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June 28, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
In honor of Independence day, we asked Jeff Pasley, associate professor of history at MU, to settle some historical questions and pick out five movies that accurately portray the American Revolution. The screenwriters for these films clearly paid attention in history class.
Although the casting of suave Cary Grant as a frontiersman might have been a little off, Pasley says, the flick shows family and friendship conflicts brought on by war. “That’s one that if you can stand an old black-and-white movie, then it conveys the way the Revolution divided people at the time,” Pasley says. “It’s like Gone with the Wind of the Revolution, but without Scarlett O’Hara.”
This film introduces some ideas that aren’t historically documented, such as Thomas Jefferson’s sexual frustration and his difficulty scribing the all-important Declaration. But despite the singing and dancing, Pasley says, “It’s pretty good about getting the sense of the confusion they had and the challenges they faced, including funding the war and the fear everyone had of taking the step of independence.”
The Adams Chronicles and John Adams (1976 and 2008)
Neither production gives a perfect account of the Adams family, but they clarify a few details. “You do have to endure some almost-love scenes, but I don’t think they ever get down below their undergarments,” Pasley says about John Adams. For a family that governed the nation for two generations, the Adams have quite a personal history in addition to its political contributions.
Mary Silliman's War (1992)
Mary Silliman’s War doesn’t just show the explosives-heavy battles of the Revolutionary War; it also properly portrays the political struggle of the time. Pasley notes the realism in the Sillimans’ marriage, its formality between husband and wife, and how Mary worked to get her prisoner-husband back. “It sort of concentrates on parts of the Revolution that no one really knows about,” he says.