Glory captures the heroism of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the first black
regiment in the Civil War, the Massachusetts "Fighting" Fifty-fourth. An
extremely talented cast and crew earned three Academy Awards (cinematography,
sound and supporting actor) and five nominations for their work in Glory. The
outstanding cinematography, sound, score and acting recreate the events leading
up to the Union attack on Fort Wagner on July 18th 1863.
Matthew Broderick portrays the young Bostonian abolitionist Col. Robert G.
Shaw who takes command of the Fifty-fourth, following the Emancipation
Proclamation. Shaw along with Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes) leads a band of ex
slaves, servants and other black volunteers including a rebellious runaway slave
Trip (Denzel Washington), Shaw's educated childhood friend Thomas Searles (Andre
Braugher), and a former grave digger Rawlins (Morgan Freeman). Together these
men face the adversity of a racist Union Army, struggling to prove themselves
worthy of their government issued blue uniforms.
After months of training and exploitation for physical labor, the Fifty-
fourth gains the opportunity to fight in an attack on Fort Wagner on the beaches
of South Carolina. Poised to dispel the belief that blacks would not be
disciplined under fire, the Fifty-fourth leads the almost suicidal attack on Ft.
Wagner. There Col. Shaw valiantly falls and the Fifty-fourth, suffering great
losses, displayed the courage that persuaded the Union to enlist many more black
Matthew Broderick delivers a noteworthy performance in the role of Col.
Shaw, which Leonard Maltin calls his most ambitious part. In an interview for
the New York Times, Broderick spoke of his method acting,
"The first step [in preparing for the role of Robert Gould Shaw in Glory]
was to try to learn as much as I could about the real person. That was mostly
from letters, photographs, descriptions and a poem by Emerson. The thing I had
to do was bring myself into that situation. I didn't want to be an imitation of
what I thought Shaw must have been like."
Broderick's acting talent has been noted on Broadway as well as in films.
Broderick won a Tony Award for his performance in "Brighton Beach Memoirs" in
1983, a year after his film debut in Max Dugan Returns. (Maltin, 102) But it was
his role as a computer hacker in War Games and his role as a handsome young teen
touring Chicago in Ferris Bueller's Day Off that alerted moviegoers to his
Denzel Washington has received critical acclaim for his role as Trip (as
well as an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). Denzel commented on the role of
Trip in an interview with the New York Times.
"Trip's an instigator - wild, rebellious, angry. He's a product of racism
who's become a racist. He hates all white people, Confederates most of all. But
in the end, when he sees the white officers make the maximum sacrifice, he's the
most patriotic one in the bunch."
Director of Glory, Edward Zwick described Washington by stating, "Whatever that
mysterious chemical process is that makes the camera love someone, he has more
of it than any one person should."(Maltin, 921) It is that presence that earned
him an Oscar for Glory and nominations for his roles in Cry Freedom and Malcolm
Equally as important as acting to the impact of the movie Glory is the
Musical score composed by James Horner. In the final battle scene in Glory,
Horner chose the Boys Choir of Harlem which creates a moving effect during the
death of Col. Robert Shaw.(Magill, 158) Horner won a Grammy Award for the score
for Glory. He was nominated the same year for an Academy Award for the score
for Field of Dreams. Horner's previous Grammy Awards include song of the year
and best song written for a motion picture or television, all for "Somewhere Out
There" from An American Tale in 1987. (CTFT, 228) Leonard Maltin calls Horner
one of today's most prolific film composer's. Horner composed thirty one motion
picture scores from 1979 to 1989. (Maltin, 411)
There are many elements that contribute to the success of a film. Glory
combines the best cinematography, sound, score, and acting to create a moving
representation of this portion of U. S. history. Roger Ebert called it a
"strong and valuable film." In his review written for the Chicago Sun-Times,
Ebert notes the amount of effort devoted to accurate period detail.
One of Ebert's criticisms of Glory is that the perspective of the movie is
constantly seen from one view, that of the white officer. Ebert points out that
a white man is cast as the lead role when the movie is essentially about a black
experience. Glory could have been told from the eyes of a black soldier in the
Fifty-fourth. Ebert makes a valid assumption when he suggest that a totally
different film could be made from the same material.
Indeed Glory is a story of how the freed blacks were able to prove
themselves in battle. The Fifty- fourth regiment could also be considered one
of the first times we see blacks look for equal opportunity. Ebert notes the
scene when the black soldiers of the Fifty-fourth learn they will not be paid
the regular (white) wage. "Blacks march as far, bleed as much and die as soon,
they argue."(Ebert) It would be 100 years later that they gained equal
opportunity when in Vietnam both black and white soldiers were interspersed in
the military. While Roger Ebert discusses the idea of a different ...