Monday, July 26, 2010

1957 -JOHNNY TREMAIN a typical Disney film from the 1950's

The kind of film that gave the Walt Disney company the reputation of making middle of the road  films safe to take the entire family to, clean wholesome entertainment as they used to say.

Johnny Tremain is a young apprentice silversmith in pre revolutionary war Boston, who burns his hand and has to find other employment.  He ends up delivering messages for a who's who of the American Revolutionary War.

Johnny meets up with Paul Revere who always likes to ride his horse fast.  Samuel Adams who talks  a lot and Dr. Joseph Warren who ends up fixing his hand in time for him to show up at Lexington or Concord or somewhere for the "shot heard round the world.

The film was directed by Disney's top contract guy Robert Stevenson probably as responsible for the Disney style as much as Walt himself with films like, That Darn Cat, Mary Poppins, The Absent Minded Professor and so on.

There's nothing particularly good or bad about this film, it's just that everyone is just really polite to everyone.  The British are polite to the revolutionaries, the revolutionaries are polite to the British even to the point of sweeping up after themselves after the Boston Tea Party.  A film about the Revolutionary War in America should really have a passionate point of view.

The actors are all pretty boring and sound like they come from the Midwest rather than Boston. They are all photographed in medium close shots so we can carefully understand each word.

This was the kind of thing that showed up on the Disney television show usually in two parts.  Walt Disney would introduce the film each week to give it some gravitas.  These films always seemed like they had a deliberate two part structure almost like they were intended to end up on the Disney TV series.

Probably the only thing of interest in this film is the art work of Peter Ellenshaw, the British painter who did matte paintings for Disney studios.  Ellenshaw had worked with Powell and Pressburger and he gives Johnny Tremain a good period look with his scenic vistas of 1773 Boston.

Watching Johnny Tremain, you would hardly know that all of this blandness came from a well regarded and award winning children's book.

 80 minutes.

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