From yesterday's Freep:
A Civil War-era family drama titled "War Flowers" will be the first feature-length film produced by Allen Park's Unity Studios. The film's cast includes Christina Ricci, Jason Gedrick ("Backdraft") and Tom Berenger ("Platoon" and "Major League").
It's being filmed on the studios' sound stages and other locations around southeast Michigan.
Graduates from the studio's affiliated school, Lifton Institute for Media Skills, are working on the crew.
Turner Classic Movies features Glory tonite at 8:00 pm EDT as part of a Denzel Washington slate of films. The TCM website says this:
Glory received widespread critical praise upon release with Variety proclaiming that it "has the sweep and magnificence of a Tolstoy battle tale or a John Ford saga of American history." Vincent Canby, The New York Times film critic, concurred, writing "Glory is the first serious American movie about the Civil War to be made in years. There haven't been that many anyway - D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915), Buster Keaton's The General (1927), David O. Selznick's Gone with the Wind (1939) and John Huston's The Red Badge of Courage (1951). Almost everything else has been balderdash...Although Glory employs the devices of fiction and sometimes is as brightly colored as a recruiting poster, it seems as severe as a documentary alongside those earlier films...Glory is celebratory, but it celebrates in a manner that insists on acknowledging the sorrow. This is a good, moving, complicated film." In addition to Denzel Washington's Best Supporting Actor Oscar®, Glory was nominated for four other Academy Awards including Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Cinematography (by Freddie Francis); it won in the latter two categories.
Don't know why the Best Sound Oscar, but Best Cinematography? -- definitely! Hard to believe it was released two decades ago.
P.S. @ It's been awhile since I had seen the movie, so the emotion I felt watching it begin just now was surprising. Robert Osborne's introduction was informative, then the Tri-Star pictures intro, then...the spine-tingling overture as the words about Shaw and his letters appear...including a curious reference to his papers being at Harvard, what other movie opens with such an academic item?...and the quotations from a letter about African-Americans...and Union artillery racing down a road, after which the infantry steps into formation...and then Antietam, terrible Antietam, with shot and shell and carnage...and the face of Morgan Freeman appearing...and...the field hospital scene that cuts suddenly into Shaw's Boston drawing room (reminiscent of The Deerhunter) and the appearance of Frederick Douglass... The first 10 minutes might just be the most awful and awesome in motion picture history. I don't know if I can stand to watch the rest tonite.
Today's Freep has an item on why no final piece in the Shaara Trilogy, as reported elsewhere. Gary Gallagher has a new book out on the War and the movies. Steven Spielberg says he will start on Lincoln next year coincident with the Bicentennial. All that, plus recent comments here, leads me to noodle a list of good-to-great Hollywood efforts (ranked by memory, not quality, and I'm too lazy to alpha). Note how most actors rank pretty high in the pantheon.
Major Dundee (Charlton Heston)
Dark Command (John Wayne)
Red Badge of Courage (Audie Murphy)
Glory (Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman)
Cold Mountain (Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellwegger)
Gettysburg (Martin Sheen, Jeff Daniels)
Gods and Generals (Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels)
Santa Fe Trail (Errol Flynn, Raymond Massey, Olivia deHaviland)
Abe Lincoln in Illinois (Raymond Massey)
Young Mr. Lincoln (Henry Fonda)
Gone With The Wind (Clark Gable)
Shenandoah (Jimmy Stewart)
Friendly Persuasion (Gary Cooper)
The Horse Soldiers (John Wayne, William Holden)
Virginia City (Errol Flynn)
They Died With Their Boots On (Errol Flynn, Olivia DeHaviland)
The Tall Target (Dick Powell)
I have favorites but those with Michiganders Daniels and Heston are at the top (naturally).
See this flick recently on AMC? I found it one morning on our recent trip and tried it, but couldn't stand the commercial interruptions. So hope that TCM, my favorite TV channel--"uncut, uninterrupted, and commercial-free"--will one day. Hadn't seen it before and, like many things in my Civil War experience, stumbled across it by accident. What a fabulous cast!
