Monday, July 20, 2009

Looking at the Lost Cause

The Birth of a Nation, based on Rev. Dixon's The Klansman, was screened in Woodrow Wilson's White House, making The Lost Cause into Hollywood material. Other films followed, with arguably the most memorable being Gone With the Wind. Even Disney's Song of the South perpetuated many of the same myths with Uncle Remus presented as a revisionist version of Uncle Tom. But, there were many other movies, including a more direct version version of Dixon's The Klansman with Lee Marvin, Richard Burton and O.J. Simpson, among others.

However, one of my favorite movies is Ross McElwee's Sherman's March, in which he casts a sardonic eye on The Lost Cause, charting his own growth in the South as he follows the wake left by Sherman's March to the Sea with a number of fascinating images and observations along the way.

9 comments:

  1. I may try to watch that, Gintaras, since it's available on netflix online movies. There's also another documentary on the march listed there, too. I never in a million years thought I'd be interested in the civil war, but stranger things have happened I suppose.

    I have to admit I remember Song of the South fondly, and wish I could see it again -- but then growing up in the West I wasn't exposed to the history the story is based on and really never had much concept of race (even to this day to be honest). I suppose even as an artifact it's too controversial to show now.

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  2. It doesn't have much to do with the Civil War. Sherman's March is primarily a personal story, but he makes a lot of interesting comments on the South and captures some indelible images along the way.

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  3. All the better (I read the synopsis at Netflix -- sounds perfect).

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  4. "....screened in Woodrow Wilson's White House..."

    I think I mentioned this earlier, but in the version I watched, Wilson talks about the story as sort of an expert witness, since he was both the President and a historian. In the interview, he confirms that the Birth of a Nation reflects the "way it was" in the South.

    One of the books I've been reading on the side since it's in my car and been handy is a history of Wilson's early years as a student and the president of Princeton. It's always hard to reconcile the "liberal" agenda for peace to end all peace with his support of the reign of terror that is reflected in that movie.

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  5. Makes you wonder if Wilson was as committed as he claimed to be to a League of Nations. Of course, Congress gave him a convenient out by not ratifying the Versailles Treaty.

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  6. I think it's his deep-seated racism that overlays any other more liberal agenda.

    I haven't read much in the bio -- I just sort of pick it up as I can -- but I'm assuming that some of that will come out (although this biographer is certainly a Wilson fan).

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  7. I haven't read much on Wilson either, but I do have The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt,

    http://www.amazon.com/Warrior-Priest-Woodrow-Theodore-Roosevelt/dp/0674947517/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1248100468&sr=1-18

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  8. Here's an unflattering article on Wilson,

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/33906.html

    referring to him as a Jim Crow President because of the segregationist policies he brought to the White House, and also noting his active promotion of Birth of a Nation.

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  9. Thanks for that link. Interesting, and exactly how I think of Wilson.

    I also have the Wilson/Roosevelt book as part of my Robert Whelan bookshelf. I wish it weren't so big or I'd try that one next. Its size is sort of off putting right now.

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