The Battle of New Orleans Brought to You By Cecille B. DeMille!

American history tends to be ignored by Hollywood and therefore it is unusual for a battle to receive treatment in a Hollywood feature film.  It is doubly unusual for a battle to be treated in two Hollywood feature films, but that is the case for the battle of New Orleans.  The 1938 film was directed by the legendary Cecil B. DeMille and had Frederic March, an actor largely forgotten today but a major star in his time, as Jean Lafitte.  Two future stars have bit parts in the film:  Anthony Quinn and Walter Brennan.  Hugh Sothern who portrayed Andrew Jackson would also portray Jackson in 1939 in the film Old Hickory.

The 1958 remake was also to have been directed by Cecille B. DeMille, but he was seriously ill at that time, and relegated himself to the role of executive producer, turning the director’s chair over to Anthony Quinn, his then son-in-law, the one and only film that Quinn ever directed.    DeMille was unhappy with the film and it received fairly negative reviews, although I think the battle sequences are superior to the first film.  Yul Brynner plays Jean Lafitte and Charlton Heston is a commanding Andrew Jackson.  Like Hugh Sothern, Heston would portray Jackson twice, the first time being in The President’s Lady (1953), the tale of the great love story of Rachel Jackson (Susan Hayward) and Andrew Jackson.  Future stars in this version include Inger Stevens, Claire Bloom and Lorne Green.

Adequate coverage of the battle is given in each film, although not much detail.  The battle of course is merely an adjunct for the romantic tale of Jean Lafitte.  Without the pirate turned patriot, I am certain the battle of New Orleans would have likely received the same indifference that Hollywood has shown for most of American history.

3 Responses to The Battle of New Orleans Brought to You By Cecille B. DeMille!

  • “Without the pirate turned patriot, I am certain the battle of New Orleans would have likely received the same indifference that Hollywood has shown for most of American history.”

    The same would likely have happened without country balladeer Johnny Horton and his hit song “Battle of New Orleans” — the one that begins “In 1814 we took a little trip/Along with Colonel Jackson down the Mighty Mississip.” That song has stuck in my head for decades.

  • When Queen Elizabeth visited Newfoundland in 1959, the provincial government, out of concern of offending the Queen, banned the playing of the “Battle of New Orleans”. As my Mom informed me, in reaction Newfies were hanging record players out of their windows, the volume cranked up full blast playing the song. Her comment on this fiasco is that if the idiots in government hadn’t attempted to ban it, no one would have been playing it. I think my attitude towards government began to be forged by this example of folly related to me at a very young age at my mother’s knee!

  • Watching these films shows how far we have come as far as American culture is concerned.

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