We begin the Top 10 Patriotic films with one of the better westerns ever made…
(old trailers are always interesting)
“This land has a name today, and is marked on maps. But, the names and the marks and the maps all had to be won, won from nature and from primitive man.[…] The west that was won by its pioneers, settlers, adventurers is long gone now. Yet it is theirs forever, for they left tracks in history that will never be eroded by wind or rain – never plowed under by tractors, never buried in compost of events. Out of the hard simplicity of their lives, out of their vitality, of their hopes and sorrows grew legends of courage and pride to inspire their children and their children’s children. From soil enriched by their blood, out of their fever to explore and be, came lakes where once there were burning deserts – came the goods of the earth; mine and wheat fields, orchards and great lumber mills. All the sinews of a growing country. Out of their rude settlements, their trading posts came cities to rank among the great ones of the world. All the heritage of a people free to dream, free to act, free to mold their own destiny.”
An epic film that spans three generations of American pioneers from the early days of westward expansion along the Erie Canal circa 1840 to the waning days of the West in Arizona circa the late 1870’s early 1880’s. The story is broken up into 5 parts telling the story of the farmers who traveled into what is now the Midwest to start a new life, of the wagon trains hell bent on gold in California, of the Civil War which seemed to halt westward expansion for a bloody moment, of the coming of the railroad which joined both halves of the nation and heralded the end of the wilderness, and finally of the last days of lawlessness in what was left of the West. Every stage is shown to be filled with victories and loss, but each stage brings about something greater than what came before it. From the earliest mountain men who first ventured east to the Marshalls who brought law and civilization to the wilderness, all of the characters are exemplars of what makes America what it is.
Patriotism or not it’s a great film. It is the kind of all star epic that Hollywood doesn’t seem to make anymore. Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, Eli Wallach, Robert Preston, to name a few but not all of the stars in this film, and to top it all off the narration of Spencer Tracy. It’s kind of hard to top that…oh wait John Ford directed part of it. Okay it’s kind of hard to top that.
But what makes this film patriotic?
Well first it is the simple story of who Americans are. No matter what problems they are dealt, be it being literally stabbed in the back, literally going down the rapids without a paddle, war, Indians, stampeding Buffalo or being shot at, the heroes of this film always not only recover but pick themselves up and achieve a better life than anything they had before their temporary miseries. They look at disaster, shrug it off and succeed in spite of misfortune and always with a constant stream of optimism….or as one character put it, “We made and spent fortunes together. If he’d lived a little longer, we’d have made and spent another.”
Nothing could better exemplify what the heart of America was at its best. Yes, other nations have people who act like this, and other nations have had their day….but what is different about America is that other nations build themselves up to a great power, dominate for a while, fall and never seem to come back…America has been knocked down time (we started out as a bunch of rejects, criminals and unwanted) and time (crushing blows during early years of the Revolutionary War) and time (having our capital burned to the ground in the War of 1812) and time (a horrific Civil War…do I need to keep going?) again. Any one of these events would crush most nations for all time, (remind me how long ago it was that Sparta conquered Athens, that Rome fell, that France was a nation worth giving a care about?) yet Americans don’t just recover from adversity, we thrive on it. In a perverse way, as a nation, we embody the idea that what does not kill us only makes us stronger (which I guess will mean the term of 45th president will be the strongest years in American history). In this movie and in reality nothing seems to stop Americans from growing and getting better, even their own worst moments.
I could go on, there are a hundred little moments that I could discuss, but I think you would get a better impression watching it yourself than having me relate them.
“But that’s what I like about this country. There’s always greener grass over the next hill.”
Not to spoil the ending,but the scenic views are breathtaking…