From TCM comes this summary: "Set in the years leading up to the Civil War and its outbreak, Dark Command tells a fictionalized version of the story of William Clarke Quantrill, the schoolteacher-turned-renegade, whose raids -- ostensibly on behalf of the Confederacy -- turned Kansas into a charnel house. John Wayne plays Bob Setton, a young Texan who arrives in Lawrence, KS, in 1859 on his way west, partnered with George "Gabby" Hayes. He meets Marie McCloud (Claire Trevor) and her younger brother, Fletch (Roy Rogers), and takes a liking to them, especially Marie. His only competition for her is William Cantrell (Walter Pidgeon), the local schoolteacher, who has big ambitions in life. He is nominated for town marshal and seems a shoo-in, especially as his only rival is Bob Setton, who admits he knows nothing about the law and can't even read, but Setton wins with his honest, unpretentious speech. At the time, Kansas is riven by strife, as settlers from the North opposed to slavery and those from the South supporting it pour into the territory, and Setton has his hands full. His most difficult personal moment comes when he must arrest Fletch for shooting an anti-slavery farmer (Trevor Bardette) to death. Cantrell leads a campaign of terror against the jury, however, which finds the young man not guilty just as the Civil War breaks out. In the months that follow, Setton and his posse go after the raiders who are stealing and destroying huge amounts of property in Kansas on behalf of the Confederacy. He suspects Cantrell is their leader, but can't prove it, and has to tread carefully. As the raids worsen, and the war drags on -- even Marie's pro-Confederacy banker father is murdered during a run on his bank -- their conflict comes to a violent end as Cantrell launches an attack on Lawrence, vowing to destroy the town, with only Bob Setton and Cantrell's own mother (Marjorie Main) standing in his way."
For an article on the import of the movie, see TCM.
Well, I have to agree a bit with Mr. Lema's comment. There are parts of Major Dundee I liked, and very much. And some I didn't. I thought the North-South antagonism portrayal rang true, and I liked the simultaneous singing of Dixie and Battle Hymn. I thought Dundee's bitterness at being exiled to New Mexico when the big war was still raging to be realistic. And I found some of the cinematography to be first rate, such as when the troopers on horses rush into the fort (near the opening of the movie) and the camera is almost at knee-level -- powerful perspective.
Still, I think Mr. Heston's regret at not making the definitive first true Civil War movie had foundation. It ain't that; it ain't no Glory.
Charlton Heston died last Saturday. He had firm Michigan roots:
"It was all a long way from Evanston, Ill., where John Charles Carter was born on Oct. 4, 1923, and from the small town of St. Helen, Mich., where his family moved when he was a small boy and where his father ran a lumber mill. He attended a one-room school and learned to fish and hunt and to savor the feeling of being self-reliant in the wild, where his shyness was no handicap." -- NY Times.
After his parents divorced in the 1930s, he ended up back in Illinois. Other family stayed in St. Helen and owned extensive acreage near the famed Au Sable River. Michigan was in his blood; he "once described himself as a 'born-in-the-blood Michigander'" [Freep].
Tonite, Turner Classic Movies is airing Major Dundee at 10:00 pm EDT. The film never interested me, given its theme seemed more western than Civil War. But reading more about the plot, and Heston's dream for the movie -- "The actor also addressed the film's troubled production and numerous on-set conflicts: 'One of the most crucial, though none of us realized it at the time, was that Columbia, Sam and I all really had different pictures in mind. Columbia, reasonably enough, wanted a cavalry/Indians film as much like Jack Ford's best as possible. I wanted to be the first to make a film that really explored the Civil War. Sam, though he never said anything like this, really wanted to make The Wild Bunch.'" from TCM -- and the supporting cast (Richard Harris, Jim Hutton, James Coburn, Senta Berger, Warren Oates, Brock Peters, Slim Pickens, Ben Johnson), and recalling his Michigan roots now that he's gone, well, I'll have to record it or tune in tonite.