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Series / The Swamp Fox

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The Swamp Fox was a short-lived American series that aired as part of the Walt Disney Presents block (the 'Frontierland' segment). It starred Leslie Nielsen as The American Revolution figure Francis Marion, leader of a guerrilla band based in the South Carolina swamps. (It wasn't a comedy series; this was in the early part of Nielsen's career, when he was a straight dramatic actor—think Forbidden Planet rather than The Naked Gun.) A few other notable faces showed up in various episodes, including Slim Pickens as Marion's man Plunkett, and Tim Considine, of Disney and My Three Sons fame as Marion's nephew 'Young' Gabe Marion. Despite it being rather obscure, it did show up in several Disney comic anthologies and got a Disney coloring book at one time.

It only lasted eight episodes, but since it was rotated with other series in the program, it appeared to go on longer than if it had been a weekly program. It was, when looking at portrayals of the war, one of the few (along with The Patriot (2000)) to actually portray the war in the southern colonies.

This work contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Medicine: In one episode, Mary goes to get quinine, which wasn't invented until the 1800s.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted. Marion and Oscar realize they need a diversion in one episode because the Redcoats are still chasing them and the horses can't go much further.
  • Backup Bluff: Marion outsmarted a squad of Redcoats this way, with Oscar using the pack horses on a wooden bridge to sound like backup. The effect was intensified by the Americans changing where they fired from after each shot.
  • Bar Brawl: In the final episode, the guys sneak off to drink and the Tory tavern owner alerts the Redcoats. One of these breaks out when the soldiers arrive.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Especially since it's an American series—reality was a lot more White-and-Grey Morality.
  • Boot Camp Episode: In the episode Horses for Greene, Marion allows his men to be trained to be more military. As his men are not regular soldiers but militia, they do not care for this.
  • Civil War: The 'brother against brother, parent against child' stuff is well portrayed. And subverted in one case.
  • Colonel Badass: Marion at times, until his Rank Up to Brigadier General.
  • Color-Coded Armies: Although Tarleton's group wore green, the Redcoat variety is still very present. Marion's group doesn't have uniforms—in real life, some did, but most wore whatever they could find.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: All over the place. Briggs and his brother, Mary's family—until a secret is revealed in a later ep.
  • Disneyfication: Quite a bit. There was a degree of accuracy, but quite a few areas were softened as well. The African-American characters, for example, are never referred to as slaves, and most of the darker sides of the main characters are left out.
  • Disturbed Doves: Marion's signal to the brigade was to shoot a rifle to make the birds on the island fly up.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Marion dresses as a Redcoat to rescue an arrested Mary. It doesn't work.
  • Food Slap: One of the guys starts a bar brawl and thwarts an arrest attempt by throwing booze in a Redcoat's face.
  • From Dress to Dressing: Mary cuts up her party dress to use as bandages for the guys on the prison ship.
  • Heal It with Booze: Young Gabe is given whiskey to dull the pain of his wound; not uncommon in those days.
  • Hellhole Prison: The prison ship, very much Truth in Television. The captain of the ship Mary left warned her of how bad conditions were there, and some prisoners did die before she could help them escape.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Tarleton, who in real life gained the nickname 'The Butcher' for his treatment of rebels trying to surrender.
  • I Lied: Tarleton never intended to let Mary off, he just wanted to catch Marion using her.
  • Island Base: Marion's base at Snow Island in the South Carolina swamps.
  • It's Personal: When Young Gabe is captured, then killed.
  • Karmic Death: Briggs, the Tory one. Gwynne kills him after becoming certain he (and not Marion) is the actual killer of his father.
  • La Résistance: The Americans consider themselves this to the British rule.
  • Masquerade Ball: Mary is made by Tarleton to attend one after she's caught as a spy, and it turns out to be a plot to catch Marion.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Marion tries to break into a masquerade party to free Mary, and is caught himself. His band later has to free him.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: The 'S' word—'Slave'—in this case. Only words like 'servant' and 'boy' are used.
  • Powder Trail: 'A Day of Reckoning' has one when Briggs is caught in the tavern.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Marion's brigade. Pretty much true in real life, as it was of many Americans.
  • Rank Up: Marion becomes a Brigadier General and Horry a Colonel.
  • Rebel Leader: Marion, even though he wasn't the top leader obviously.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Marion goes on one of these after Young Gabe is kidnapped.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The attempt to rescue Young Gabe doesn't work, and Marion stops at nothing to find his killer. No one is shown to die onscreen, but there's quite a bit of beating up and intimidating.
  • Sibling Rivalry / Sibling Yin-Yang: The Briggs brothers. One's a Tory, the other's a Patriot. The Tory had no regrets whatsoever burning down his brother's house.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Gabe is whipped to try and force him to tell where Marion's base is. It doesn't work.
  • Twisted Ankle: Marion, in the pilot. Truth in Television, apparently.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Plunkett, Horry, and one or two others give this to Marion when it's obvious that he's so consumed with finding Young Gabe's killer that he forgets he's fighting a war as well.
  • Worthless Currency: An episode where Marion's men pay a tavern owner with Continental money, which is worthless at the time. He's a Tory and not happy. They tell him the new government will make good on it after the war. Truth in Television, as continental money really was worthless since the fledgling Americans had nothing to back it with until after the war.
  • You Killed My Father: Gwynne, to Marion—it was actually Briggs, the man who also killed Young Gabe, who had pretended to be Marion to try and turn people against him.
  • You Monster!: One of the Tory women at Mary's home says this when Marion has his band break in and act like the Tories expect Americans to act—like a bunch of wild guys—so he can use the distraction to warn Mary that Tarleton is coming.
  • You Rebel Scum!: many loyalists viewed those that fight for the colonists as lesser beings, althro they usually got their comeuppance soon afterward.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Tarleton says he'll let Mary go if she attends the ball, pretending that he thinks she's just a rebellious child, but he really uses the ball as a way to capture Marion briefly.