Re: Reenactors and Films

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Posted by Marlitta H. Perkins on March 17, 1999 at 02:48:59:

In Reply to: Re: Reenactors and Films posted by Champ on March 16, 1999 at 22:23:03:

G'mornin' to ya, Cap'n, Sir! :-)
And hello, Mr. "T".....

I've been following this little exchange for a while and have a few comments to make myself...

I really appreciate the efforts of reenactors when they are used in films. They bring enthusiasm, a wealth of knowledge on uniforms, weapons, formations, and, most importantly, they work on the cheap or even for free.

* what exactly is it that you appreciate so much about reenactors? Their enthusiasm (personally, I prefer the word dedication, at the very least) or their "gullibility" to work for virtually nothing??? By Hollywood standards, I suspect the latter applies...

Without their efforts many of my favorite films of the last decade probably would not have been made. Films such as "Son of the Morning Star," "Glory," "Last of the Mohicans," "Gettysburg," and "Geronimo" all benefited from the presence of reenactors.

*No argument from me...

: : Yet when I watch "Gettysburg" or a documentary on the History Channel I cannot help wonder: was the average age of the soldiers from the past around 40 years and did past armies boast such a "hefty" percentage of rotund warriors?

*I have done regimental research for a number of years and to answer your first question I have to tell you that units boosted their fair share of "older" men, in many cases most men from one family enlisting together in one regiment, fathers and their sons, cousins and uncles, brothers....
My uncle served in the 40th Ky Mtd. INF(US), who was 41 years old at the time of his enlistment. One of my grandfathers who served in the 14th KY INF (US) died during he Atlanta Campaign at the age of 54. His son, who served in the same unit was 27 years old.
Regiments were a mixed bag, very much like reenactment units out there today. Our unit's youngest member is 14, our oldest one turned 50. Most of us are lean and ALL of us are mean...;-)

The biggest historical fallacy in "Gettysburg" was not a costume quibble, nor an actor's faulty characterization of a revered commander, nor an incorrect fact to the historical record; but the sight of those chubby Rebs!

*Well, chux..then blame the casting director, not the reenactors, Mr. T! (Or the cheap producer, who hires reenactors for virtually nothing and hands them a T-Shirt at the end of the the other Mr. T!!!! In my unit they call that "exploitation".)

: Unfortuantly, the days of Hollywood investing mega-amounts into costumes [etc] in "period pieces" is long past in the age of the Action flick. So until it happens, Hollywood will have to rely on the volunteers who own all period correct clothing & accouterments & work virtually for free...

*Not where I come from, Cap'n..:-)
We do come with a price tag, especially if we are to see a follow-up to "Gettysburg" or any other CW epic by the other Mr. T...

: : Other things I love about the reeanctors in "Gettysburg:" when they look straight into the camera, when they are seen smiling "advancing" through a swath of minie balls and cannister, and the "deaths" of those fat guys!

: >I had pards who were there, & I'm told the emotions ran the gamut. Some were crying, some were practically giddy...

*Very much the same story that I heard from folks that participated in the movie.
Besides, who is to judge what really is "realistic" for scenes like that...
Have you ever participated in a charge under fire, Mr. T? Do you know what looks "real" for sure?? Or is it just your preconceived idea that men "should" not smile while under fire, "should" not cry or hysterically laugh?? I'm sure that all of this and more could be found during the course of an actual battle...

: From what I've heard from those that were there, no one was in control of their emotions, so the participants probably werent even aware of their actions [I know of people who laugh hysterically when nervous & dont mean to]...

: : Sometimes, when I see these "overweight folks running across fields in Reeboks" (Ken Burns description of reenactors whose services he declined to use for his PBS special),

: >First off, I dont know any reenactors as Ken Burns describes, second, I dont think much of Burn's revisionist brand of history.

*I have to agree...I heard of folks like that but have never seen them and if I would have, probably not for long. Our commanders would ask them off the field.

: : I long for those days when movie producers would rent out the Spanish Army (Spartacus, Patton, Battle of the Bulge) or the current trend of renting out the Irish version of the national guard (Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan). The result is that you get Hollywood soldiers who look like real soldiers. Armies have never been stocked with overweight, middle-aged men despite what I see on the History Channel every week.

*Ok...So what are you saying?? That we should rely on Hollywood for accurate portrayal of history rather than well researched shows, say like "Civil War Journal"??
Hmmm, I thought America was finally getting beyond this sorry point....Next thing you're trying to tell me is that "Hogan's Heroes" is historically accurate as well? Nice try Mr. T...come're forgetting who you are trying to convince here and that poor schmack reenactors like the Cap'n and myself know more about Civil War history than most of the teachers that cover the subject in the schools. As a matter of fact, many of us go into class rooms and teach about the Civil War.

: >You didnt see "Frontiers" on the History channel, did you?
: Check out the Roger's Rangers episode & tell me how many *fat* Rangers you see...

: Okay, I dont get it, first you "applaud" the reenactors, then you put them down [or was this just sarcasm on your part in the beginning?]...
: Considering that none of the films you mentioned above would have been made in todays budget constraints without the aid of reenactors, you sure do seem to be down on them.
: If you see a problem, why dont you be part of the solution.
: Donate your lifes savings to the next costume epic, so that only lean - mean extras will be hired.
: Or better yet, I'd challenge ya' to step up to the plate, put on that wool uniform & brogans, and march in the Mississippi o/r Tennessee heat of summer [with shell jacket & gear strapped on top of it] at a campaign event. You might, at the very least, gain some new found respect for reenactors...
: As for me, I'll be the one galloping by you webfeet, kicking up dust in your faces ;-)

: "Champ"

Ha! I second that motion, Cap'n!! See ya on the field, Sir!! :-)
And beware of them reeanctors with a "smile" on their face, Mr. my book that usually means their up to somethin'..;-)

Lt.,7th Conf. CAV, Sid Cook's Co.

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