Patriotic Picks: Glory (1989)
Today we finish out our Patriotic Picks blog series with a look at the 1989 American war film, Glory. It was directed by Edward Zwick and written by Kevin Jarre based on two novels and the letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. The film follows the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which was one of the first military units during the Civil War to consist entirely of African American men except for its officers. The film stars Matthew Broderick as Colonel Robert Shaw and Denzel Washington as Private Silas Tripp. The movie also boasts performances from Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Andre Braugher, Jihmi Kennedy, and John Finn. Glory went on to receive five Academy Award nominations, eventually winning the awards for Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Supporting Actor for Denzel Washington.
So, why does this period war film rank so highly among our favorite patriotic films?
1) The History
Whenever it comes to period pieces during the Civil War, it is easy to focus on a series of battles or the leadership found in President Lincoln and other officials. Maybe that is part of the reason why this movie stands out. This film almost dives into a piece of forgotten history. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was by no means the only all African American infantry in the war, but they were one of the first. They suffered heavy casualties at Fort Wagner, but their impact on the Union Army and how it worked moving forward was paramount. This group of men were game changers in the war, and this movie does a wonderful job of reclaiming that part of history.
2) The Pay Scene
This movie has more than a few difficult moments to watch, but this particular scene is one of my favorites. The enlisted men were promised a certain pay rate at the beginning, and of course, the government deems that they should be paid less because of the color of their skin. Denzel Washington’s Private Tripp begins protesting the pay rate and encourages his fellow soldiers to tear up their pay stubs. However, the greatest moment is not the men following his lead; it’s the moment when Colonel Shaw declares that none of the officers will accept their pay either. The men do not always know what to think of Shaw, but in that moment, it’s apparent that he is completely with them. It is a pivotal moment, and it only serves to bring this unit closer together.
3) The Solidarity
In light of talking about the aforementioned scene, the solidarity of this group is part of what makes the film so moving. It is not a smooth road by any means, but at the end of the day, Shaw, Forbes, and their men all stand together. They struggle through training together, and they fight for a chance to see real combat together. There are moments when different units disrespect the 54th, and Shaw and Forbes never allow for it to stand. There is respect among these men, and the solidarity between them makes this movie worth the watch.
So, have you watched Glory before? What are some of your favorite moments?
Be sure to share them in the comments below, and be on the lookout next Friday as we move into a new blog series.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.