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Film / Shenandoah

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"There's not much I can tell you about this war. It's like all wars, I guess. The undertakers are winning. And the politicians who talk about the glory of it. And the old men who talk about the need of it. And the soldiers, well, they just wanna go home."

A 1965 anti-war film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and staring James Stewart, whose personal anti-war stance had a large part in the movie's existence.

Widowed farmer Charlie Anderson is living in Virginia with his children when the American Civil War breaks out. He wants nothing to do with the war and does his best to keep his family out of it despite the Confederacy trying to recruit his sons and his daughter Jennie's marriage to a Confederate officer named Sam.

However, when his youngest son is mistaken for a Confederate soldier and taken by Union forces, Anderson decides it is now "his war". He, his other sons (except the eldest, James, who stays behind with his wife Ann and their infant daughter Martha), and Jennie set out to save the boy. Before the film is over, the Anderson family will find itself drastically reduced.


Later adapted into a 1975 Broadway musical starring John Cullum (who took home a Best Actor Tony for his performance).

Includes Examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: James, Ann, Jacob
  • Bittersweet Ending: The boy returns home, but the Anderson family has lost three members to the Civil War despite their best attempts to stay out of it.
  • Bookends: Near the beginning, they go to church. At the end, the boy returns during a church service.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Sam
  • Chekhov's Gun: Boy finds a Confederate hat at the start of the film. This becomes very important later, when it gets him captured.
  • Child Soldiers: Gabriel and the Boy
  • Contrived Coincidence: The train hijacked by the Anderson happens to be the prisoner of war transport Sam is on.
  • Happily Married: Charlie and Martha were, until she died; James and Ann, until they die.
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  • No Name Given: "Boy" is never called anything else. His name isn't even given in the credits.
  • Karma Houdini: The three men who murder James and rape and murder Ann are apparently never caught.
  • The Patriarch: Charlie Anderson.
  • Politically Correct History: Averted, notably for its time, as neither side in the conflict is portrayed particularly flatteringly.
  • Protect This House
  • Talking to the Dead: Charlie often visits his wife's grave and goes into monologues.
  • Team Mom: Ann
  • Tomboy: Jennie — "Yes, I'm a woman, but I don't see anyone here I can't out-run, out-ride, or out-shoot!"

The musical also provides examples of:


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