North and South: The American Civil War on Film

Ever since The Birth of a Nation in 1915, the American Civil War has presented the backdrop or the subject matter of hundreds of films. With this season we present six of the best, from directors including John Huston, John Ford and Robert Redford.

The Red Badge of Courage

John Huston | USA | 1951 | 69 minutes

A personal project for director John Huston, this adaptation of Stephen Crane’s novel about a Civil War soldier’s struggle to find the courage to fight was cruelly cut by the studio.

The Raid

Hugo Fregonese | USA | 1954 | 83 minutes

A group of confederate prisoners escape to Canada and plan to rob the banks and set fire to the small town of Saint Albans in Vermont. To get the lie of the land, their leader spends a few days in the town and finds he is getting drawn into its life and especially into that of an attractive widow and her son.

Raintree County

Edward Dmytryk | USA | 1957 | 160 minutes

Abolitionist John Wickliff Shawnessy (Montgomery Clift) drifts away from his high school sweetheart Nell Gaither and enters into a passionate love affair with a wealthy New Orleans belle Susanna Drake (Elizabeth Taylor) and is tricked into marrying her. The war then intervenes, providing further complications to their troubled relationship.

NB: On account of the film’s length, this screening will start at 4pm rather than 4.30pm.

The Horse Soldiers

John Ford | USA | 1959 | 119 minutes

A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply centre. Along with them is sent a doctor who causes instant antipathy between him and the commander. The secret plan for the mission is overheard by a southern belle who must be taken along to assure her silence. The Union officers each have different reasons for wanting to be on the mission. Stars John Wayne and William Holden.

The Beguiled

Don Siegel | USA | 1971 | 105 minutes

Injured Yankee soldier, John McBurney (Clint Eastwood) is rescued on the verge of death by a teenage girl from a southern boarding school. She manages to get him back to the school, and at first the all-female staff and pupils are scared. As he starts to recover, one by one he charms them and the atmosphere becomes filled with jealousy and deceit.

The Conspirators

Robert Redford | USA | 2010 | 122 minutes

Mary Surratt is the lone female charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination trial of Abraham Lincoln. As the whole nation turns against her, she is forced to rely on her reluctant lawyer to uncover the truth and save her life.