I missed out on the Davy Crockett craze in the 1950s, which means I did not have a coonskin cap and was not running around the neighborhood singing "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" over and over again. By the time I was watching television Fess Parker was Daniel Boone and not Davy Crockett, so it took a bit of mental rearrangement to get my young mind around the idea that he was both when "The Wonderful World of Disney" rebroadcast the three adventures of Davy Crockett that were combined into the theatrical film, "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier." They made enough of an impression that my brother and I compelled our parents to buy us the Disney record that had audio versions of the three adventures. So it has been nigh on thirty, thirty-five years since I done seen them original adventure of ol' Davy and I was a might surprised to learn they hold up pretty well.
"Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier" combines "Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter," "Davy Crockett Goes to Congress," and "Davy Crockett at the Alamo." Davy and his sidekick Georgie Russell (Buddy Ebsen) stop a Creek uprising and convince Chief Red Stick (Pat Hogan) to return to the ways of peace despite the help of Captain Norton (William Bakewell) and with the tactic approval of General Andy Jackson (Basil Ruysdael), spends some time speechifying in the United States Congress, and then joins the small band of volunteers led by Jim Bowie (Kenneth Tobey) defending the Alamo against the Mexican army of General Santa Ana. The middle part of the trilogy is the weakest of the adventures seeing as how Davy has to dress up in fancy duds to walk around the halls of Congress. The conclusion at the Alamo is the most memorable sequence, having a more serious tone and some impressive production values when you consider the entire battle is being shot on a soundstage (for years when I drew the Alamo it was the Disney version and not the real one that I was drawing).
Directed by Norman Foster and written by Thomas Blackburn, the biggest surprise in these episodes is Davy's attitude towards the Indians. Instead of just killing Red Stick in their tomahawk duel Davy persuades the chief to return to the land. He stops Bigfoot Mason (Mike Mazurki) from stealing the land of Charlie Two Shirts (Jeff Thompson), gives a speech in Congress defending the right of Indians to their tribal lands, and befriends the brave Busted Luck (Nick Cravat) on the way to the Alamo. The climatic battle has an appropriate gravity and does a tolerable job of sticking to history beyond reducing the role of Colonel Travis (Don Megowan). When Davy sings a final song on the last night of the battle there is an unexpected poignancy, which contrasts well with the simple determination to stay there until the end. The sight of Davy swinging old Betsy as a club while about to be overwhelmed by the Mexican troops is a memorable final image of our hero.
Ultimately the main strength of these stories are the performances of the two leads. Parker completely natural in the role and Ebsen shows an understated comic touch throughout. The friendship between Davy and Georgie becomes the one constant throughout the adventures. There are several fine supporting performances as well, particularly Ruysdael as Andy Jackson and Tobey as a fatalistic Jim Bowie. Veteran character actor Hans Conreid plays Thimbelrig, a gambler the boys pick up on their way to Texas. Granted, the nostalgic aspects of "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier" is going to be a strong part of the entertainment value here, but these are very good yarns for the Fifties. Walt Disney made two more adventures in the series, "Davy Crockett's Keelboat Race" and "Davy Crockett and the River Pirates," both of which are much more comedic than the original trilogy while making more of an attempt to present Davy as a proper role model for the younguns.
on 23 October 2007
As a highlander growing up in Argyll Scotland a laddie was not even there,even then so far away from the stories of Davy Crockett and the Scottish emigree experience.The two local woods were known to everyone in the village as America and Canada,no doubt reflecting the enforced removals and for the few who could afford better passage the urge and the necessity to try for a better life there despite the hardships than suffer at home under what was to become known and later abhorred as the Highland Clearances which began after the failure of the 1745 Rising to put our rightful King,
King James back on the throne of Scotland,and incidentally for me England.
So armed already with true stirring tales I was more than ready to embrace the story of Davy Crockett when Walt Disney brought it to the big screen. Davy Crockett the film was gripping stuff for me and my father bowing to pressure made me a "coonskin cap" (an old fox stole formerly belonging to my mother was gladly given over and refashioned for the purpose)and I must have driven my beloved father mad by singing the Ballad of Davy Crockett constantly.Fifty years later I can still sing it.
My earliest memories are of my father during our walks in the hills teaching me how to identify, track and shoot animals such as red deer and fox and wild mink and rabbit and when attention lagged he could always get me interested again by telling me some story of Davy Crockett's life in the wilderness or one of the tall tales he would have known.This film may not be the highest in cinematic values but it certainly holds a high place in my own heart and surely that is the best judgement of all.Davy Crockett as a mountain man,adventurer and congressman must be one of the best sources for hero worship ( apart from Jesus) a boy can have and anyone who says otherwise is some kind of no good varmint I reckon.Get your kids to watch this film ,it might just save them from thinking that modern day celebrities are some kind of replacement for real heroes.They manifestly are not.I bet none of them thar varmints killed him a bear when he was only three!!!!.Enough said.