Class Notes

When looking at Hollywood, the 1960s became a real turning point when interpreting the Civil War and this is no more so evident with the 1965 Jimmy Stewart classic Shenandoah. A lot had changed by 1965, it was the last year of the Civil War Centennial that was celebrated across the nation forcing the country to ask questions about the war. It was in the height of the Civil Rights movement, but mostly by 1965 Americans were beginning to pay attention to the Vietnam War. The movie is about a widower named Mr. Anderson who lived with his adult children on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley during the war. Mr. Anderson is an independent man who did not believe he owed anyone anything. This is especially seen in his daily prayer for dinner, “Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat, amen.” As for the main points of the Lost Cause Myth, this movie greatly changed from past ones. When Confederates tried to get him to join, he refused saying he never owned a slave so why would he fight to protect them. As for slaves being loyal to the south, when the young slave is told he can leave his owner he is excited to finally be free and leaves. They do not address why the South lost, but they do address the idea of honor. More than anything else this movie questions the war in general. Neither the north or south is right, and both are hurt by it. War seems to be the enemy in this film not either side.

I do not want to give too much away from this film, not only is it perfect for this class, but it is also a great movie that I recommend to anyone. If you do, think about what this movie tells you about war and this war in general, it will change the way you watch it.

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