April 14, 2004
While The Alamo fades like a sinking spruce goose, the new HBO series Deadwood is lighting up the Western sky like a flock of tomahawks over Baghdad. (sorry for the mangled similes)
Ironically, the latest Alamo reviews by the faithful (read that history nuts like me) are for the most part quite positive. Here’s one I got this morning:
“My husband and I saw The Alamo yesterday and thought it was very good. One major weakness that we both noticed was the failure to properly introduce the characters, leaving the viewer guessing for a while. I thought that Billy Bob was mesmerizing as Crockett, Quaid and the actor playing Bowie were just ok, and Travis was weak. I had no trouble substituting Thornton for the Duke (and I'm a big John Wayne fan) but I kept wishing for Laurence Harvey as Travis and Russell Crowe as Houston.
“After researching early Texas history for six years for my book Gholson Road: Revolutionaries and Texas Rangers, I am pretty familiar with the Texas Revolution, but if I hadn't been, I think a lot of the movie would have been lost on me. I don't agree that the movie was slow after the battle of the Alamo. I thought it became more interesting after the battle, as did my husband, and I am very glad that it included the battle of San Jacinto. Other movies that end with the Alamo leave us to believe that the Texians lost the war.
“I also wish they could have included the other battles, such as the earlier battles of Concepcion, San Antonio and Gonzales, rather than spending time on sleeping and watching Bowie cough and spit. They made reference to Fannin, but never said that he and his troops were massacred, unless I missed that. They made only the tiniest reference to the scout Deaf Smith (properly pronuncing it Deef), who was a very important figure in the Battle of San Jacinto. The depiction of the Runaway Scrape was good. If I were directing, I would spend less time on sleeping and sitting around and include the other battles, and give it another name to reflect the entire Texas fight for independence. It did seem to be historically accurate, to the best of my knowledge.”
—Donna Gholson Cook
Meanwhile, here’s some of the better internet postings on Deadwood and the cussing debate:
"The appeal of Deadwood is its unsentimental depiction of the Old West. The tale of the white settler as bringer of civilization's light to the dark and savage land west of the Mississippi is one of our culture's most cherished myths, one we cling to a half-century after we should know better. Deadwood shoots that fairy tale right between the eyes. Its the anti-'Bonanza,' a Western for a nation too world-weary and sad to believe any of that Roy Rogers, John Wayne, manifest destiny crap.It's also the sort of revisionist history that feels spot-on in an era when many are doubting the nation's good-guy status."
—Leanne Potts, Albuquerque Journal, April 9, 2004
A writer named Stewart Edward White confirms our suspicions about Western potty mouths, when he commented in 1904: "to observe the riot of imagination turned loose with the bridle off, you must assist at a burst of anger on the part of one of these men. It is most unprintable, but you will get an entirely new idea of what profanity means. Also you will come to the conclusion that you, with your trifling damns, and the like, have been a very good boy indeed. The remotest, most obscure and unheard-of conceptions are dragged forth from earth, heaven, and hell, and linked together in a sequence so original, so gaudy and so utterly blasphemous that you gasp and are stricken with the most devoted admiration. It is Genius. Of course I can give you no idea here of what these truly magnificent oaths are like. It is a pity, for it could liberalize your education.”
And this just in from my neck of the woods:
“We are all aware of Calamity Jane's infamous aptitude when it came to profanity, but do we know what she was actually saying? I guess I ultimately find it amusing and slightly sad that it takes a woman covered in dirt swearing like a sailor in a Western to generate discussion, while feeding dead gunslingers to pigs and various other violent acts go unmentioned in most people's comments. If nothing else, this series is sure to raise issues of authenticity and a host of questions from students who will see the show. I can't help but wonder if this is a Western historian's worst nightmare, or an overdue and wonderful opportunity?”
—Bradley Gills, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Arizona State University
Please allow me to answer your question Bradley: IT IS A GOD-DAMN GODSEND!
And how’s this for a future plot twist on the show?:
“Do you know if in the second season of Deadwood whether or not Wyatt Earp and a brother [Morgan] will make an appearance? I'm sure you know that he arrived in ‘76 and spent the winter skidding in firewood as he had one of the few horses up in the hills (feed was a big problem ). Maybe you can plant the idea with some of your connections. Everything up here has Hickok's name on it but the funny thing is Wyatt was here more than three times as long.”
Yes, Wyatt Earp and Seth Bullock joining forces is a natural plot device. I haven’t heard anything as of yet, but I have a hunch they are going to be all over it (especially after reading it here). Ha.
We’ve got a new poll up. Do you think the Civil War caused Frank and Jesse James to become outlaws? You can click right here and vote.
“Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful or to discover something that is true.
—William Ralph Inge
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