For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed Civil War history, and I also enjoy watching Civil War movies. There have been many great Civil War movies over the years, and one of the best known is “Glory,” which debuted in theaters on Dec. 14, 1989. As much as I enjoy Civil War movies, I’d only seen bits and pieces of “Glory,” and I couldn’t honestly say that I’d watched the entire theatrical release of the film from start to finish, which is why I put it on my “bucket list” several years ago.
A week or so ago, I had Netflix send me a copy of “Glory” in the mail and I watched the entire thing from start to finish on Sat., March 5. I enjoyed the movie and can see why it’s so highly regarded. I do, however, doubt the historical accuracy of some portions of the film.
For those of you unfamiliar with “Glory,” it’s mostly about the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an all-black unit led by white officer, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of Boston. The movie shows how the unit was formed, trained and ultimately sent into battle, climaxing with the assault on Fort Wagner. The movie also shows how Shaw went to great lengths to outfit his men and to have them treated the same as white Union soldiers.
“Glory” was directed by Edward Zwick, and the cast included a number of Hollywood’s biggest names. Matthew Broderick played Shaw, and Denzel Washington won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Pvt. Silas Trip. Morgan Freeman played Sergeant Major John Rawlins and Cary Elwes played Major Cabot Forbes. I think it’s also worth noting that Frederick Douglass was portrayed in the film by Raymond St. Jacques.
Kevin Jarre wrote the screenplay, and I was interested to learn that he based the film on personal letters written by Shaw as well as two books, “One Gallant Rush” by Peter Burchard and “Lay This Laurel” by Lincoln Kirstein. “One Gallant Rush” is a novel published in 1965, and it was also based on Shaw’s personal letters. “Lay This Laurel” was originally published in 1973, and it’s largely a photo compilation.
One thing I noticed about the movie was how Confederates were portrayed. I didn’t notice anything overtly negative, but in most scenes, especially battle scenes, they were portrayed as a relatively faceless enemy. I suspect this was done by design to make the movie appealing to a wider audience.
Watching the movie also gave me several ideas about new items for my bucket list. I’d definitely like to go check out Fort Wagner and read Burchard’s novel, “One Gallant Rush.” I’d also like to visit the monument to the 54th Massachusetts that’s located on Boston Common. Maybe one day I’ll scratch all three off my list.
In the end, how many of you have watched “Glory”? What did you think about it? What other Civil War movies would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.