet from the Revolutionary period. I can’t think of one.

        For that reason it now also strikes me that the American Revolution wasn’t really nationalist? And so there’s not a lot of nationalist romance sentiment to be mined from it.

        • Anonymous

          This is an interesting point, the US wasn’t really a nation in the modern sense until after the Civil War, which is perhaps why it gets more love from Hollywood than the Revolution.

        • Malaclypse

          And they were hardly part of a national culture in their day

          FWIW, I’ve read memoirs of (very rural) Utah ancestors that refer to all three.

          Name a novelist or poet from the Revolutionary period. I can’t think of one.

          That’s fair. But I think 1941 is late. Even your link says

          Matthiessen’s best-known book, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (1941), discusses the flowering of literary culture in the middle of the American 19th century, with Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Whitman and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Its focus was the period roughly from 1850 to 1855 in which all these writers but Emerson published what would, by Matthiessen’s time, come to be thought of as their masterpieces: Melville’s Moby-Dick, multiple editions of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, and Thoreau’s Walden. The mid-19th century in American literature is commonly called the American Renaissance because of the influence of this work on later literary history and criticism.

        • Hogan

          So there’s no national literature until a critic comes along and defines it in a particular way as a national literature? And you’ve never heard of Charles Brockden Brown or Hugh Henry Brackenridge?

          • Dave

            you’ve never heard of Charles Brockden Brown or Hugh Henry Brackenridge

            [snort]

            • Hogan

              You might find some cool stuff if you lowered your brow just a smidge.

              If you want to argue that there is no national literature in America that is not Great Art as sanctified by the High and Priestly Order of Matthiesen, I’d like to have some terms defined. “Great,” “art,” “national” and “literature” would be a good start.

        • Tybalt

          A novelist from the Revolutionary period? Novels aren’t even part of any national literature (possibly excepting France) until after the Revolutionary period.

          • dave

            Clarissa!

            Fanny Hill!

            Robinson Crusoe!

            • John

              Tom Jones?

        • Name a novelist or poet from the Revolutionary period. I can’t think of one.

          Jonathan Edwards

          No, not the songwriter…

          Benjamin Franklin, although that would have to be a qualified “novelist”. He did write fiction, albeit satirical lampoons.

          It would be hard to find American authors of that period because in point of fact, they really modeled themselves as British writers. It’s not until Poe, Thoreau, Emerson and Alcott that you start to see literature flourish in America.

          Names you did forget to note :-)

          • Dave

            Didn’t forget them, they just all came of age in the 1840s (Alcott later).

            Again, I’m not arguing that there was literally no culture in America in the late 18th/early 19th C., just that none of these people we think of as Great American writers thought they were part of a nationalist identity project, and they weren’t enlisted in a nationalist identity project until 1941.

            • Anonymous

              And the quite clear counterpoint, is that they were clearly read as national authors long before 1941, making your critique misguided at best.

              • Dave

                …but they weren’t read as nationalist writers, and certainly not as hewing to any tradition aligned with the American Revolution, because the Revolution itself was not born of a national traditional culture.

                • Malaclypse

                  The goalposts have moved quite a bit now.

                • Dave

                  Goalposts have moved? Allow me to quote the first sentence of my first comment in this thread:

                  “I suspect there is little Great Art to do with the Revolution because there wasn’t much in the way of a national culture until at least 2 generations later.”

                • Malaclypse

                  Yes, and now you write of nationalist (your emphasis) writers. You also have changed dates from 1941 to the Revolution itself. You also elide the fact that even the source for your claim “discusses the flowering of literary culture in the middle of the American 19th century, with Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Whitman and Nathaniel Hawthorne.”

                • Dave

                  I think my insistence about the invention of American Literature in 1941 has confused things. “American Literature” as a field comprised of Melville, Hawthorne, et al was invented to provide some public with a sense of historical American identity in 1941. This is common English Department knowledge. I really don’t mean to suggest that F.O. Matthissen invented Herman Melville, or that no American wrote books until 1941.

                  Moving on, I propose that the first self-consciously nationalist American writer was Walt Whitman.

                • Hogan

                  “American Literature” as a field comprised of Melville, Hawthorne, et al was invented to provide some public with a sense of historical American identity in 1941. This is common English Department knowledge.

                  So we were talking about cultural history, and you were talking about academic history. Got it.

                • Dave

                  Hogan, what are you on about? You really want to talk cultural history? America in 1776 was a backwater, full of boring people (like the ones you cited), doing boring things, and fighting a boring revolution over governmental legitimacy and political procedure. It founded boring institutions like the Senate and the Presidency, and it loved slavery. Meanwhile, it busied itself producing no noteworthy literature. I’m sorry, but your favorite nation was culturally crap at the start.

