The Ambrose Bierce Civil War Trilogy

A Union soldier prepares a noose for an accused saboteur in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, an episode in the three part film, Au Coeur de la vie (In the Midst of Life, 1963).

Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, Jessamyn West’s The Friendly Persuasion, Walt Whitman’s collection of poems Drum-Taps and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind are among some of the most famous examples of historical fiction and literature about the American Civil War. More recent works would have to include Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Michael Shaara’s trilogy (Gods and Generals, The Killer Angels and The Last Full Measure) but some of the most evocative and unsentimental writing about the War Between the States can be found in the Civil War short stories of Ambrose Bierce, who served in the Union Army’s 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. I find it surprising that no major American feature films have been based on his work yet several of his short stories have been adapted for the screen in Poland, England and France. And the most memorable one of all remains Robert Enrico’s Au Coeur de la Vie (In the Midst of Life, 1963).  Continue reading

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Picaresque Americana

Everyone involved creatively with the making of Arthur Penn’s landmark of sixties cinema, Bonnie and Clyde (1967), benefited greatly from its astounding international success. Certainly the director and all the key cast members saw an immediate acceleration in their careers and it enabled screenwriter Robert Benton to make his directorial debut in 1972 with Bad Company, working from a script he penned with his Bonnie and Clyde writing partner, David Newman. Structured in a manner similar to the Arthur Penn film, it was a picaresque and episodic road movie, set during the Civil War, with an authentic sense of period detail and moments of biting wit and sudden, shocking violence that gave a contemporary edge to the Americana on display.   Continue reading