Friday, December 3, 2010

Glory (1989)

Every time I watch this film, I come away just a bit more impressed with it--and it is already one of my favorite films.  I don't really like to use feature films as part of instruction because there are so few of them that are both reasonably accurate and where it is a good use of the time--but Glory is the only feature film that I am willing to use for a U.S. History class (so far).

This film does so much in 122 minutes: conveys the brutality of war; the complex and often ugly nature of race relations in the Union; how men confronting death prepare themselves in prayer; how, in the words of Morgan Freeman's character, the time had come to "ante up and kick in like men" -- and how bearing arms in military service was part of full citizenship for black Americans.  For those seeking a more intellectual discussion, read Bernard C. Nalty's Strength For the Fight.

I don't know how many times I have seen Glory--but I still find myself with a lump in my throat as Col. Gould lets go of his horse, knowing that he is almost certainly going to die, and leads the 54th Massachusetts into battle along the beach towards Fort Wagner.

UPDATE: I was wondering why the copyright holder had allowed this to be uploaded to YouTube. The answer is: they didn't! Hence when you go there now, you get nothing but an announcement that it is down.


  1. When Glory came out I went to see it on the first night with some wargaming buddies.

    There were some marketing drobes running a survey in the lobby.
    "Why did you choose to see this movie?
    a) Matthew Broderick fan
    c) ... [similar reasons]
    d) other"

    Answer: "Because I've known about Col. Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts for 25 years."

    "...bearing arms in military service was part of full citizenship for black Americans.?

    "Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters US, let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States."

    -- Frederick Douglass, speech, "Should the Negro Enlist in the Union Army?" July 1863.

  2. What do you think of the 1776 movie (Musical)? Seems to be fairly historical, though the musical numbers are probably a waste of classroom time.

  3. It has been a long time since I watched 1776--and I knew a lot less about American history at the time.

    I'm afraid that the musical, like its ancestor, the opera, has always struck me as a pretty contrived art form, removed from real life. Some combinations of topic and that art form are just too weird to take seriously. You may recall my comments about the slasher musical, Repossessed.

  4. I try and watch it every couple of years - it used to be a christmas tradition with my mother to watch it. The musical is a fairly contrived art form, I got no argument there. But I understand that this one is reasonably accurate as well as being a decent piecee of entertainment. Plus the songs themseslves are pretty catchy - though if you know any period slang you have to wonder how it got a G rating!

    (Every named character is a historically-attested character, I believe)