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Actor Against Actor

June 2024
1min read

Ten Greatest Anything lists are always subjective, but I take issue with a few points in Bruce Chadwick’s article, which asks, “What are the 10 greatest movies ever about the Civil War?” (“Actor Against Actor,” August/September 2004). While No. 1, Glory, is a fine film, it is certainly not on a list of anyone’s greatest movies in film history, unlike No. 2, Gone With the Wind . It seems a little harsh to punish GWTW with a second-place position for glossing over the slavery issue when the rest of the film is so iconic and legendary, particularly as Chadwick himself lists as his criteria “entertainment value, commercial and critical success upon release, sustained popularity over the years, and . . . sense of history and ability to evoke deep stirrings about the American past. ” What American film of any period that exceeds GWTW in those particular areas (only The Godfather , I believe, comes close).

Also, while Roots is a landmark and a beloved TV miniseries, I think it is a stretch to call it a Civil War movie: It is not a movie, and very little of it involves the Civil War. However, I applaud his choices of The General and especially of Friendly Persuasion , an all-too-forgotten William Wyler film that is more thought-provoking than preachy.

There is one glaring omission from his list. John Huston’s great (though short) film version of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage , starring Audie Murphy, is still one of the finest depictions of battle onscreen. It has aged well, is beautifully photographed and filmed, and has never gotten the attention it deserves.

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