|Drums Along the Mohawk DVD Cover|
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck—20th Century Fox 1939
Director: John Ford
Stars: Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert
For the next few months, I’d like to review movies based on historical eighteenth century colonial settings. One of the reasons I’ve chosen these films is that many of us (including myself!) have used them as a quick alternative for researching information on the period. I’ve found this could be a major mistake—and while we may find these stories entertaining, I strongly advise you to investigate the facts of certain historical events and characters through well-researched non-fictional works. Another reason I’ve chosen to review this film genre is because there are so few American historicals made in Hollywood today.
Drums Along the Mohawk is a favorite of mine because I read the book, a work of fiction, by Walter D. Edmonds in middle school. Based on a major event in the valley (where I grew up) I was well-acquainted with locations and descendents of people mentioned in the book, like Schuyler, Petrie, Bellinger, and Helmer, to name a few. So I felt an instant connection with the story.
Newly-weds Gil (Fonda) and Lana (Colbert) Martin move out to the rich and fertile land of Mohawk Valley frontier, a “breadbasket” of the colonies, to build a home and begin their new life.
Most of this story revolves around the couple as they try to establish a family and home while confronted by danger and unrest caused by Tories (British sympathizers) and their Iroquois Indian allies. Under the threat of constant attack, Gil and Lana and other settlers must survive by escaping to Fort Herkimer in German Flatts.
A crisis arises when the men of the settlement are forced to defend their homes against St. Leger’s army coming from the west. The colonists meet the British forces and Indians at Oriskany Creek, on August 6, 1777. Though the patriots, led by General Nicholas Herkimer, lose nearly eight hundred men, the largest loss in the American Revolution, they do win the battle, driving St. Leger back toward Canada. Herkimer, correctly portrayed in the film, is wounded and soon dies.
Another incident occurs when Gil Martin makes a run to save his wife and other settlers trapped in Fort Herkimer and low on ammunition. He is chased by a fleet-footed Mohawk scouting party, but manages to out-run them, arriving at Fort Dayton in time to get help and save the settlers.
This is another true incident, but the actual run was made by Adam Helmer, in September of 1778. He ran thirty miles ahead of an Iroquois and Tory raiding party led by Chief Joseph Brant, to warn the people of the valley to take shelter at Fort Dayton. Though Edmonds stayed true to the actual event, the character was changed for the movie version.
GIVEAWAY: Carrie will be giving away a gently used copy of the DVD to a person who responds to this post PLUS attends the CQ Tea Party on Friday.
Have you ever seen this movie? What did you think?
By: Pat Iacuzzi