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The Birth Of A Nation

June 2024
1min read

Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot

directed by George Seaton, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, distributed by BARR Entertainment, 36 mins., $24.95 . CODE: BAR-1

The Story of a Patriot was made in 1957 as a sort of primer for tourists at the newly restored Colonial Williamsburg. It has been shown at the visitors’ center ever since. There’s a reason the foundation hasn’t seen fit to update the program. The half-hour film holds up remarkably well, thanks to a clever screenplay, good production quality, and a lead performance by Jack Lord, who went on to star as Detective Steve McGarrett in “Hawaii Five-0.”

The story is told through the eyes of John Fry, a fictional Virginia planter who has just been elected to the House of Burgesses. The action begins when he first travels to Williamsburg in 1769, just after the British have inflicted new taxes on the colonies in the form of the Townshend duties. Fry witnesses debates in the House and discussions in the taverns, at nearby plantation homes, and in back-room meetings with Thomas Jefferson. In the process the viewer is essentially taken on a tour of Colonial Williamsburg and given a full history lesson about the speech, mannerisms, and styles of the time, and the convincing scenes of Patrick Henry’s orations give a good idea of the issues that motivated the fledgling nation. By the film’s end Fry’s loyalty to England has been overwhelmed by his loyalty to the other colonies, and he supports a crucial vote for American independence. It’s fairly corny stuff, but in the last scene, when the American flag is raised over the Williamsburg Capitol, it’s truly affecting.

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