Something for the weekend. The Ballad of the Alamo from the Alamo (1960), John Wayne’s love note to America. The film was scored by Dimitri Tiomkin, one of the true masters of film music. Here is his haunting Deguello from the same film: (more…)
Thermopylae had her messenger of defeat, but the Alamo had none.
Thomas Jefferson Green
The heroic last stand at Thermopylae of the 300 Spartans under King Leonidas, along with a few thousand other Greek hoplites in 490 BC, has long fascinated Americans. Fighting to the last for freedom has served to inspire Americans in times of war. The recent movie 300, although I greatly enjoyed portions of it, especially the final speech which may be viewed here, was more a comic book brought to the screen, Mark Miller’s graphic novel, rather than any attempt to be historically accurate. Perhaps the finest living expect on classical Greek warfare Victor Davis Hanson points out just a few of the inaccuracies in the film:
300, of course, makes plenty of allowance for popular tastes, changing and expanding the story to meet the protocols of the comic book genre. The film was not shot on location outdoors, but in a studio using the so-called “digital backlot” technique of sometimes placing the actors against blue screens. The resulting realism is not that of the sun-soaked cliffs above the blue Aegean — Thermopylae remains spectacularly beautiful today — but of the eerie etchings of the comic book.
The Spartans fight bare-chested without armor, in the “heroic nude” manner that ancient Greek vase-painters portrayed Greek hoplites, their muscles bulging as if they were contemporary comic book action heroes. Again, following the Miller comic, artistic license is made with the original story — the traitor Ephialtes is as deformed in body as he is in character; King Xerxes is not bearded and perched on a distant throne, but bald, huge, perhaps sexually ambiguous, and often right on the battlefield. The Persians bring with them exotic beasts like a rhinoceros and elephant, and the leader of the Immortals fights Leonidas in a duel (which the Greeks knew as monomachia). Shields are metal rather than wood with bronze veneers, and swords sometimes look futuristic rather than ancient. (more…)
“Thermopylae had her messenger of defeat, but the Alamo had none.”
My post yesterday which featured a You Are There video clip about the Alamo, reminded me about that battle, the American Thermopylae. I have always been deeply moved by the letter of Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis asking for aid from “all Americans in the world”: (more…)
From 1947-1950 CBS broadcast on radio an educational show called You Are There which would be a newscast reporting on a historical event. The series was revived for Television from 1953-1957 and briefly in 1971-72. The video at the beginning of this post is from an episode of the 71-72 revival. Walter Cronkite hosted the show in both the Fifties and the Seventies.