One of the most honoured events in Southern history, the heroic resistance of the volunteers against a large Mexican force during the Texas War of Independence, has been rendered twice by Hollywood in big-budget movies.
The Alamo, 1960 Film
The 1960 version was a personal project of John Wayne, who invested heavily and directed as well as starred. The movie received a Best Picture nomination and was liked by audiences, but historians, with considerable justification, almost unanimously condemned its prolific inaccuracies and lack of historical context. The final battle scene is one of the few parts that has been complimented by critics. The movie is a typical Hollywood production of its time, with hardly a hint that the Alamo was a Southern (rather than “American”) event that was entirely outside of the U.S. and largely condemned by the North. This defect is accented by the fact that the leading heroes like Bowie, Crockett, Houston, and Travis are portrayed by Midwesterners Wayne, Richard Widmark, and Richard Boone, and the immigrant Lawrence Harvey. Even the urban crooner Frankie Avalon, who was reportedly terrified by snakes during the shooting, becomes a defender of the Alamo. The film was originally over three hours long but the original is apparently not preserved and the generally available version is a surviving, shorter form.
The Alamo, 2004 Film
The Alamo of 2004 version is superior and should become the standard, for a number of reasons. It has a much sounder and more realistic sense of history and context, more real drama rather than Hollywood hoopla. Sam Houston and Crockett are played by native Texans Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton, who have some feeling for the real people of the time. Travis is played by Patrick Wilson of Virginia, another good choice. This film can be enjoyed repeatedly both for its characters and the relative historical soundness of its action.