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Shenandoah Movie Review

anderson james stewart family

1965 – Andrew V. McLaglen –

This underrated film features a great star performance by James Stewart as a crusty Virginia patriarch with six sons and a daughter in the waning days of the Civil War. Widower Charlie Anderson (Stewart) tries to keep his family out of the hostilities that close in on his farm. He does not own slaves, has never asked for any government help, and sees no reason to take sides in the conflict. The anti-establishment attitudes are probably more representative of 1965 than 1865, but the film continually maintains interest with its intelligence and surprising touches of realism. In one example, Anderson gives a fatherly talk to his prospective son-in-law (Doug McClure) about the unpredictability of women's emotions; as soon as this business begins to seem like nothing more than unsubtle comedy forced in to let Stewart be charmingly cantankerous, the film cuts to Ann (Katharine Ross), the sister-in-law, advising Jennie (Rosemary Forsyth), the young bride-to-be, about how to recognize the recurrent moodi-ness of men and their need to be alone. In another example, Anderson uses the evening meal as a way of sounding the views of his sons on slavery and the war. He solicits their true feelings, uses inductive questions to prod them to speak up, and encourages them to think for themselves rather than adopt his views as hand-me-downs. In its free flow of ideas, the dinner table of this Virginia family almost takes on the feel of a platonic academy.

Most of the film concerns the family's attempt to find the youngest child, a sixteen-year-old boy (Philip Alford) taken prisoner by Union soldiers, when they spot him wearing a Confederate cap. The filmmakers seem to know that Stewart is their main strength. Two of the best scenes during this search center on his confrontations with officials who impede the family's efforts, and another strong moment occurs at their night campfire as he fairly lets the family decide whether to return home. The final moments of this return are bitter but honest, and the film concludes with an understated graveside scene (no patented Stewart drawling) in which Anderson reveals his fears and grief once again to his dead wife.

Cast: James Stewart (Charlie Anderson), Doug McClure (Sam), Glenn Corbett (Jacob Anderson), Patrick Wayne (James Anderson), Rosemary Forsyth (Jennie Anderson), Philip Alford (Boy Anderson), Katharine Ross (Ann Anderson), Charles Robinson (Nathan Anderson), James McMullan (John Anderson), Tim McIntire (Henry Anderson), Eugene Jackson Jr. (Gabriel), Paul Fix (Dr. Witherspoon), Denver Pyle (Pastor Bjoerling), George Kennedy (Colonel Fairchild), James Best (Carter) Screenwriter: James Lee Barrett Cinematographer: William H. Clothier Composer: Frank Skinner Producer: Robert Arthur for Universal Running Time: 105 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1965: Nominations: Sound. Box Office: $7.8M (domestic rentals).

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