TCM just ran a little short subject of “The Man Without A Country” to fill time between two excellent movies, “The Guns of Navarone” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”
I hadn’t heard or thought about the short story for many, many years. I think I had it in the back of my head that it was based on actual events, but I see from the Wikipedia page that it’s not, although it was couched in many true-life details to give it verisimilitude. I also see that it was written to rally support for the Union cause in the Civil War. I blame the memory of a 50-year-old man for failing me.
In case you didn’t read this story in school, Phillip Nolan is a fictional character who gets involved with Aaron Burr’s actual attempt to start his own country. When Nolan is arrested and tried for treason, he becomes so emotional during the trial that he loudly proclaims that he wishes he could never hear the name of the United States again. The judge makes that his sentence – Nolan is to be imprisoned at sea on naval vessels for the rest of his life, with his jailers under strict orders never to mention the United States, or anything about it, in Nolan’s presence. Over the years, Nolan develops an appreciation for the homeland he portrayed, although the true extent of his feelings isn’t made known until he is on his deathbed.
Corny? Manipulative? Sure. But also quite moving, and even seeing the moldy old Warner Brothers short just now my eyes welled up a little.