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The Alamo: History vs. Film

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The Alamo: History vs. Film

  1. 1. Greg Caggiano
  2. 2.  Since the early 1800’s, Mexico had invited settlers from America and other parts of the world to come to Mexico  Land was cheap and settlers were given many acres  The Constitution of 1824, signed by the Mexican government, gave rights and freedom to these settlers  Most of these people settled in the province of Tejas, later changed to Texas
  3. 3.  By the 1830’s, Mexico’s President, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna declared himself dictator of Mexico, and tried to cancel the constitution of 1824.  Slavery is an issue  Texan settlers opposed this, and began to fight the Mexican army in small battles  The last battle of 1835, the Battle of Bexar (San Antonio) led to Mexican General Cos surrendering to Texan militia forces
  4. 4.  After the Texans captured the Alamo, their military commander ordered James Bowie to blow up the fort and retreat so that the Mexicans could not use it  Bowie refused, calling the Alamo “The Key to Texas” and recognizing how important the fort would be to their army  It was a big mistake
  5. 5.  Embarrassed at Mexican defeat at the Battle of Bexar, Santa Anna swore he would invade Texas and re-capture the Alamo, an old Spanish church that the Texans had turned into a fort  He Marched nearly 300 miles in two months through the first snowstorm in Mexico in over a hundred years, and arrived in San Antonio on February 22, 1836  His army consisted of over 4,000 men
  6. 6.  The Texans had only between 180-250 defenders, made up of settlers from America, Ireland, England, Scotland, and even some Mexicans who opposed their government  Their commander was William Barret Travis
  7. 7.  On February 22, Santa Anna offered the Texans a chance to surrender. Colonel Travis responded with a cannon shot.  At about the 11th day of the siege, Santa Anna did allow several unarmed men, women and children to leave under a flag of truce  The siege lasted for 12 nights and 13 days. Every night, Mexican artillery pounded the crumbling adobe walls of the fort. Their intimidating battle march “El Deguello” would sound at sunset.
  8. 8.  On the night of March 5, the Mexican cannons fell silent, and the Texan defenders were finally able to get a night’s sleep  While they slept, though, Santa Anna met with his Generals and prepared the final attack  The Mexicans would silently march toward the Alamo’s walls in the early morning hours of March 6 while it was still dark. A surprise attack.  His Generals tried to persuade him NOT to attack
  9. 9.  The battle lasted only 90 minutes. In that time, every single Alamo defender was killed  (There is some debate over this, though, and HOW some of them died, as I will explain)  Still, the Texans managed to kill over 600 Mexicans (that number is still debated)  Following the battle, Mexican morale reached a new low  Pyrrhic Victory
  10. 10.  Travis: Shot through the forehead and died at his position at the north wall.  Bowie: Stabbed or shot to death while he laid in bed. The only question is whether or not he had the strength to fight back with pistols or his famous knife.  Crockett: Debate over whether he died fighting or was captured and then executed, but most historians lead toward the latter.
  11. 11.  Susannah Dickinson and Angelina Dickinson (Capt. Almeron Dickinson’s wife and infant child)  Mrs. Esparza and son (defender Gregorio Esparza’s wife and young son)  Joe, the slave of Col. Travis  A handful of other civilians
  12. 12.  Is it the most-filmed battle of all-time?  The Immortal Alamo (1911)*  Martyrs of the Alamo (1915)  Davy Crockett at the Fall of the Alamo (1926)**  Heroes of the Alamo (1937)  The Alamo: Shrine of Texas Liberty (1938)  The Last Command (1955)  The Alamo (1960)  The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory (1987)  Alamo: The Price of Freedom (1988)  The Alamo (2004)  Battle also featured in Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (1955), Houston: The Legend of Texas (1986), Texas (1994), Texas Rising (2015)
  13. 13. A tale of two Alamos… A love/hate relationship “John Wayne vs. the Mexican Army”
  14. 14.  The blind portrayal of American characters as heroes, and everyone else as exaggerated villains  Popular themes:  British soldiers are evil and malicious  Confederate soldiers are all slave owners  Indians are unintelligent savages and bloodthirsty  Surprising NON-EXAMPLE: “The Alamo” (1960)
  15. 15.  For 1960, at a time when minorities and “enemies” were portrayed viciously on-screen, Wayne’s portrayal of the Mexican Army is surprisingly ahead of its time  He goes out of his way to show them as brave, and although they do not get much screen time, their opinions and reasons for fighting are duly noted
  16. 16.  The 1960 and 2004 versions of the Alamo story are a great example of how one battle can be viewed by many different angles  1960: a grand spectacle; historical epic; showing the Alamo defenders as heroes; little regard for accuracy; Cold War Era-feel; nominated for 7 Academy Awards  2004: a push for accuracy; humanistic view of the Alamo defenders; brutally honest; eliminated many elements of the story  The one thing they have in common? Both films BOMBED at the box office
  17. 17.  1960 Film  Accurate, scale set  Depicts Juan Seguin as fighting and dying in battle; correctly shows James Bonham returning to fort but information is totally wrong  Incorrect, over-dramatic battle; deaths of Big 3 are over-the-top and inaccurate  Heroes are HEROES  Shows civilian survivors  2004 Film  Accurate except for one glaring detail  Correctly depicts Juan Seguin as being sent away to Houston; story almost entirely ignored Bonham’s character  Accurate battle; deaths of the Big 3 are as accurate as can be  Heroes are human  Completely ignores survivors
  18. 18.  1960 version: too long, too much dialogue, very political  2004 version: bloodless fighting; doomed for failure because of PG-13 rating (Thanks Disney!), an almost antagonistic approach toward portraying famous heroes  Eviscerated by reviewers before the film even opened in theaters, much like Gods and Generals. They posed questions like, “Why should the masses care about Texas?” and “How can we be expected to sympathize with slave-owners?”
  19. 19.  Both films feature incredible battle scenes, film scores, costuming, and sets  Wayne’s, overall, is more entertaining and feel- good  Hancock’s is more accurate, but sometimes goes too far out of its way to demystify the heroic aspects of the Alamo defenders  “The 2004 version is by far and away a better film than the 1960 one, but that does not mean it is my favorite of the pair.”- Ned Huthmacher

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