Monday, February 18, 2013

George Washington - A Great President So Modestly Treated On Film

Today is President’s Day. As I noted in an earlier post this is the generic holiday we use to celebrate the birth of two of our greatest presidents – Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and George Washington on February 22.

That earlier post was in relation to the movie Lincoln which is nominated for numerous Oscars at the upcoming Academy Awards. This Spielberg film is just the latest in a long line of films about the 16th President; but what about the Father of our Country, our first President, George Washington? How often has he been the subject of a film?

Lincoln has had eight including the latest Spielberg film. George Washington has had four. And while Lincoln has been portrayed on the big screen, our first President has only been seen on TV. Does this mean, as with Rodney Dangerfield, ‘he don’t get no respect?’

George Washington. This was a 1984 TV Mini-series with Barry Bostwick as George and Patty Duke as Martha.

George Washington II: Forging A Nation. This was a 1986 TV Movie follow-up to the Mini-series. Bostwick and Duke reprise their roles.

The Crossing. This 2000 TV movie has Jeff Daniels portraying Washington in a dramatization of the gamble the future President took in crossing the Delaware River to attack British forces in Trenton, New Jersey. Other than a hatchet and a cherry tree, the painting of Washington in the prow of a boat in the ice-floed river is one of the most iconic images of Washington. (There is a wonderful Stan Freberg routine, on his Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America recording, about Washington trying to decide which boat to take for the crossing – ‘how about the one named Donald Duck’ – you really have to hear it, to appreciate it.)

Washington the Warrior. This was a History Channel reenactment portraying how Washington acquired his military skills. Jackson Bolt portrays Washington and Stacy Keats narrates.

(This list does not include George Washington Slept Here with Jack Benny – George is featured only in the title.)

So why has Washington been the subject of so few films and none on the big screen or before 1984? There was no Young Mr. Lincoln or Abe Lincoln in Illinois as there was with the 16th President.

Is it because he wasn’t killed in office?

Or, maybe the film projects have been so modest because we may view him so modestly. While in truth he had a dynamic personality that is not how we remember him – to us he seems more a father figure or perhaps a kindly uncle.

Lincoln saved the Union but there would have been no Union, no United States but for Washington. Washington deserves a film as powerful as the current Lincoln.

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