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Some riled when battle cut from Civil War movie

February 07, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Word that scenes of the Civil War Battle of Antietam have been cut from the theater version of "Gods and Generals" disappointed some Sharpsburg-area residents, even though those scenes were filmed in Virginia.

"We are not pleased," said Bob LeBlanc, part owner of the Inn at Antietam in Sharpsburg. "Antietam was a big part of that mess," he added, referring to the Civil War. "Isn't that a bummer."

Sandy Henson, who lives about three miles from Sharpsburg, was dipping ice cream Thursday afternoon at Nutter's Ice Cream, just off the square in Sharpsburg, which is near the battlefield. Was she disappointed the Antietam battlefield scenes were cut from the film? "Yeah, really," she said, "I don't know why they wanted to cut it - I think that was one of the main points" of the war.

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But Wayne Alter Sr., who was eating ice cream at Nutter's, said "I expected that. It wasn't that significant" to the film.

"Gods and Generals" director Ron Maxwell said Wednesday that Battle of Antietam scenes and others had to be cut to reduce the length of the movie, which now runs 3 hours and 35 minutes. At one time before editing was completed, the film was 4 hours and 40 minutes long, Maxwell said.

The Antietam battle scenes will appear in the six-hour DVD version of the film, Maxwell said.

"I'm just surprised to hear it," said Sallie Cornell, co-owner of the American Deli. "The battle's why the history is there" in Washington County.

"Most men that even watch those type of movies watch it for the battles," she said.

Betty Snyder, the children's librarian at the Sharpsburg Library, said her mother, who is now deceased, watched local filming of the movie from her Red Hill home and "was fascinated by it. It was a real big deal."

At the Sharpburg Arsenal on Main Street, owner Don Stoops was planning to offer companion materials to his shop patrons. "We have a lot of stuff ordered to coincide" with the film's release, he said, but now he doesn't think he'll have quite the influx of tourists he'd expected.

"I think that our area is definitely gonna miss out on that boom without Antietam being in," Stoops said.

He said the market for Civil War collectibles will still get a boost, but "we were looking to see Antietam to be a big part of that film."

"As a Washington Countian I'm very disappointed," said attorney Bruce Poole, who represented Maxwell when he sought local backing for the film. "But there was enormous pressure to shorten that movie."

Dennis Frye, a local Civil War expert and an associate producer of the film said he agonized for weeks over cutting the Antietam scenes.

"I would hope that local people would be disappointed; that tells me they're very proud of their local history," Frye said. "I'm extremely disappointed because Antietam is such a significant battle, but it is not an essential battle in 'Gods and Generals,' the movie."

That's because the film is not about the war itself, but about the primary characters. "We cut out entire campaigns that were directly related to the main characters," Frye added, including Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign, one of the most important in the general's career.

Washington County Commissioners' President Gregory I. Snook said that although the Battle of Antietam scenes - filmed on farmland between Lexington, Va., and Staunton, Va. - were out, many of the scenes shot in Washington County are in.

"I'm not disappointed," Snook said. "In seeing how the whole film was shot, there was a lot of footage that got cut." But, he said, "the county's not left out."

"I'm obviously disappointed," Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner said, "but I'm still just very proud of the fact that they made that movie here. I'm proud that Hagerstown and Washington County was such a major part of it."

Del. Christopher Shank, who legislative district includes Sharpsburg, was philosophical.

"Gettysburg," Maxwell's last Civil War epic, evoked the sanctity of that battlefield, He said. "I think Antietam already holds that place," he said. "Maybe we don't need a movie for that."

The Hagerstown premiere for "Gods and Generals is next Tuesday at the Maryland Theatre.

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