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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier is a 1955 Disney Western featuring the legendary hero of Alamo fame as portrayed by Fess Parker. Disney+ warns the movie is presented "as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions." This is a nod to Disney's awareness of biases depicted in its library of work created 60 years ago. But although Native Americans are called "redskins" and "Injuns" here, and generally portrayed as inferior to white people in some sense, Crockett speaks admiringly of his foes in the "Indian" wars and advocates strongly for living peacefully with Native American neighbors as per peace treaties. He also fights President Andrew Jackson's eventual betrayal of those treaties in a manner that seems ahead of its time. By today's standards, the violence depicted is mild, but people are shot by guns, cannons, and arrows, stabbed with knives and bayonets, pummeled with bludgeons, and attacked with tomahawks. Little blood is shown and Crockett makes a point of not killing unless absolutely necessary. Adults use tobacco.
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What's the story?
DAVY CROCKETT, KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER is a rambling narrative that follows real-life Tennessee frontier hero Crockett (Fess Parker) as he volunteers with the army to use his scouting and hunting skills to help track and conquer "Injuns" who are still fighting white settlers despite peace treaties. Crockett says he has no beef with the "redskins." He just wants to live in peace with them, as long as both sides abide by the treaty. He does his best to broker peace with a hold-out chief, but not until the two engage in hand-to-hand combat. Later, as a congressman in Washington, Crockett denounces President Andrew Jackson's reversal of the peace policy with Native Americans, a government-sanctioned push to destroy the Native American culture in the name of American expansionism. Crockett's adventures with his friend George Russell (Buddy Ebsen) take them both to Texas, where American settlers vainly try to fight off the Mexican army in a battle for control of then-Mexican Texas, which would later become the Republic of Texas and finally an American state. History tells us Crockett died with scores of other men at the fort, but the movie deliberately suggests a happy ending, before Crockett dies, implying he survived.
Is it any good?
This movie presents a lovable, courageous, smart, and charming hero, which makes this movie surprisingly watchable despite biases common to the 1950s. Crockett was, in fact, one of the most famous men in 19th century America and he did it all, from hunting and fighting to legislating in Congress to defending the Alamo. Disney had resurrected the rugged frontiersman for a short-lived TV series and after that offered Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier and its sequel, Davy Crockett and the River Pirates of 1956, all of which ignited a passion for coonskin hats among children of the day. Today, young kids who like horses and the outdoors may find much to enjoy here, and the film could provide a great introduction to a discussion of the way the federal government historically mistreated Native Americans.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way that pioneers and frontier settlers are portrayed. Does Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier give a sense of how difficult it must have been for courageous people to start lives in the wilderness? Would it be possible to do this today?
Davy says when he follows his gut about doing the right thing, he sometimes has to do the difficult thing. What are some difficult things he does in the movie? What are some difficult things you've had to do?
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