Monday, August 1, 2011

Song of a Nation

August 1 happens to be the birth anniversary of Francis Scott Key (1779-1843), who of course wrote the poem "The Star-Spangled Banner", which was later set to the music of an English drinking song to become the US national anthem. Warner Bros. made a short back in 1936 about Key's creation of the poem, called Song of a Nation, which unfortunately doesn't seem to be on DVD. Not only that, but it doesn't seem to have made its way to Youtube either. It doesn't help that the title is something with common enough words to yield a bunch of false positives, while the man playing Key, Donald Woods, has a common enough name to yield mis-hits as well. There are a lot of Youtube videos available for the female lead, Claire Dodd, but none of them are for Song of a Nation

Having said that, Song of a Nation is part of an interesting cycle of movies. Warner Bros. made a surprising number of movies in Technicolor back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, although they were mostly shorts. Quite a few of them have American history themes. Claude Rains starred in 1939's Revolutionary War-themed Sons of Liberty; Dickie Moore played Abraham Lincoln's son in Lincoln in the White House, and John Litel starred in a couple of them, playing Thomas Jefferson in one and Patrick Henry in another. The Technicolor is still nice to look at, and while the history probably is more on a level for schoolchildren, the shorts are worth catching whenever they show up on TCM.

As an aside, I'm wondering if there's a flaw in IMDb's search engine. I knew about several of these, including one called The Monroe Doctrine, which didn't show up when I was searching for Warner Bros. shorts in color from 1930 to 1945 with a two-reel running time (I didn't feel like getting all the animated shorts, which are mostly one-reelers) in the results). When I didn't see The Monroe Doctrine in the results, I figured it must have been made at another studio. But no: it was another Warner Bros. movie, and seems to fit all the other criteria.

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