Civil War

August 3, 1957 – “Band of Angels” at the Bijou

On August 3, 1957, Robert Penn Warren’s novel about slavery and the Civil War in the American South came to life on the silver screen.  Directed by the legendary Raoul Walsh (White Heat, They Died With Their Boots On), Band of Angels featured Yvonne De Carlo as Amantha Starr, a privileged white plantation heiress who discovers after her father’s death that the plantation is mortgaged to the hilt, her mother was a slave, and she herself will soon hit the auction block to help pay off daddy’s debts.  On the way to New Orleans, Amantha’s slave trader tries to sleep with her, she resists and threatens to kill herself, and the trader backs off because he doesn’t want to lose his valuable merchandise.

In New Orleans, big man Hamish Bond (Clark Gable, age 56, still gamely playing romantic leads) takes pity on Amantha and buys her out of the clutches of a too-eager-to-inspect-the-merchandise slave-auction bidder and takes her home to his mansion.  Hamish treats Amantha like a lady, they fall in love, the Civil War breaks out, and their futures end up depending on the kindness of Rau-Ru (Sidney Poitier), Hamish’s well-treated but conflicted ex-slave who fled to join the Union Army.

Variety noted in their review that, “Clark Gable’s characterization is reminiscent of his Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind.”  According to the Internet Movie Database, Clark disliked the comparisons to his twenty-eight-year-earlier performance, and told his agent, “if it doesn’t suit an old geezer with false teeth, forget about it.”  IMDB also reports that Band of Angels gained the less-than-complementary moniker, “The Ghost of Gone With the Wind.”

De Carlo played the romantic partner to an intriguing variety of leading men.  In addition to heating up the screen with Gable, she toyed with the affections of Charleston Heston in The Ten Commandments, Burt Lancaster in Criss Cross, Alec Guinness in The Captain’s Paradise, and finally, in one of those wonderful twists of fate, Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) in the television series The Munsters.

Image Credit: Warner Brothers

July 4, 1957 – An American Family Visits the Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monument

On July 4, 1957, American father Walter Reed took his family to visit Gettysburg, where occurred from July 1-3, 1863 one of the most significant battles of the Civil War.  More soldiers died at Gettysburg than at any other Civil War battle, and the Union victory there signaled a turning point in our nation’s conflict.  Reed’s photo captures the Pennsylvania Monument, the largest of many monuments gracing the site. The granite pavilion commemorates the state which provided the most troops, the Union army commander, and the battlefield itself.

A little over four months later, on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg with a short speech that has come to stand with the Declaration of Independence as a founding document for our nation.  On July 4th, Walter Reed and his family celebrated our independence at Gettysburg; perhaps they also read the Gettysburg Address together:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.  We are met here on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But in a larger sense we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate –  we can not hallow this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, or long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.

“It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, so far, so nobly carried on.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining here before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Reed took a number of photos that day, some of which were later published in The Open Road: The Way We Were, by Dorothy Youngblood. His photo of the Pennsylvania Monument includes his beautiful turquoise and white 1955 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan.

Image Credit: Leon Reed/flickr