Mary Silliman's War
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(May 22, 2012)
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It is the fourth year of the War for Independence. The enemy is not only the British—Americans are also fighting among themselves. Mary Silliman’s town of Fairfield, Connecticut, is bitterly divided between patriots and tories, those still loyal to the King of England. Mary is at odds with her husband, Selleck, a fierce patriot and prominent State’s Attorney, for prosecuting old friends and neighbors and harshly applying revolutionary justice. When Selleck is kidnapped and held for ransom, Mary sets in motion a dangerous plot to win his freedom.
Mary Silliman’s War has been uniformly recognized as among the best films or televison programs ever made about the Revolutionary War.
“This beautifully filmed and historically accurate film is a wrenching tale of war through the eyes of one woman.” Chicago Sun-Times
“ This (three star) film quietly yet powerfully addresses such issues as women’s roles and the ambiguities of way.” TV Guide – National Review
“By a very wide margin, (it) is the most compelling film or play ever produced about the American Revolution” John Murrin, Professor of History, Princeton University
“ A personal film that shows how to connect with the revolution.” The Seattle Intelligencer
“Mary Silliman’s War sets its character in a historic diorama that works to stirring effect.” The Hollywood Reporter
“This fact-based drama set in the American Revolution is a jewel.” Milwaukee Journal
“Superb in every way—visually, dramatically, historically.” Patricia Bonomi, Professor of History, New York University
"The authenticity shows in gorgeous misty shots of the town, riverside and country, and in portrait-come-to-life images of townspeople...It shows in the faithful re-creation of 18th century buildings, furniture and music." Los Angeles Times
“Movies set during the Revolutionary War are a pretty rare breed on TV…Mary Silliman’s War is a rare treat.” Daytona News-Journal
“Incomparably the best film on the American Revolution. Nothing else even comes close.” Fred Anderson, Professor of History, University of Colorado
"It has all the makings of a box-office hit--a pregnant wife facing the perils of war alone, a kidnapping, a counter-kidnapping." Connecticut Post.
Top customer reviews
Not only is the film accompanied by a study manual that describes some of the themes to be found in the film, it is supported by the weight of primary documents in the form of Mary Silliman's correspondence and journal as well as relevant material describing the reality of 18th century New England. The film is directly grounded by a scholarly biography of Mary Silliman by Joy Day Buel and Richard Buel, Jr., entitled The Way of Duty: A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America, published by W. W. Norton in 1984.
As a result, the film is firmly intertwined with primary and secondary sources, and I can honestly say it is one of the most accurate representations of historical events from the 18th century that I've ever seen. Another major component of my positive impression of this film is the purpose of the film. It is clear that the director, as well as Richard Buel and the historical consultants working on the film, were aiming to portray the complexities of revolutionary New England. The study manual points to four themes that the production team sought to incorporate in the film: "The Revolution Considered as Civil War"; "Gender Roles"; "Religious Culture"; "Social and Family History"; and I would add "Race and Class relations".
The Revolution depicted in this film offers a clear indication of the intense civil war that accompanied it in communities just like Fairfield, Connecticut. Intense divisions amongst loyalists and patriots were acted out in the same court proceedings as the one depicted in the film as well as the social tensions that accompanied it. Mary's struggles also depict the assumed roles of women in society and how she came to fit into, and circumvent, those notions. In one scene, Mary delivers a petition to the Governor of Connecticut hoping to elicit his help in securing her husband's release. Not only that, she even begs leave to make a comment on politics even though she recognizes it is not a place for her sex.
The film explores all of these themes. These themes are the very contribution this film has made to my understanding of the American Revolution. When the film was released in 1994, these themes were quite relevant to the historiography. So while I may have been aware of these themes and the complexity of communities like Fairfield, Connecticut, the film helped merge them into a cohesive portrayal of how all of these themes interacted with one another on a daily basis.
In all, I can’t recommend this film enough for anyone interested in seeing an actual accurate portrayal of a small town in revolutionary New England.