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For other films about the Alamo, see Alamo_(disambiguation)#Films.
The Alamo
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Produced by Ron Howard
Mark Johnson
Written by Leslie Bohem
Stephen Gaghan
John Lee Hancock
Starring Dennis Quaid
Billy Bob Thornton
Jason Patric
Patrick Wilson
Emilio Echevarría
Jordi Mollà
Leon Rippy
Tom Davidson
with Marc Blucas
and Robert Prentiss
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography John O'Connor
Dean Semler
Editing by Eric L. Beason
Studio Imagine Entertainment
Distributed by Touchstone Pictures
Release date(s) April 9, 2004
Running time 137 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $145,000,000 (Est.)
Gross revenue $25,819,961 (Worldwide)

The Alamo (2004) is an American war film about the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. It is the second major studio film about the battle, following John Wayne's 1960 film of the same name. The film was directed by Texan director John Lee Hancock, and produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Mark Johnson. It was produced and distributed by Touchstone Pictures.

The screenplay is credited to John Lee Hancock, John Sayles, Stephen Gaghan and Leslie Bohem. In contrast to the earlier 1960 film, the 2003 script makes an effort to depict the political points of view of both the Mexican and Texan sides; Santa Anna is a more prominent character.

Contents

Plot

The film starts in San Antonio de Bexar, site of the Alamo, with bodies of Texian defenders strewn all over the Alamo compound.

The film then flashes back to 1835. Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) attends a party where he tries to persuade people to migrate to Texas. He meets with David Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton), recently defeated for reelection to Congress. Houston explains to Crockett that as an immigrant to Texas, Crockett will receive 640 acres [a square mile] of his own choosing. Crockett asks with a grin whether this new Republic is going to need a president. This setting shows Houston as ardently trying to recruit Crockett and also to raise money from Washington businessmen, and sets the story's tone of the characters of both Houston and Crockett.

In San Felipe, Texas, where the Texas Provisional government is meeting and discussing what course of action to take after their recent victory over the Mexican Army at the first Battle of San Antonio de Bexar, the two political parties are in discussion. The War Party calls for the Texas army to depart San Antonio de Bexar, go further south to cross the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande), and to confront the Mexican Army at Matamoros, Mexico, for a victory. The Opposition Party seeks to rebuild the Texas army and start a government to be recognized by other nations of the world. Sam Houston is voted out as commander of the Texas army. While having drinks with Jim Bowie later, the disgusted Houston tells Bowie to go back to San Antonio and destroy the Alamo.

William Travis is in San Felipe reporting for duty. His character is quickly established as a man who seeks respect as a uniformed military officer, a Lt. Colonel. Interlaced scenes show that he is divorcing his wife (for adultery, abandonment, and barbarous treatment); and that he is looking for a second chance in Texas. He is sent to the Alamo to take command. There he meets up with Col. James Neil, who informs him that he'll be in charge of the Regulars (Texas Army) because Neil is going away on business. Travis immediately is concerned that his small force cannot withstand the advancing Mexican Army and asks for reinforcements. Small groups of reinforcements arrive, but not enough for the impending battle. He oversees preparations for defense against inevitable attack, in hopes that enough reinforcements will arrive.

Davy Crockett arrives in San Antonio where he tells the gathering crowd "I told them folks they can go to hell, I'm going to Texas". After he is told that the other defenders can't wait for Santa Anna to show up now that he is here, Crockett replies, "I understood the fighting was over...aint it?" For the first time in any Alamo or Davy Crockett film, the viewer is shown the political side of Crockett and possibly his real intentions for traveling to Texas: not so much to fight for freedom, but more new opportunities. The movie implies that he's caught in the middle and cannot escape.

Santa Anna soon arrives in San Antonio, much to the surprise of the Texan fighters, who were not expecting the Mexican Army to arrive until late March or early April. They retire to the Alamo compound despite its vulnerability. Amid the chaos Travis writes letters to be sent out asking for reinforcements at the Alamo. Only a couple dozen men arrive to join them.

The siege has begun. Bowie leaves the Alamo to meet Mexican General Manuel Castrillón to talk things out before they get out hand. When Travis is notified that he should take a look at what is going on, the Alamo with its defenders is surrounded. He sees that Bowie is talking to the Mexicans. In response, Travis fires the 18-pound cannon on the south-west wall, thus cutting short Bowie's impromptu diplomacy and virtually ending any chance for stopping the battle. Bowie notifies Travis that the terms of surrender offered by the Mexican Army is surrender at discretion. Travis offers all within the opportunity to leave the Alamo. Almost to a man the defenders decide to stay and fight to the end. At least one woman also remains, Mrs. Dickinson, whose husband has decided to stay.

For the next several nights the Mexican Army band serenades the Texans inside the Alamo with the "Degüello" (slit throat), immediately followed by a Mexican artillery bombardment of the surrounded compound. Then, the Mexicans satisfied that the Texians will not leave the Alamo, the Mexican Army raises a red flag. It is a signal to Mexican soldiers of "no quarter", that is, they will not take prisoners. The flag is visible also to the Alamo's defenders, who know its meaning.

The inevitable attack begins at night with bugle calls along the Mexican front line. The Texans are awoken by the sound of the bugles singling for the troops to attack. After a long a brutal battle, the Mexicans, despite taking heavy casualties, breach the north wall of the mission, and Travis is killed when he is shot in the head by a young Mexican soldier among the others storming the north wall. While a smaller group of Mexican engineers, armed with axes and crowbars, assault and break down the boarded up doors and windows of the west wall, a smaller group storms the south west wall, forcing the few surviving Texans to fall back to the buildings where they are all killed, with Davey Crockett and a few of his men the last ones to fall when the find themselves trapped in the church.

