Entry 39: When Jesse Met Maria

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Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. Directed by William Beaudine. Written by Carl K. Hittleman.

Release Date: April 10, 1866.

Available here.

It’s Halloween! There isn’t a lot of Civil War horror stuff (unless you count Gods and Generals! Zing!), but there is this little gem about one of Reconstruction’s most enduring figures, Jesse James. He played a big, sorta weird role in my childhood (more on that in a future post), so I’ve always known about this bizarre movie but never sought it out. Imagine my surprise when I found the whole thing on YouTube. Even more amazing, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter exceeded even my lowest expectations. But even in this campy Ed Wood-esque nightmare, there are still interesting elements of Civil War memory and James’s controversial legacy.

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Entry 37: Jimmy Stewart and the Cruel War

Shenandoah. Directed by Andrew W. McLaglen. Written by James Lee Barrett.

Release Date: June 3, 1965.

I’ve been busy, busy, busy, so it took me a lot longer to get around to watching Shenandoah than I’d originally planned. My inspiration for watching it was Kevin Levin’s review of Free State of Jones. Arguing for Jones‘s originality, he says:

Even Shenandoah, released in 1965 and starring Jimmy Stewart as Charlie Anderson (the head of a family that includes four strapping young men who somehow evade the draft), fails to turn against the Confederacy. By the end of the film, the loss of his children and the destruction of his farm leaves Anderson confused and disillusioned about the futility of all wars.

Mostly unfamiliar with the film, I decided to watch it and test my own impressions against Levin’s. What I found was that Shenandoah is more anti-Confederate than Levin thinks it is, but hedges its bets by making war itself the true enemy.

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Entry 29: Lost Causing It in the Fifth Dimension

The Twilight Zone. “Still Valley,” Season 3, Episode 11. Directed by James Sheldon. Written by Rod Serling and Manly Wade Wellman.

Release Date: November 24, 1961.

Now that Mercy Street is over, I thought we could use a palate cleanser, and what better way than with a guest post by prolific historian, editor, and blogger Matthew C. Hulbert. Matt has a book coming out in the fall that’s right up my alley, The Ghosts of Guerrilla Memory: How Civil War Bushwhackers  Became Gunslingers in the American West, but he’s also a Twilight Zone fan. So, we decided to do a post on the series’s most famous Civil War episode, “Still Valley.” It’s a great piece and I’m always happy to feature other scholars on this blog. Enjoy! Read More

Entry 1: Granny vs. Grant

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The Beverly Hillbillies, “The South Rises Again,” Season 6, Episode 13. Directed by Joseph Depew. Written by Paul Henning and Buddy Atkinson.

Release Date: November 29, 1967.

Some of you may think The Beverly Hillbillies is a strange choice for my first review, but it makes perfect sense to me. Watching this episode in afternoon syndication is one of my first memories of the Civil War in popular culture. Critics generally think Season 6 is when The Beverly Hillbillies “jumped the shark” because it began with a woeful multi-episode trip to England, but it does contain this gem. I call it a gem because most of the jokes are still funny. What’s more, they’re Civil War jokes—and Civil War jokes (at least good Civil War jokes) are not easy to find. Read More