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[1959-60; U.S. TV mini-series; 8 episodes]
Disney is Disney, so considering this version of the duel between Francis Marion (Leslie Nielsen) and Colonel Tarleton (John Sutton) in light of real history is pointless. It's a fun, rollicking adventure for kids, and fondly re-enjoyed by those of us who first encountered it when we were far too young to know or care whether it was accurate.1
John Sutton as Colonel Tarleton
Disney's General Marion is a nice guy, leading a gang of partisan fighters who resemble nothing more than an over-aged boy scout troop. They even sing campfire songs, though 90% of the time it's the same campfire song, which is the bouncy little theme that everyone knows even if they haven't seen the series. ("Swamp Fox, Swamp Fox, tail on his hat. Nobody knows where the Swamp Fox at.") It's adorable for the first half-dozen renditions, but if you happen to watch all eight episodes over a short time span, it gets seriously tiresome.
Their Colonel Tarleton (no first name given) is a nice guy, too. The script gives occasional lip service to his being someone "you don't want to cross" but John Sutton strolls through the role with elegant and gentlemanly grace. He's just so sweet, and such a change from Banastre's usual bad press that it really hurts to have to say that he's every bit as inaccurate as the others.
He does, however, have the wonderful distinction of being the only honest Green Dragoon in the batch! The British Legion uniforms used in the series are wildly inaccurate re. design and detailing, but they feature a green short jacket and fawn/white breeches! It's kind of ridiculous when that is a cause for celebration...
If you didn't see this as a kid, you probably won't have much patience with it now. It's very dated, it's bad history, and its story lines are written for the under-twelve crowd. If you first encountered it when you were part of that age group (as I did), you probably still love it (as I do). Otherwise, give it a miss.
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1 Doc M pointed out that actor Robert Douglas, who plays Lord Cornwallis, also played Benedict Arnold in The Scarlet Coat. That must have made the war confusing... [ back ]
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