A few days later, after hearing about the fall of the Alamo, Houston orders his small army of Texans to retreat eastward, pursued by Santa Anna, leading the bulk of the Mexican Army. A few weeks later, Houston halts his retreat near the San Jacinto bayou area where he decides to face the Mexicans in a final last stand. After a few days of a tense stalemate, Houston decides to attack the Mexican army in a daring daytime attack. With the support of two cannons and a small group of mounted Tejanos, Houston leads the Texans in a surprise attack against the Mexican camp in which, caught off guard, the Mexicans are routed after a short battle, with many killed or wounded, at a cost of only a handful of Texans, and Houston wounded in the leg by a musket ball.

Santa Anna escapes, but he is captured the following day by a Texan patrol where his true identity is given away when the other Mexican prisoners respond to his presence. Santa Anna surrenders to the wounded Houston, in exchange for his life, agreeing to order all surviving Mexican troops to withdraw from Texas and accept Texan independence.

Production

The film was originally set up with Imagine Entertainment with Ron Howard in the director's chair and producing partner Brian Grazer as producer. Russell Crowe was originally cast as Sam Houston, Ethan Hawke as William Barret Travis and Billy Bob Thornton as David Crockett. But there were financial and creative disagreements between Imagine and Disney, particularly with Howard wanting a $200 million budget. Disney rejected Imagine's proposal for the film, and Howard, Grazer, Crowe and Hawke left the project. Disney opted to go with director John Lee Hancock instead with a budget of $95 million. Thornton was the only member of the original team to remain throughout the project.

The exterior scenes of the film were shot in Texas, between January and June 2003, mostly on Reimers Ranch, a local property near Austin. The film's art direction focused on historical accuracy and verisimilitude; for instance, the mission's facade does not feature the well-known "hump" at the top (seen in the 1960 film of the Alamo battle), an architectural detail added during a restoration years after the battle.

The film was shot in 2003 and scheduled for release in December of that year, but was then rescheduled for release in April 2004.

Historical accuracy

This latest version of the Battle of the Alamo was the first to show Crockett being killed as a prisoner of war. All others had depicted his death as occurring during the battle, rather than him having been captured then executed along with six others. This sparked debate and criticism from many Alamo enthusiasts and some historians.[1] This version of his death came from memoirs written by former Mexican officer José Enrique de la Peña, who was an officer in Santa Anna's army and who fought in the battle.

Hancock's version was purported to be the most accurate of all the Alamo films, but various interpretive liberties were taken. it overlooked simple facts, such as building the movie-set version of the Alamo chapel facade was built forward 30 to 40 feet more than the extant (and presumed historical correct) structure.[citation needed] According to one of the DVD version's special features, Hancock did this to show the Alamo chapel and interior of the fort all in one shot. Other interpretative liberties have been noted. When Crockett first plays his fiddle to the crowd, the song is "Listen to the Mockingbird", not composed until 1855, some 19 years after the fall of the Alamo.[2] The film shows Bowie paying for a drink with a coin carrying Santa Anna's portrait. Mexican silver coins of that era showed a liberty cap. Aside from the short-lived empire of Maximilian (1864–67), human representations on circulating Mexican coins between 1824 to 1905 were allegorical.

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Battle scenes

A second "cattle call" (request for extras) was made because too few thin and gaunt Mexican soldiers were available for the first call. (In the winter of 1835-1836 when the Mexican Army was moving northward through desert areas shortly before crossing the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande River) into Texas, it endured a snowstorm of uncommon intensity, and hundreds of Mexican soldiers had suffered more than their usual illnesses and hunger.) The film's main scenes of the Mexican attack on the Alamo were done under harsh weather conditions: battle-scene extras stood for hours in cold rain, making some scenes gruelingly realistic.

Houston and Crockett discuss Texas

Sam Houston and Davy Crockett knew each other from their political activities in the capital, particularly from their respective terms as members of Congress. Crockett had recently lost his bid to a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Houston took advantage of the situation by encouraging Crockett to come to Texas. A ballroom in Washington DC was the film's location of a critical meeting between them. More than a million dollars (US) was spent on a collection of English-made Western-European (hence also American) costumes representative of the period ca. 1825-1835. The costumes included scores of women's and men's formal outfits: myriad formal dance gowns; women's undergarments such as multi-skirt multi-tier petticoats and laced corsets; laced shoes and pumps for women of various ages; men's jackets, coats, capes, vests, shoes, and boots. Hairstyles and wigs for both women and men were historical accurate for the year 1835, the date of ballroom scenes. Other historically correct details for women's hairdos included tiaras of starched lace and polished bone, hairpins with elaborate decorative heads, lace and silk bows, and snoods. Men's hair styles were perhaps even more varied, ranging from closely clipped, chopped, or wavy; disheveled, long loose, or bobbed at the nape; and showing various stages of baldness with hairpieces such as horseshoe shaped to displaying gray curls at the sides and rear; and beards of many types.

Cast

Crew members film a battle scene
The set of the Alamo used during filming

Box office

The film was highly unsuccessful at the box office, opening on Easter weekend to mostly middling reviews and a low box office turnout. In its first weekend, it was defeated in box office numbers by a resurgent The Passion of the Christ. It cost over $140 million USD to make and market the film but earned only $9.1 million USD in its first weekend. By its second month of release, the film had yet to muster $30 million USD in domestic earnings. It ended its theatrical run with a worldwide gross of slightly less than $26 million.[3]

See also

References

External links


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