                • Malaclypse

                  America in 1776 was a backwater, full of boring people (like the ones you cited), doing boring things, and fighting a boring revolution over governmental legitimacy and political procedure… I’m sorry, but your favorite nation was culturally crap at the start.

                  I hear you. Don’t even get me started on science and technology.

                • Dave

                  Yes, yes. Ben Franklin, I hear, invented public libraries, too. In Revolution-era America, this is where they kept lots of books by British people.

                • Hogan

                  I’m sorry, but your favorite nation was culturally crap at the start.

                  You’re not talking cultural history; you’re talking artistic criticism of a pretty crude variety. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you sound like the Penn basketball fans I used to hear at Princeton games who thought the height of trash talk was to chant “Booo-oooring.” But hey, at least like them you have the courage of your entitled assholishness. Good on ya.

                • Dave

                  In fairness, I should say there was also no noteworthy American drama, architecture, or painting. Maybe textiles, pottery or furniture? I dunno. We also didn’t have an American president until, like, van Buren.

                • Hogan

                  And when I was two years old I couldn’t speak a complete sentence or make my own omelet. Wotta maroon.

                • Dave

                  Hogan, I would argue that if you’ve heard of Charles Brockden Brown or Hugh Henry Brackenridge, then you’re the asshole. I hope you’re condemned to read Anne Bradstreet poems for all eternity in Hell.

                • Hogan

                  While I’m *an* asshole, I strongly maintain that I am not *the* asshole.

                • gmack

                  Since no one has mentioned them, I want to throw out Washington Irving and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. They both came of age before the 1840s and arguably both were more or less consciously writing something like a “national literature” (I’m no literary critic, but Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s ride seems pretty clearly in that genre). And to be more controversial, we might mention Crevecoeur, who was writing about what it meant to be an American in the 18th century.

                  In any case, while it is an interesting academic question to think about when an American national literature became defined as such, I don’t think such a question can help us answer why Hollywood has not found it interesting to depict the Revolutionary War very frequently.

          • Bill Murray

            Jonathan Edwards

            Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God seems to me neither a novel nor a poem

            • Errrrrr, I was more referring to his lyrical hymns, but suit yourself.

              • Bill Murray

                Steve Allen proved music isn’t poetry and then had a show where historical figures interacted, so historically lyrical hymns can’t count as poetry

                • The goal of poetry is to get you laid.

                  Jonathan Edwards wrote some of the most romantic hymns in history.

                  I’d say that qualifies him.

  • Anonymous

    Uh, the French and Indian war ENDED in 1763. It would be kind of hard for the Proclamation of 1763 to start a war that ended seven years earlier! In any event it ceased to be a source of conflict after 1768 when the boundary was pushed westward (as intended, it was meant to be a temporary line, not permanent).

  • Anonymous

    It’s cute to see people pretend that it’s still edgy and rebellious to subscribe to the Miserablist school of American history, though, as if it’s still 1968.

  • AcademicLurker

    I notice that if you look at the popular movies/TV series about the Napoleonic era, they mostly focus on the Navy. So I wonder if the “18th century (land) battles are just hard to film well” school of thought isn’t on to something.

    • Rob

      Weren’t there huge issues around the cost of Barry Lyndon despite having really cheap extras?

    • Anonymous

      They focus on the Navy in the english language films because thats where the British fought for the most part. This isn’t the case with continental movies/series.

      • ajay

        They focus on the Navy in the english language films because thats where the British fought for the most part. This isn’t the case with continental movies/series.

        Waterloo is about, well, Waterloo, and the very successful “Sharpe” series is set during the Peninsula war.

        As for the cost issue, I would imagine that filming something set on an sailing ship is also fairly costly?

        • Anonymous

          Good point, though the Sharpie series started as novels first.

        • dave

          Waterloo is a fantastic film, but I doubt you could get all those Red Army soldiers to work so cheap these days.

          • ajay

            North Koreans?

  • Simple Mind

    T’warent no films cause they taxed teh wiskey.

  • As someone who works in the film industry, I can attest that there are a number of practical hurdles to making a revolutionary war movie in addition to the narrative ones.

    First, they cost a lot to make. Movies set in WWII and onward are, as period pieces go, fairly easy to make because the materials and infrastructure still exist. That period is living memory. Many of the structures and machines involved in the period are still around to be used or modeled. Costume houses are full to the brim with Nazi and Allied uniforms etc. There are people alive who were there or accessible primary sources for research. This is not true, or at least not as true, of the Revolution.

