Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fess Parker RIP

One of my tv heroes passed away. Fess Parker was 85 y.o.

I remember watching his portrayal of Davy Crockett on The Wide World of Disney growing up and I even had a coonskin hat which generally was a little too warm. His portrayal of Crockett and the battle of the Alamo that got me interested in the Alamo and would read almost anything I could concerning it. When I was 15, I headed out to the Philmont Boy Scout camp in New Mexico, and one of the highlights was going to San Antonio and walking around the Alamo and being surprised at just how small it was. Reading about the real Davy Crockett and he seems like he was larger than life in reality too. Homespun but firm in his convictions, honest in his treatment of others and expecting the same, one can see why he was a hero. His meeting up with Jim Bowie, another legend in his own time, and their both dying at the Alamo has all of the underpinnings of myth, an American version of the Illiad. At 6'5" with a slow deliberate way of talking, one can see why Fess Parker was chosen to portray the man.

The show was influential in another way, the ending. Of all the movies that have been done concerning the Alamo, none top Disney's. It chooses not to end by showing his actual death though. It ends with Davy defiant, surrounded by the enemy, he stands tall and starts swinging his rifle around his head. Cue music and fade-out. Sure, he dies, but it ends leaving you invigorated, excited, pumped up. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid chose a similar ending. To go one minute further and you completely change the emotion that you leave the audience with.

This on the heels of the death of Peter Graves days shy of his 84th birthday. I remember seeing Mission Impossible in re-runs, which I always enjoyed. And, always enjoyed seeing him popping up in small roles such as a funny turn in House MD. As fun as the Tom Cruise movies were, they missed much of the charm of the original series and committed the crime of taking the hero of the books and turning him into the villain of the movie. Makes it forgivable that Graves wasn't cast as Phelps in it.

1 comment:

Chuck Wells said...

I very much agree with you that Disney's version of the battle of the Alamo - particularly in how they chose to film that last shot of Crockett - has never been topped.

Indeed, Buddy Ebsens plaintive final line, "Git one fer me Davy", really ramped up the emotion of that final scene a moment earlier anyway.