430 of 520 people found the following review helpful
History Channel's Hatfields And McCoys offers poor history,
This review is from: Hatfields & McCoys (DVD)
The History Channel miniseries "Hatfields and McCoys", directed by Kevin Reynolds and written by Ted Mann and Bill Kerby enjoyed brisk ratings this week. Thus far, this rendering of the epic struggle between two families living in West Virginia and Kentucky is the best one to date. That is not to say that it did not have many flaws. In general, I admired Ted Mann's work on the HBO series "Deadwood", where he created great dialogue for both fictional and real denizens of the South Dakota boom town. The characters in this miniseries also generally speak with a high level of intelligence with only a few hillbilly archetypes thrown in. The acting for this program is outstanding with a few exceptions. Most notably, Jena Malone gets my vote for the worst overacting in the part of Nancy McCoy. However, Powers Boothe, Kevin Costner, Mare Winningham and Bill Paxton all turn in solid performances. For his portrayal of "Uncle Jim" Vance, Tom Berenger is the standout in this cast. As with most Hollywood versions of significant historical events, the writers and filmmakers feel a need to change the truth to suit their plot development. This includes the requisite romantic elements and composite characters. With that latitude in mind, I still found the historical inaccuracies of this television movie to be staggering. Having performed extensive research on the real feud, I would like to point out a number of these for the perspective DVD buyer:
1) The show made a big point about Devil Anse taking unofficial leave from his Rebel Company D during the Civil War. Randolph McCoy also went on unofficial leave soon afterward. So there was no moral high ground there; nor do I know of any historical record stating this caused any ill will between the two men.
2) The show depicted major religious differences between Randolph and Devil Anse. I have never read anything stating religion played a strong part in the feud. However, economic jealousy did.
3) The hog trial was conducted in Deacon Anse's cabin in Raccoon Hollow; and not a regular court house in Mate County convened by Wall Hatfield.
4) Perry Cline was not counsel for the plaintiff during the hog trial.
5) Asa Harmon McCoy was not shot while hiding at a still. Ironically, this Union man owned a slave named Pete. Unfortunately, for Asa, Pete was followed to a cave by Logan County Regulars.
6) Bill Staton was not ambushed by Paris and Sam McCoy. In fact, it was the opposite, as Staton layed in wait for the McCoys. Sam was never convicted and was acquitted for murder on the grounds of self defense.
7) Randolph McCoy did not send his sons to retrieve Roseanna McCoy from the Hatfield cabin. He sent his three daughters. Therefore, Johnse Hatfield was never shot by the McCoy brothers.
8) Frank Phillips did not kill Tom Wallace. Larkin and Jacob McCoy probably did.
9) Wall Hatfield did not surrender himself to Pikeville authorities and was captured by Frank Phillips. Additionally, he was not the sympathetic character portrayed by Powers Boothe. He was an overpowering manipulator who had a strong lead role in the murders of Tolbert, Pharmer and Randolph McCoy Junior.
10) Devil Anse and Wall Hatfield did not call for Sarah McCoy to come visit her sons before they were executed. She demanded to see her boys. Wall and Devil Anse blocked her entrance to the schoolhouse where her captive sons were being held. For nearly an hour, in the pouring rain, Sarah pressed the Hatfield brothers before they relented to a visit.
11) Perry Cline had a wife; and I have never read that he showed romantic interest in Roseanna McCoy.
12) Cap Hatfield wrote the famous letter to the newspapers asking for an abatement of hostilities, not Devil Anse. Though it looked very touching to show Devil Anse reading the letter to the clan.
My other criticism of this show, is though it has been described by critics as "atmospheric", I found it to be humorless and relentlessly grim. I know the producers had six hours to tell the story, but I believed there were many missed opportunities to show less violence and greater depth of character. Instead, most of the primary players were dislikable. The real Devil Anse was a remarkable man of extraordinary humor. There was great wrong done on both sides during this clan warfare; but these actions were carried out by complex people of both good and bad temperament. Finally, the fact that little was depicted about the tremendous court battles between Kentucky and West Virginia was I believe, another opportunity that was missed.
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Showing 21-30 of 75 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2012 8:20:11 AM PDT
Stacey Bahr says:
I for one am happy to have his insight into this miniseries. When movie makers try to present items as facts, people are going to call them out on those facts if they are inaccurate. I don't have the time or ambition to do extensive research on what was true or what wasn't, but the whole feud is interesting enough to me that I welcome the additional information. He agreed with the fact that the series was well-made, well-acted and enjoyable, but desired for people to know where the movie makers took liberties for their own story telling. He did nothing that a DVD feature commentary wouldn't have done.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2012 9:45:49 AM PDT
I would also love a copy of this ebook. I have been greatly interested in the facts after seeing the 3 part mini series.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2012 10:06:04 AM PDT
Thanks for your feedback. And, if I made you laugh, the world is a better place for it.