    Something similar goes for the Civil War but is the result of the reenactment community. By the standards of movie making, it’s fairly easy to stage a civil war battle. There are tens of thousands of hobbyists, especially in the south, that are willing to play soldier, that don’t need to be costumed as extras, etc. Like WWII movies, there’s still a lot of production materials laying around, waiting to be used, for much the same reason. For a significant portion of the motion picture era, the Civil War was living memory. There is also, again, because there are so many people that fetishize that era of history, plenty of folks that will go to see a Civil War movie.

    Revolutionary war movies, on the other hand, cost a lot, even by the standards of multi-million dollar studio films. The costumes, which are substantially more intricate than their Civil War counterparts, the weapons, even the buildings have to be fabricated from scratch. You have to hire a team of historical advisors. You have to be very selective about, and thus pay a lot for, spot-on casting, etc.

    Second, Revolutionary War movies do not produce revenue commensurate with the expense of making them. I don’t care to speculate on why but the movie-going public just hasn’t been that interested in paying to see the founding fathers. The combination of disproportionately-expensive-to-make and questionable-return-on-investment, makes them a bad bet and this is the movie business, after all.*

    Should we make more Revolutionary War movies, almost certainly. It’s a seminal era in the history of the nation that deserves treatment in the public consciousness. Is a major studio, the only entity equipped to make such a project, going to risk a significant fraction of a billion dollars to make such a film, which will probably have to play fast and loose with history, that will probably be critically panned and that will probably loose money; it wouldn’t be a wise move.

    *I’ve some very particular thoughts on how most people misunderstand the American film industry. If anyone is interested: http://badassbard.blogspot.com/2009/05/movies-are-like-cars.html

    • Bill Murray

      I believe there is a fairly large Revolutionary War reenactment movement, but it is not as controversial as the Civil War movement

    • “Second, Revolutionary War movies do not produce revenue commensurate with the expense of making them. I don’t care to speculate on why but the movie-going public just hasn’t been that interested in paying to see the founding fathers. The combination of disproportionately-expensive-to-make and questionable-return-on-investment, makes them a bad bet and this is the movie business, after all.”

      Well, this is the key question. The costs of making the films I can understand. But why don’t people want to go see them? And why was this basically as true in 1925 and 1955 as 2011?

  • Alex

    First she notes how poorly 18th century battle scenes translate to modern movie screens and the expectations of audiences for big fight scenes. Perhaps that’s true, but then we’ve never had a lot of Revolutionary films, even in the silent era.

    Bondarchuk’s Waterloo and his Borodino from War and Peace were visually spectacular. Granted, there were no battles in the American Revolution quite on that scale, but there were several that were large enough to satisfy any appetite for large fights.

  • Mr. Upright

    World War II was good versus evil for all intents and purposes and maybe that’s why so much of the art around it is so mediocre.

    Maybe that’s why my favorite WWII film, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” is more of a quasi-documentary. The whole plan of splitting screenplay and production between Japanese and American crews removes most of the “Black Hat/White Hat” feel of most WWII films.

  • Woodrowfan

    Don’t forget Alan Alda’s “Sweet Liberty” from 1986! Well, OK, maybe we should forget it. Ugh.

    Or Disney’s “The Swamp Fox” from 1960 or so.. Leslie Nielson as a Revolutionary War hero!

  • A movie on John Paul Jones would sell the shit out of movie tickets. Most people don’t know his story, or that he has one of the most treasured graves in America today, but he is not only the father of the American Navy but a true pioneer in irregular warfare tactics in the era.

    John Paul Jones was the first American revolutionary widely known by name in England, much better known than that Washington fellow.

    • Lee

      There was a movie about John Paul Jones from 1959 starring Robert Stack. It was a okay but not great.

    • witless chum

      At least to people who run military focused blogs…..

      Actually, I agree you could make an awesome John Paul Jones film. It doesn’t seem like it should be as expensive, because they could get by with fewer sets? So long as you could find a good way to film shipboard scenes, without having to build Jones’ ships full-size.

      • witless chum

        And his constant conflicts with authorities would play well. So would his mutineer-shooting past.

    • Brett Turner

      John Paul Jones was the first American revolutionary widely known by name in England, much better known than that Washington fellow.

      The best known revolutionary military leader, perhaps. Benjamin Franklin was the public face of American in Britain and France for years before the outbreak of hostilities. His testimony in Parliament on the eve of the revolution would make a great movie scene.

      • There were a series of I think 4 TV movies about Franklin in the early 70s. One staring Eddie Albert of Green Acres fame. Pretty good if I recall correctly.

