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4.0 out of 5 stars History Channel's Hatfields And McCoys offers poor history, May 31, 2012
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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Comments

Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 41-50 of 75 posts in this discussion
Posted on Jul 29, 2012 12:33:29 PM PDT
I could have sworn Tolbert and Jim McCoy both had wives, too. And that Alifair was older than Roseanna by a year.

Posted on Jul 31, 2012 3:10:40 PM PDT
JimStell says:
We do not watch MOVIES mainly for HISTORICAL VALUE but we would like to read REVIEWS about the ENTERTAINMENT VALUE, the acting, the production aspect, the photography, the direction, the story flow and the continuity.

DOCUMENTARY MOVIES and FICTIONAL ENTERTAINMENT MOVIES are two horses of different colors and should be REVIEWED as such.
Jim & Stella Lockhart

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2012 10:13:58 AM PDT
M. Morrow says:
You obviously possess a rather unpleasant nature, Lisa.

It is always always always a tremendous and valuable contribution when a review of any media product based on real events attempts to educate those with intellectual curiosity beyond that of a pre-school student with facts and reality. I say "attempts to educate", because for many such as you actively resist knowing what really happens in the world. Why do you even waste your "valuable" time reading any facts, here or elsewhere, if it reduces your entertainment?

Your comment is valueless, pointless, and uninformed. Unfortunately for other readers, apparently you have indeed nothing else better to do, and we are all the worse for your efforts. I laugh out loud at you!!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2012 12:12:41 PM PDT
JimStell says:
THANK YOU, my dear, I am truly flattered and I THANK you for your comment.
Jim

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 19, 2012 7:46:08 AM PDT
JDA says:
Could you send me a pdf version of your book.My maternal side of my family are West Virginians.
jacobdorndairyfarm@gmail.com.
This dairy farm was in Huntington,W Va until 1940.
Thnaks and God bless.

Posted on Sep 3, 2012 2:41:54 PM PDT
M. Foster says:
A "dramatization" is not intended to be a documentary. When I watch a documentary, I expect there to be facts and for the facts to be correct. When I watch a drama, I expect to be entertained.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2012 1:43:06 AM PDT
Pepper says:
Linda Burnett: I have the A&E Biography version of the Hatfields & McCoys. Lots of good information there.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2012 1:45:03 AM PDT
Pepper says:
B. Markowski: I simply take a film like this for what it is and don't have expectations of it being historically correst. My feeling is - IT'S A MOVIE!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2012 9:21:17 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 23, 2012 9:30:52 PM PDT]

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 4:34:06 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 4:50:20 PM PST
First of all, the fact that this was on The History Channel should be a heads up that it won't be historically accurate. And there's nothing worse than an amateur historian pontificating about what was historically "wrong" with a MOVIE. But why would anyone give something they obviously didn't like four stars?

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