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[Four one-hour episodes. Shown on PBS (U.S.); June 2004. Available on tape or DVD.]Redcoats & Rebels was screened by the BBC from 8 July 2003, and a year later in the US -- both after some delay. (One can't help but wonder if the hold-up was political...)
The presenter, Professor E R Holmes, stated in The Radio Times that he was spurred to make it by unwisely watching The Patriot as an in-flight movie! It is highly enjoyable. However, it is extremely unfortunate that filming had finished before Prof. Holmes had read the manuscript of my work on Ferguson (who is not done justice), and that Tony Scotti's book on Tarleton had also appeared too late to be used, since it is unlikely that any UK programme of this scale will tackle the subject again for some years.
The first episodes were excellent. My main quibbles were the bad wigs worn by the people in the dramatised sections (it annoys me that most historical documentaries now feel the need to rely on re-enactments: we could have done with more contemporary portraits and prints being used!) and the fact that in the dramatised scenes in which he appeared, John Pitcairn was given a posh South of England voice -- not at all appropriate to a man from Dysart, near Kirkcaldy...The old Fife accent was very pleasant and sing-songy. Even the 18C Scots younger generation with social aspirations did not speak English RP, but the ancestor of the now sadly declining but pleasantly refined Morningside and Kelvinside accents. (Think of Miss Jean Brodie or Alasdair Sim, and you'll have some idea of it.) When Ferguson is depicted in the Southern episode, however, he is voiced with an accent more reminiscent of the neds1 from Trainspotting; again, this was a man who wrote in a Morningside accent!
The episode on the Southern campaigns gave ample coverage to the role of the Black community in the Loyal cause. The Southern matron who deplored her home being assailed by Loyalists damned herself out of her own mouth by her disgust at the involvement of "Negroes". However, it was deeply disappointing in its treatment of Tarleton and Ferguson. As usual, Tarleton comes off far worse. He is referred to as 'Bloody Ban' (that traditional nickname going back, oh, as far as Robert Bass in the 1950s!), and there was no mention, in the coverage of Waxhaws, of Buford being offered generous terms and refusing them: it was just said that he had pursued some retreating Rebels and killed them when they tried to surrender...While Gates' flight from Camden was mentioned, nothing comparable was said regarding Buford. Moncks Corner was portrayed as a Tarleton solo effort, too (Ferguson and Webster would be a trifle miffed!) And I think 'Banastre' was stressed on the second syllable (see Marg's list of common pronunciation errors!).
Some of the vox-pop interviews were amusing. I rather liked the young man on the bus who had no illusions as to the property-driven thrust of the war, and commented ruefully that if the other side had won they might have a proper health service and, shock horror, policemen who didn't routinely carry guns...And as my Dad commented, just the sight of the costumed Overmountain Men's contingent at the wreath-laying at King's Mountain spouting 'Patriotic' platitudes made him want to reach for a broadsword...To end on a cheery note, it was also a delight to see our friend Howard Burnham as Lord Cornwallis!
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1 Anti-social street-punks (1950s Scots, originally a variant of 'teds', as in 'teddy boys'). [ back ]
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