  • Larkspur

    Who has read any of Jill Lepore’s books? Oh lord, we need her to write a screenplay. There are lots of stories to be told, not all of which have to features casts of thousands and tricky battle scenes. But right now, we seemed to be stuck re-making movies based on movies based on TV shows.

  • Bill Murray

    I think Joseph Warren would make an excellent subject for a movie or miniseries. Warren was a physician and a high ranking member of the Sons of Liberty, the man who sent Revere and Dawes on their ride, then went and commanded units harassing the British on their way back to Boston and had his wig knocked off by a musket ball.

    He was appointed as Major General in time for Bunker Hill, but refused to take command from Putnam and Prescott who had much more battle command experience. Instead he served as a private and went to the area where fighting would be hardest. He stayed after he ran out of ammunition and kept up the morale so that moist of the militia could retreat. He was killed and his body mutilated. General Gage, leading the British in Boston, said Warren’s death was equal to the death of 500 men.

    He has 14 counties, 7 cities/towns, 29 townships and 5 ships named after him. He wrote the Suffolk Resolves, was named President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, helped write a major report on the Boston Massacre as he had performed an autopsy on one of those killed. Plus, his brother identifying his body (the British had mutilated his body beyond recognition) by dental work is possibly the first known case of forensic odontology.

    There have been a couple of new biographies lately, so I hope Warren may end up returning to his previous prominence among the Founding Fathers

    • Marek

      Seconded! Plus, too, Warren, Vermont is a fine place to live or visit.

    • VagueNihilist

      He has a fort named after him, too.
      http://home.comcast.net/~jay.schmidt/ft.warren/

      • Malaclypse

        That fort is one of the coolest things to see in Boston. It is deserted enough that you can go into most of it. Bring a flashlight if you go.

    • gmack

      Warren was a physician and a high ranking member of the Sons of Liberty, the man who sent Revere and Dawes on their ride

      I can’t believe you forgot Sam Prescott!

  • It’s hard to make good movies about big events that sweep across an entire land. Ken Burns’ didn’t make the Civil war movie, he made a miniseries.

    For one thing, who would you focus the story on? Washington? Possibly. Jefferson? hard to write an exciting film about a thinker. Franklin? Would make a great comedy to be sure. Adams?

    All of them accomplished and to put the focus on any of them is a slight to the rest. The Patriot for all its flaw and many of those were deep focused on how a man (representing the general populace, I suspect) became converted to the cause of independence, using the horrors of war as a backdrop.

    I’m trying to think of any war film that’s truly grabbed a scope of the breadth that is the Revolution. Patton comes awfully close, I think, and even focused on a major WW2 figure, but even that ignored the Pacific theater.

    Apart from Patton, most war films seem to be about isolated events that dramatize (and lionize, or at least mythologize) the people in the actual fight. Think about Platoon and how the typical American platoon in Vietnam is portrayed. You can practically transplant most of the characters as written into The Battle of the Bulge, The Longest Day or any number of Cinerama classics of the genre,

    • ajay

      For one thing, who would you focus the story on? Washington? Possibly. Jefferson? hard to write an exciting film about a thinker. Franklin?

      Franklin – or “Agent No. 79” as he was known to British naval intelligence – would be a fascinating one…

      • Funny you mention that. I was thinking, altho I missed posting, about the tension between Franklin and his son, the Royal Governor of New Jersey.

    • Marek

      “The Big Red (White and Blue) One”

      • Good point. Based on the screenwriter’s personal experiences, too.

  • I just wanted to say that I’m kind of glad there haven’t been more Revolutionary War movies, since our Revolutionary War mythology is basically a fairy tale, and it’s pretty much inevitable that the movies would be as well. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie that presents much of the fighting as being between American-born patriots and American-born loyalists (and that’d be the best movie fighting, too, ‘cause it was brutal in the way that neighbors with grudges against each other fighting usually is), with the French doing most of the dirty work against the British. And I wouldn’t mind a movie that presented the causes of the Revolution accurately, either. But I know Hollywood’s not going to give me such movies, so I’d just as soon do without.

  • richard

    Its because of George Washington. We simply don’t have a feel for the personality of George Washington. Our concept of him is distant, wooden, stiff, add your own synonym. Any Revolutionary War movie needs a place for him but he simply doesn’t translate into a living, breathing human being

    • Porn. We need a good porno about Ol’ GW….

      • VagueNihilist

        Martha: George… take out your wooden teeth!

    • Hogan

      What, this isn’t good enough for you?

      • mark f

        I love that video. It never gets old.

    • Hob

      Well, there’s the stoner version in Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon. Possibly not very historically accurate, but that would definitely get an audience’s attention– not to mention that the novel also features a superhuman robot duck.