Posted on Jun 5, 2012 12:00:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 5, 2012 12:01:07 PM PDT
Rufus T. says:
Thanx for the add'l info on the H vs M story Phillip. But it's a given that film-makers will always fudge the facts in retelling a story for cinematic purposes. For instance, if they'd included long segments of the protracted court battles between the 2 states as you mentioned, it'd turn what's essentially an action movie into a courtroom drama, losing viewership in the process. (When portraying a war story on film, we want to see battle scenes, not generals in a room discussing tactics and strategy.) I don't think there's ever been a case of a nonfiction account in a Hollywood film that stuck 100% to the known facts. And in several events retold here, the truth will never be known for certain since they were cases of witnesses/victims being dead. Conjecture and supposition is sometimes all we have, subject to interpretation. But in perspective, this version probably strayed the least from the real story compared to other filmed accounts. In any case, it'll encourage those interested to seek out more accurate versions in the various written accounts available at libraries and (e)book stores.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2012 1:33:15 PM PDT
The reason I cited the numerous historical discrepancies in my review is because this show (though primarily designed for entertainment purposes) was broadcast on "The History Channel". Had it been broadcasted on HBO or another cable network, I might have gone easier on them. However, on a pure entertainment level, many more of you have liked this show better than I did. Remember, art is in the eye of the viewer, so I congratulate the History Channel for pleasing the lion's share of their viewers. I just do not number myself in the ranks of great fans of this film.
Phillip E. hardy
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2012 7:01:18 PM PDT
Thomas M. Kensil says:
Phillip. Thank you for all your insightful comments and your review. I am going to email you from work also requesting your ebook. How many pages is it though as I don't want to upset my workmates by hogging the copier? Also, the girl, I think Lisa was her name, that says you have nothing better to do with your time obviously does not understand the time us history buffs spend on research. Your replies to comments are great! Thanks!
Posted on Jun 5, 2012 7:35:57 PM PDT
Thomas M. Kensil says:
Too All Viewers: Give Phillip a break please. He knows the subject well and simply was trying to point out some historical errors. I like guys like him. Why? Because I am a history buff myself and we like to know as MUCH as we can learn on a particular subject matter. It actually saves me time researching the subject. Oh BTW...he STILL gave the mini series 4 stars!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted on Jun 6, 2012 3:27:47 PM PDT
Your comment is well thought out.
You keep stating that "I have never read . . ." This does not mean it never happened. Many public, private and government records have been lost or destroyed over the years.
I must point out that the Hatfields and McCoys like many other historical subjects of books and movies are based on stories passed down through generations. Remember that a great number of the population during that period were illiterate so we have to rely on oral history passed down through generations and we all know how a stories change each time they are passed on.
You criticize the movie for not showing the lighter side of both families. Remember when one thinks of the Hatfields and the McCoys they think of the feud.
You criticize the actor's portrayal of some of the characters because in your opinion some of them were overacted or made you dislike the character. You are obviously from a small family. I can relate to the portrayal of the Hatfields and the McCoys in that I am from a very large family with four living generations on both sides. I have relatives that are not likable, uneducated, criminals as well as very charismatic, accomplished professors, doctors, attorneys, entertainers, etc.
As for the court battles, although the Hatfields and the McCoys were named parties involved in the lawsuits the court battles were about jurisdiction which really was a story in itself.
Remember history books are supposed to be objective but many times they are not and the information found inside is not absolute in that everyone, including historians are subject to bias one way or another and at times tend to fill in gaps with their assumptions.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2012 3:36:55 PM PDT
Thank you Lisa. I loved the mini series. What they fail to realize is that any information passed down through generations gets embellished and/or skewed. Most of the people involved were not literate and written records have been lost and destroyed including court records. A lot of information was stored in Kanas Archives which burned in the 1940s. Not only were private and public records lost but military records as well.
I think that people forget that all records were not preserved because they were recorded on paper whether they be photos, document, letters, etc. which if not stored properly they will be destroyed by the elements.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2012 7:46:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 6, 2012 8:11:41 PM PDT
Jazz: Thanks for the feedback. However, the feud made national news. It was a highly chronicled American Story. The points I laid out are well documented by Feud historians such as Virgil Carrington Jones, Otis Rice, Altina Waller and James Klotter of the Kentucky Historical library. By your reasoning, I can say family stories have embellished the Battle of Gettysburg, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Battle of New Orleans. However, there are numerous newspaper and eye witness accounts for all the aforementioned events. The habeas corpus battles were about the rights of nine West Virginia men illegally arrested in West Virgina and taken back to Pikeville Kentucky. Our United States history offers us a frame of reference, which we should use to convey historical action or historical fiction stories in a way that helps preserve our great heritage. Finally, there were quite enough literate people in Mate County and Pike County who were a large part of events surrounding the feud. I stand by my critique and the historical points I outlined in my review. If you have another version of feud events, write a review of your own and post it along with your admiration for the film. That's what makes our country great, is you have the freedom to convey your antidotal stories any way you like. Finally, it I cannot point out bad acting every not and then, I might as well move Communist China. There, everyone has to think a like.