Rave review for a Civil War movie epic

By Les Kinsolving

How often has any major movie received a rave review from a columnist for a major metropolitan daily newspaper 156 days before it is due for national release?

The Baltimore Sun’s invariably readable and always gutsy columnist, Greg Kane, wrote the following on Sept. 18:

“To Ron Maxwell, producer, director and writer of the Civil War film ‘Gods and Generals,’ scheduled for a February premiere:

“There was a 40-minute preview of ‘Gods and Generals’ on Thursday night at the Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown. Maxwell got a standing ovation afterward, as did Stephen Lang, who should win an Oscar for his portrayal of Gen. Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, if there’s any justice.

“‘The characters in the film speak in paragraphs,’ Lang told the audience. ‘You have to think when watching it.’

“A movie with a literate, intelligent script, sans gutter language, from Hollywood? Let’s have some triple kudos for Maxwell – maybe even quadruple, since he shot the film here in Maryland.”

Journalistic ethics compel an upfront revelation that I was one of the cast of “Gods and Generals,” as well as its predecessor film, “Gettysburg” – where I had bit parts as my cousin, Confederate Gen. William Barksdale of Mississippi.

In “Gettysburg,” I also played a Confederate color sergeant in Pickett’s Charge – where three Yankees cracked both my flagstaff, as well as one of my ribs. But both experiences were among the greatest of my life, with deepest gratitude to Ron Maxwell, to the thousands of Civil War re-enactors, as well as two other cast members with vast film experience and an absolutely extraordinary kindness to me as a film rookie.

In one “Gods and Generals” scene with Robert Duvall as the most memorable Robert E. Lee I have ever seen, one of the extras, as a Confederate general standing next to me was West Virginia’s venerable U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd. Between takes, I asked this extraordinary man: “What of the rumor that Vermont’s Sen. Jeffords is thinking of rejoining the GOP?” – to which Byrd instantly replied:

“Were there even one ounce of truth in such a rumor, I would go home and pray!”

February 21st: “Gods and Generals.”