Gettysburg (1993 film)

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Gettysburg
Gettysburgposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ronald F. Maxwell
Produced by Moctesuma Esparza
Robert Katz
Screenplay by Ronald F. Maxwell
Based on The Killer Angels 
by Michael Shaara
Starring
Narrated by W. Morgan Sheppard
Music by Randy Edelman
Cinematography Kees Van Oostrum
Edited by Corky Ehlers
Production
company
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • October 8, 1993 (1993-10-08)
Running time

254 minutes

271 minutes (director's cut)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[1]
Box office $42.8 million [2]

Gettysburg is a 1993 epic war film written and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell,[3] adapted from the historical novel The Killer Angels (1974) by Michael Shaara,[4] about the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. The film stars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen; its score was composed by Randy Edelman.[3]

Synopsis[edit]

The film follows the plot line of Killer Angels. The focus on the first day is on John Buford, who selects the battlefield. The focus on the second day is Joshua Chamberlain's defense of Little Round Top. The focus on the following evening is on preparation for and the execution of Pickett's Charge. James Longstreet is the major focus of those scenes.

Production[edit]

The producers originally pitched the project to ABC in 1991, as a TV miniseries. ABC initially agreed to back the project, but when a miniseries about George Armstrong Custer, Son of the Morning Star (1991), got low ratings, ABC pulled out.[5] Shortly thereafter,[when?] media mogul Ted Turner picked it up, and the film went into production.[citation needed]

For the first time, the National Park Service allowed the motion picture industry to recreate and film battle scenes directly on the Gettysburg Battlefield, including scenes of Devil's Den and Little Round Top. However, much of the movie was shot at a nearby Adams County farm. Thousands of Civil War reenactors from across the country volunteered their time to come to Gettysburg to participate in the massive battle scenes.

The miniseries was set to air on TNT, but when Turner saw part of the film during post-production, he realized it was much bigger than a miniseries and decided to release the film theatrically. The film was distributed by New Line Cinema which Turner had just acquired. Only released to 248 theaters at its widest release and limited to just one or two showings per day because of its length, the film still managed to gross $12,769,960 at the box office. It would go on to become an all-time high seller on the VHS and DVD market, and has become a staple of classroom history lessons.[citation needed] Its June 1994 broadcast TV premiere, on TNT, garnered over 34 million viewers, a record for cable TV.[citation needed]

One of the longest films ever released by a Hollywood studio, Gettysburg runs 254 minutes (4 hours, 14 minutes) on VHS and DVD. A "Director's Cut", 271-minute (4 hours, 31 minutes), with several extended or added scenes, was produced and sold as a part of a special "Collector's Edition" released on DVD and Blu-ray in 2011, to coincide with 150th commemoration of beginning of the Civil War in April, 1861.[citation needed]

The soundtrack was composed by Randy Edelman.

A prequel, Gods and Generals, was released in 2003.

Cast[edit]

Cameos[edit]

Civil War buff Ted Turner has a cameo appearance in one of the battle scenes as Colonel Waller T. Patton. During Major General Pickett's (Stephen Lang) charge, some Confederate troops come to a fence that they have to climb over. Turner plays the Confederate officer who leads the charge, then gets shot down.

Another cameo appearance is by Ken Burns, who wrote and directed the epic PBS documentary, The Civil War (1990). He portrays an aide to Major General Hancock (Brian Mallon) during Pickett's Charge. He can be seen saying "General, please get down. We cannot spare you", to Hancock, to which Hancock replies with his famous quotation, "There are times when a corps commander's life does not count."

Civil War historian Brian Pohanka has an uncredited cameo appearance as Union general Alexander S. Webb.

Actor Matt Letscher, who would go on to play Colonel Adelbert Ames in the prequel Gods and Generals (2003), portrays a soldier in the 2nd Maine.

Soundtrack[edit]

The soundtrack was composed by Randy Edelman.

  1. Overture
  2. Main Title
  3. Men of Honor
  4. Battle of Little Round Top
  5. Fife and Gun
  6. General Lee at Twilight
  7. The First Battle
  8. Dawn
  9. From History to Legend
  10. Over the Fence
  11. We are the Flank
  12. Charging Up the Hill
  13. Entr'acte
  14. Dixie
  15. General Lee's Solitude
  16. Battle at Devil's Den
  17. Killer Angel
  18. March to Mortality (Pickett's Charge)
  19. Kathleen Mavourneen
  20. Reunion and Finale
  21. Exit Music

Two more soundtracks, More Songs and Music From Gettysburg and a Deluxe Commemorative Edition, were released as well. The first one included popular songs from the time period and a recitation of the Gettysburg Address by Jeff Daniels, while the second included several previously unreleased tracks from the score.

Reception[edit]

Gettysburg received an 88% positive rating on the film-critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 16 reviews.[6]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, stating, "This is a film that Civil War buffs will find indispensable, even if others might find it interminable." Ebert said that despite his initial indifference, he left the film with a new understanding of the Civil War, and that he felt Jeff Daniels deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance.[7] Ebert also gave the film a "thumbs-up" on Siskel & Ebert, while his companion Gene Siskel gave it a "thumbs-down", saying the film was "bloated Southern propaganda". He, however, also praised Daniels' performance and recommended its nomination for an Oscar.

Prequel[edit]

A prequel film, Gods and Generals (2003), based on the eponymous 1996 prequel novel to The Killer Angels by Shaara's son, Jeff Shaara, depicts events that take place prior to those shown in Gettysburg, with several actors reprising their roles. It was directed by Maxwell.

References[edit]

External links[edit]