  • Yeah, this sort of echoes a lot of other comments here, but maybe it’s just hard to portray terrorists sympathetically.

    • Reagan didn’t have a problem.

      • Bill Murray

        Well the Contras were the modern equivalent of our founding fathers

  • Jim Lynch

    That war remains too damn controversial, even for Americans. Hell, especially for Americans.

    To quote the historian Ralph B. Perry: “The history of American democracy is a gradual realization, too slow for some and too rapid for others, of the implications of the Declaration of Independence”.

    • brandon

      Yeah, from a mass-market perspective, you’re stuck with hagiography (too boring to sell tickets) or Last Temptation of Christ-level controversy (too risky to sell tickets). Who knows, maybe the French could do a film about it.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Even there, there’s controversy: the French aren’t sure themselves whether their support for the Colonists represents a self-destructive last gasp foreign adventure by an imploding ancien regime desperate to spite Britain, or a blind, half-conscious groping towards the whole liberté etc…. thingy of a decade later.

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  • Anderson

    The battles were certainly terrifying enough for those in them. Someone needs to depict Bunker Hill like the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan. Those musket balls could fuck up your face, man.

    • Bill Murray

      and this is where Joseph Warren’s story ends — These fellows say we won’t fight! By Heaven, I hope I shall die up to my knees in blood! Captain Laurie said he stuffed the scoundrel with another rebel into one hole, so that there he and his seditious principles may remain

    • Hob

      Some of the scariest scenes I’ve seen in a war movie are in Peter Watkins’ no-budget BBC film Culloden, set in 1746. The main battle is filmed very simply – he didn’t have a large cast, and all the cannons were really the same gun cleverly edited into different shots – but the fact that these guys are shooting at each other from relatively close range with basically no defenses on an open hillside makes it pretty intense, and so do the in-character interviews beforehand, which convey how confused and scared most of them are.

      • Douglas MacArthur

        I just saw this for the first time the other day. Its on the Netflix on demand! Really really good “war is stupid” movie.

        • Not MacArthur

          Please excuse the joke handle auto-placed from another thread.

  • Matt

    Came into this late, but I was surprised no one mentioned the 1917 movie “The Spirit of ’76”. The producer was prosecuted and convicted of making pro-German propaganda for the movie’s depiction of British atrocities. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_of_'76_(1917_film); There’s also a book called Robert Goldstein and the Spirit of ’76 which includes the producer’s account of events.

  • Larkspur

    But it [the Revolution] happened. That means there’s a story. Big story, little story, wide focus, narrow focus. People lived through it and did the best they could.

    Let’s try to think of something off-the-wall: what if you were going to make a movie about the SDS? It could be a weird sort of hagiography, or it could be a variation on The Exorcist. Or it could be a character study about a few people who made their decisions, and how it happened, and what they did, and what resulted.

    Or it could be based on a book like The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation.

    It’s a story. That’s what the movie – any movie – is about. It’s a fucking story about people and how they live their lives.

  • Pioneer director DW Griffith was interested in the Revolution. Before entering the movies, he wrote a one-act play set during the Revolution. He later wrote a full-length Revolutionary War play which was never produced.

    His Biograph crew spent time in Cuddebackville, NY, using the location for films set during the Revolution. In the 1920’s, he produced an epic called America, in an effort to recapture some of the magic, without so much racism, that he had made with Birth of a Nation. He obtained the cooperation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, whose members provided many costumes and artifacts, and the US Army, which provided soldiers. The movie had some historical tableaux which were acclaimed for being accurate, but the story was preposterous. The film did not make a profit.

    The hero was played by Neil Hamilton, who, 40 years later, played Commissioner Gordon on the Batman TV series. The leading lady was played by Griffith’s mistress, Carol Dempster. Lionel Barrymore was the bad guy, a real person, Captain Walter Butler, who led the Cherry Valley Massacre.

  • TGP

    Most of these comments seem to take it for granted that the movie should be accurate and be about the leaders of the revolution. I think what the patriot got right was focusing on someone just outside the leadership. You could make a great movie about a young guy who goes off to fight for his ideals and experiences the horror of war. follow him through the conflict. you could throw in a love interest who is either a british loyalist or superior officers daughter. the war acts as more of a setting for the characters than the purpose of the movie itself.

    if you wanted to make it about the leaders JPJ would work and its not like they havent figured out how to make naval movies work.

    with the right director and writer it could be great and people would go see it. as soon as the first one works then we can do sequels. if there is anything hollywood loves its a sequel.

  • wkwillis

    The Revolutionary war was fought by young, poor, and often Black people. No shit.
    Oh yeah, half of the casualties were at sea.

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