Buried within the DVD extras for the 1951 classic Captain Horatio Hornblower - along with a Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam send up - is a 20 minute piece of Red Scare era "hystery" called "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Warner Brothers felt obliged to preface this archival short film with the disclaimer that
"these depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today's society,[this film is] being presented as...originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed."
With the obvious exception of "Indians on the warpath" who did the decent thing and faded away shortly after the Pilgrims landed on Plimoth Rock, one is left wondering what prejudices and stereotypes Warner's legal department recognized that required such a disclaimer without further explanation. As a service to any viewers who may be tempted to sit through this 20 minute piece of manifest malarky, here are just a few of the remarkable aspects of American history captured in Technicolor in "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
- The Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. Aside from some archival footage of FDR's funeral, we do not see a single person of color apart from those Indians on the warpath.
- The Monroe Doctrine was our gift to the rest of the nations in our Hemisphere to protect them from foreign influence.
- There was no Great Depression, and aside from various wars, no hard times either.
- Not much happened during the Revolution between the Declaration of Independence and Yorktown except for a bit of flag making by Betsy Ross and the heroic efforts of John Paul Jones and the American Navy.
- Thomas Jefferson could tell just by looking at a map that he should buy the entire Louisiana Territory for 4 cents an acre.
- There wasn't a soul on the continent except for those inconvenient natives before the godly pilgrims stepped off the boat. Unless you count the Virginians, but they were in it for the money, so the less said about them, the better.
- The only presidents you need to know about are those on Mt. Rushmore, along with Monroe for his doctrine (and John Quincy Adams for listening to it) Madison for the Constitution, and those "First in War" (FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Wilson and Jackson), but not Grant. Then again, between Washington and Ike, who else was there worth mentioning? Fillmore? Harding? Anyone remember the Coolidge Doctrine?
- The only women worth mentioning are Betsy Ross and...um, Betsy Ross. See, if they had included Jamestown in the narrative, we could have said Pocahontas. Too bad the Indians had all faded away by then.
- The nation in 1950 had 50,000 pulpits, or one for every 3,000 people. Actually, this may be true. The film seemed proud of this number, but unless they were all the size of cathedrals there must have been an awful lot of our fellow citizens sitting out the Sabbath.
Well, what do you want? In 1950, this was Oscar material - though it lost out to In Beaver Valley in the short subjects, 2 reel category. I can only ascribe this to blatant Communist sympathies on the part of Academy voters. Good thing Tail Gunner Joe nipped that in the bud, tout de suite. We'll have no foreign influences in these parts, sonny boy. On the other hand, the UN and the North Atlantic Alliance get full marks in this film, so it is a good thing it makes no mention of that bit about "the mischiefs of foreign intrigue (and) the impostures of pretended patriotism" in Washington's Farewell Address.
It would only confuse the masses.