Shenandoah (1965)

  • Mark it down, y’all – this is James Stewart movie #39 for me.
  • This film was released 100 years after the end of the Civil War – the centennial “celebration” (maybe that’s not the right word, but you know what I mean) of which sparked a renewed interest in the war & all its historical relevancies. Hollywood was like, ‘Hell, yeah! We’ll get on that bandwagon!’ and thus, SHENANDOAH was born.
  • Directed by Andrew McLaglen – son of Victor McLaglen (GUNGA DIN (1939), THE UNHOLY THREE (1925), FORT APACHE (1948), etc., etc.). Fun!
  • Katharine Ross’s big-screen debut.
  • Have I mentioned lately how much I dislike the oversaturated color quality that’s present in movies from the ’60s?

Ugh.

  • Oh hey! It’s Phillip Alford (Jem, from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962))!
  • The opening scene around the dinner table does a lot to establish the dynamic of the Anderson family. High quality.
  • Here’s the set up of this movie: Charlie Anderson (James Stewart) is a widowed Virginian farmer with a shit-ton of children, and he wants all of them to ignore the Civil War, which is being waged closer & closer to their home every day. He has no slaves, wants no slaves, and thus thinks the battles being fought are of no concern to him or his family, whatsoever.
  • Ha – Sam (Doug McClure) is smitten with Jennie (the one Anderson daughter, played by Rosemary Forsyth), and there’s this great shot of him coming to talk to her after a church service. He approaches her carriage/wagon & starts speaking, but then glances to the side…and the camera shifts to his perspective, revealing a row of 5 Anderson brothers, all mounted on horseback, staring him down. It’s pretty fantastic.
  • “My corn I take serious because it’s my corn. And my potatoes and my tomatoes and my fences I take note of because they’re mine. But this war is not mine, and I take no note of it.” –Feisty Farmer Stewart
  • Some Confederate townspeople come to “confiscate” some of the Andersons’ horses, and the fist fight that ensues – between the townsmen & all of the Anderson boys – is more cheesy than it should be. (The background music is too lighthearted & slapsticky…if that makes sense. I wish it was more reverent, considering the movie’s context.)
  • Alright, Jennie the Daughter is a badass. She halts the aforementioned brawl in its tracks by coming out of the house with a rifle, deliberately shooting past the action, and saying, in a completely steady & commanding tone – “I’m not in the habit of making promises to strangers, mister, but you have my word on it – if you and these other animals don’t get off this farm, this minute, I’m gonna shoot you stone dead.”
  • Oh, groan – this movie just took an awesome Female Power! scene and ruined the mood by following it with a scene in which Feisty Farmer Stewart gives his soon-to-be son-in-law marriage advice. He tells him that if Jennie starts to cry one day, and won’t tell him the reason, he shouldn’t get mad at her. “Don’t get angry, Sam – she won’t tell you why she’s crying…because she doesn’t know. Women are like that.”

Yeahhh…if a woman is crying, don’t ask too many questions, because she probably has no answers for you – her woman brain is just too brittle to handle this thing called life.

“It’s exasperating…but don’t let it make you angry. When she gets like that, just walk up and hug her a little bit – ’cause that’s all they really want, when they’re like that.”

Oh, Jesus.

  • Well, this development blows. Sam & Jennie get hitched – and immediately following the ceremony, a Confederate messenger comes & gets Sam from the church, saying he has to report for duty, effective now. Sad times for the newlyweds.
  • Nooooo! The Boy (Alford) & his (African-American) friend Gabriel (Gene Jackson) were out huntin’ them some coons…when they got sneaked up on by some Union soldiers who – because of The Boy’s hat, a Rebel one he found in the creek – think he’s a Confederate soldier, & take him prisoner!
  • “Now it concerns us!” says Feisty Farmer Stewart. And off they go to find The Boy.
  • But! Not before Jennie the Badass is like, ‘I’m coming with you.’ Feisty Farmer Stewart is like, ‘Uh, hell no you’re not! You’re a woman!’ And Jennie says (this is a real quote): “Yes, I’m a woman. But I don’t see anybody here that I can’t outrun, outride, and outshoot.”

Fuck. Yes.

  • Woof. When the Gang of Andersons goes to the Union Army camp & Papa Charlie speaks to the officer in charge (George Kennedy, in a super brief but great scene) – that last look James Stewart gives the officer…he’s got tears in his eyes, and it’s a pretty damn fabulous piece of acting.
  • Stewart is similarly phenomenal in the scene that follows shortly thereafter – in which he holds up the train of Rebel prisoners to search for The Boy. Whoever costumed him for this scene needs a gold star – the grey hat, with the dark grey-ish blue coat accented with the fur collar & the red scarf underneath – that look is perfection.
  • Oh my goodness. The Boy wasn’t on the train…

…but Sam was!!!

  • Meanwhile, The Boy escapes from his temporary prison, alongside a handful of real Rebel soldiers.
  • I really like the scene where – before the skirmish between the Union troops & the band of soldiers The Boy has teamed up with begins – a loose cow wanders between the lines, and there’s this moment of calm, where no one is fighting & both sides are laughing at the cow. Fantastic idea that’s very well-executed.
  • Shortly after this, Gabriel (now a Union soldier) comes across a wounded Boy on the battlefield, and carries him to safety. It’s a totally unrealistic scenario – but a totally weepy moment, nonetheless.
  • Oh nooooo! Some evils just came to the farm & killed James (Patrick Wayne) & Ann (Ross), who’d stayed behind to take care of their newborn!

This is the saddest!

  • Nooooooo! The Anderson Gang got ambushed on their way home & Jacob got shot. The Andersons are dropping like flies, and I dislike it immensely!
  • The scene towards the end, of James Stewart at the grave of Martha (his wife) – and now James, Ann, & Jacob – is stellar.
  • Phillip Alford does a fabulous job in this – although the very last scene, with him limping into the church service, is kind of silly. (If he’s been captured, escaped, wounded, and traveling day & night for God knows how long – there’s no way he has the sense to realize it’s Sunday morning & that instead of heading to the farm, he should head to the church. But…you know…whatever. Movie magic. I’ll allow it, just this once.
  • This was a pretty decent movie – it reminded me a lot of FRIENDLY PERSUASION (1956), Gary Cooper’s “pacifist living in the midst of the Civil War” movie.
  • James Stewart absolutely killed it in his part – the role was perfect for him, in a not-quite-cookie-cutter sort of way.

What a goddamn pro, you guys.

What a goddamn pro.

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