Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Plymouth Adventure

Happy Thanksgiving!

Many American families have Thanksgiving stories and traditions, mine included. And ours is perhaps a little unusual, as my ancestors include three men who sailed on the Mayflower: William Brewster, spiritual head of the Pilgrims; Stephen Hopkins, a sailor and adventurer; and Thomas Rogers, a Pilgrim and a cloth merchant.

The story of the Pilgrims coming to the New World and celebrating the first Thanksgiving, has grown large in the retelling as years have passed. The historical truth of the founding of P.ymouth Colony is far removed from the national myth. And understandably so -- the myth is much more appealing.

One of my favorite versions is the 1953 all-star epic "The Plymouth Adventure." The men are noble, the women glamorous, the passion overheated -- in other words, a typical Hollywood movie of the period.

But it's still a lot of fun. Two of my ancestors are represented -- although it's unlikely William Brewster looked much like Barry Jones, or Stephen Hopkins Don Dillaway (I know -- who?).

Taken as myth, it's rollicking entertainment. And the film has two other things going for it -- the ship and the music. The model of the Mayflower was one of the most detailed ever constructed, and is part of the reason the film won an Oscar for best special effects.

And who wouldn't enjoy an epic film with a Miklos Rozsa score? Rozsa did his research. The hymn you hear at the beginning isn't "Simple Gifts," it's actually "Confess Jehovah Thankfully," by Henry Ainsworth. Ainsworth's Psalter (collection of hymns), was published in 1612 and was taken to Plymouth by the Pilgrims.

Family stories don't have to be true, as long as they entertain. Ours got the MGM treatment. Very little of it is true, but it is entertaining!

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