Period films are often challenging ordeals. Many factors come into play when transferring a fact based story to the big screen, from costumes, to historical accuracy, to the ever-present “will anyone pay to watch this” dilemma. The American Civil War stands among the pivotal moments in our nation’s history, so it stands as no surprise that there have been a plethora of flicks based on that time period made over the years, from the infamous Birth of a Nation in 1915, the legendary Gone with the Wind, and 2003’s Gods and Generals. It was 1989 when a powerful gem named Glory was released into theaters, chronicling the formation of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an all black regiment mustered in 1863. Directed by Edward Zwick, the movie featured some serious star power in Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, Cary Elwes, and a host of recognizable faces. Incorporating a triumphant score by James Horner, the film succeeds in painting a multi-layered picture of the trials and hurdles that had to be overcome by black and white troops in the Union Army following the Emancipation Proclamation passed into law by President Lincoln. The film carefully creates a vivid portrait of the main characters, with the simmering tensions of the war serving as a commanding backdrop. I remember getting misty-eyed in the theaters when I saw this film as a kid, and the message that it conveys holds true today. Definitely worth a watch.
In my humble opinion, it’s no secret that American movies are becoming as stale as a bag of corn chips left open for 6 months straight. American cinema has unfortunately become swollen with remakes, sequels, reboots, re-imaginings, re-tellings, and re-whatever else you can think of that are as exciting as a tall glass of flat coke. It’s disturbingly sad that we are being thoroughly and soundly outflanked by the increasingly entertaining ranks of foreign films; the shocking number of American flicks that originated overseas is staggering (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, pretty much every Asian horror film ever made, etc). Hollywood is apparently more concerned with quantity as opposed to quality; they pump out more PG-13 schlock than nickelodeon in an attempt to put butts into seats and fill their Hollywood coffers. So to make a long story short (too late), I’ve primarily concerned myself with foreign fare of late. I’ve always had a preference for old films and foreign films anyway, because in my opinion, they were more focused on storytelling, plot, and serious acting chops. Modern American films are slowly bulldozing me over the cinematic edge. Case in point; I recently watched a film called Mesrine: Killer Instinct, a 2008 film about notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine. Mesrine was one mean mother, and Vincent Cassel played the part of vicious lunatic with delicious style and machismo. Mesrine was legendarily bold, as he made short work of banks (robbing one bank, and then crossing the street to rob another immediately after), eluded the authorities for years, escaped from prison multiple times, and claimed around 40 murders. Part two, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 was made the same year, and chronicled his later exploits. The films were visually vivid and gritty, with a fearless flair that made the onscreen action that much more grimy and realistic. Mesrine only grew more bloodthirsty and criminally ambitious as the years passed, and director and actor alike were masterfully on point. Veer away from the blandness and predictability of current cinema and immerse yourself head first in some fresh foreign fare.
Born to a Barbadian carpenter and an Englishwoman, Tull was a renown professional soccer player (having played for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town), and was the first black commissioned infantry officer in the British Army. Upon the death of his parents, young Tull was sent to an orphanage along with his brother, who interestingly enough, became Great Britain’s first black practicing dentist. Tull’s soccer career flourished, making many first team appearances for his clubs before he enlisted in the infantry at the outbreak of World War I.
Tull distinguished himself on the battlefield, and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in 1917, despite the British Army forbidding persons of color to hold such rank. He fought in 6 major engagements, was noted for gallantry, and was recommended for a Military Cross. Tull was killed in France in 1918, just 8 months before the war’s end.
Vitals – Born in Saint-Dominique (Haiti), the son of a white nobleman, Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, and an enslaved African, Marie-Cessette Dumas. -Educated in France, and entered the French military.
-Rose the ranks from private to General in Chief by age 31, commanding 53,000.
-Earned renown in numerous wars and battles, earning the nickname ‘The Black Devil’ from his Austrian adversaries for his dogged tenacity on the battlefield.
– Father of Alexandre Dumas, legendary author of The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and other notable works.
Elevated to the rank of Division General in the French army, becoming the highest ranking man of African origin in a European military structure. Among his many firsts, was the first black man to reach the rank of brigadier general, divisional general, as well as General-in-chief in the French army.