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Film / Declaration of Independence

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Suck it, King George!
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Declaration of Independence is a 1938 two-reel (17 minutes) short film directed by Crane Wilbur.

It's about, guess what, the signing of the Declaration of Independence! It is late June/early July, 1776, and the Congress is about to vote on the Lee Resolution on American independence. Caesar Rodney, delegate from Delaware, leaves the Continental Congress to investigate Loyalist activity back home. He also goes home to romance a lovely young lass, Betsy Kramer. Unfortunately, Betsy's father Matthew Kramer is head of the Loyalists in the area.

Mr. Kramer categorically refuses to let Caesar marry Betsy. Unfortunately, while he's at the Kramer mansion, Rodney gets a message: he is urgently needed back in Philadelphia to break a tie in Delaware's delegation and tip their vote to independence. Kramer and his Tory buddies are determined to stop Rodney from riding back—and they have guns.

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The portrait of Caesar Rodney as a dashing romantic lover is an amusing contrast to the portrait of Rodney as a withered old man in 1776.


Tropes:

  • Art Imitates Art: The scene were Jefferson and the committee hand over the Declaration is posed to look just like the famous John Trumbull painting. And the scene where Franklin and Adams are editing Jefferson's manuscript is framed to look like the somewhat less famous painting "Writing the Declaration of Independence".
  • Artistic License – History: A lot.
    • Like with many other depictions of these events, the vote on the Declaration was conflated with the vote on the Lee Resolution on July 2, which was the real moment of American independence. When John Adams wrote his quote about celebrating the day with fireworks and festivities, he was talking about July 2.
    • Caesar Rodney certainly wasn't riding back home to romance some girl. And while his ride back to Philadelphia was arduous (all night long, in a pouring rain), no one was trying to kill him.
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    • There are no portraits of the real Rodney but he was known to have a facial malignancy that he hid with a handkerchief. (That's why there are no portraits, most likely.)
  • Historical Domain Character: All of them except for Mr. Kramer and his daughter Betsy.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Rodney's night ride is shot in the kind of Hollywood Darkness where everything is made to look "dark" but you can still see everything that's going on. Of course since he was riding country roads a hundred years before electricity, it would have been dark, not Hollywood Darkness.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Loyalists. Rodney runs afoul of some Tories at the Kramer house and has to fight his way back to Philadelphia.
  • Narrator: Sets the scene, introduces characters, talks about the looming independence vote.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Declaration of Independence! While most people are familiar with the eloquent introduction, this film also includes some of Jefferson's long list of reasons why King George III was a tyrant who had provoked the colonies into rebellion.
  • World of Ham: Every actor in this film is over-the-top hammy.
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