Having lived in the Shenandoah Valley, I typically enjoy films set in this gorgeous region of the Appalachians, and Shenandoah doesn’t disappoint. Jimmy Stewart gives a memorable performance as Charlie Anderson, a much more angry and bitter role for him than usual. Instead of the idealism of Jefferson Smith or George Bailey, Anderson evokes vicious protectiveness, dogged determination, and stubborn values. (That last one is common to his other roles, though.) He’s definitely the star, and his masterful acting, combined with the excellent script, raises the film above most war films of the 1960s.
While most of the sons aren’t really given a personality, the three with larger roles certainly earn audience sympathy as terrible things happen to them, particularly the Boy, played by Phillip Alford (Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird). The film is also notable for introducing Rosemary Forsyth and Katharine Ross (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), who both play strong female characters. Additionally, it features Dabbs Greer (Reverend Alden) and Kevin Hagen (Doc Baker) from Little House on the Prairie, the latter of whom has a much darker role than his more familiar TV persona.
The battle scenes are well-executed and largely bloodless, though one character receives a surprising (but not gory) shot to the head. Laudably, the film unfairly demonizes neither the Confederates nor the Union, showing good and bad on both sides. Instead, it serves as a critique on war and how it affects everyone negatively, even those who want no part of it, anticipating future backlash against the Vietnam War.
Jimmy Stewart makes the film, and the intense emotions sparked by his losses, coupled with his kindly and insightful wisdom about the ways of women, make his character well-rounded and admirable. The film might have been a complete downer, but the final scene ends it on a touching high note (literally).
Best line: (Charlie, to his dead wife Martha) “I don’t even know what to say to you any more, Martha. There’s not much I can tell you about this war. It’s like all wars, I guess. The undertakers are winning. And the politicians who talk about the glory of it. And the old men who talk about the need of it. And the soldiers, well, they just wanna go home.”Artistry: 6 Characters/Actors: 8 Entertainment: 7 Visual Effects: 5 Originality: 6 Watchability: 6 TOTAL: 38 out of 60
Next: #232 – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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