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SHENANDOAH (director: Andrew V. McLaglen; screenwriter: James Lee Barrett; cinematographer: William H. Clothier; editor: Otho Lovering; music: Frank Skinner; cast: James Stewart (Charlie Anderson), Doug McClure (Sam), Glenn Corbett (Jacob Anderson), Patrick Wayne (James Anderson), Rosemary Forsyth (Jennie Anderson), James McMullan (James McMullan), Tim McIntire (Henry Anderson), Phillip Alford (Boy Anderson), Katharine Ross (Ann Anderson), Charles Robinson (Nathan Anderson), James Best (Carter), Doug McClure (Sam), Denver Pyle (Pastor Bjoerling), George Kennedy (Col. Fairchild), Warren Oates (Billy Packer), Strother Martin (Engineer), Eugene Jackson (Gabriel, freed slave); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Arthur; MCA Universal Home Video; 1965)
A well-acted, folksy, sentimental and respectable Civil War drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-acted, folksy, sentimental and respectable Civil War drama, shot in lush surroundings in Eugene, Oregon, and directed with clarity by the usually not so hot Andrew V. McLaglen(“The Wild Geese”/”The Last Hard Men”/”Chisum”), son of famed character actor Victor McLaglen. It’s also finely written by James Lee Barrett. Though it could be criticized for its TV look of the period, which takes away any chance for greatness. In 1974 it was made into a Broadway musical. It seems like a John Ford pastiche, with so many of his regulars filling out the cast.

The pic is noted for James Stewart delivering two classic emotionally-charged soliloquies to his wife’s grave-site.

In 1863, the widower Charlie Anderson (James Stewart), whose wife Martha died during childbirth, is a wealthy farmer in Shenandoah, Virginia, living peacefully with hissix grown sons – Jacob (Glenn Corbett), James (Patrick Wayne), Nathan (Charles Robinson), John (James McMullan), Henry (Tim McIntire), Boy (Phillip Alford), and his grown daughter Jennie (Rosemary Forsyth). Not believing in slavery, Charlie remains neutral as the Civil War rages in his southern community. But things change when Jennie marries neighbor Sam (Doug McClure) and on the wedding day he’s called into the Confederate army. Then hisyoungest 16-year-old son, Boy, while wearing a Confederate cap is captured by the Union army and taken prisoner. This is followed by looters murdering his son James and his wife Ann (Katharine Ross), who reside with him on the farm. A further personal tragedy has the patriarch’s son Jacob accidentally killed. The drama reaches a boiling point and concludes in a sentimental finish, as Charlie, with his other sons, goes on a dangerous mission to retrieve his prisoner son.

The moving film released during the unpopular Vietnam War caught favor with the public for its strong anti-war sentiments and the solid performance by Stewart. It has Stewart commenting on this specific war to his deceased wife Martha at the graveyard: “I don’t even know what to say to you, Martha. There’s nothing much I can tell you about this war. It’s like all wars, I suppose. The undertakers are winning it. Politicians talk a lot about the glory of it. The soldiers, they just want to go home.”

Not a bad message, especially from a semi-western, that should favorably reach across both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”