Unsolved History: Reel History & Massacres

 DATELINE:  Crockett & Crispus

Massacre Boston Massacre

The old muckraker TV documentary series used highest technology to examine traditional history stories. For three seasons it provided some gems of research, original and incisive.

In the first season, Unsolved History tackled two major icons of American history:  Davy Crockett and Crispus Attucks on separate shows. You could not go against political correctness more than to try to tarnish the reputations of these legends.

Crockett died at the Alamo, and Attucks was killed in the Boston Massacre. One fought to the end, and one led the American Revolution. Unsolved History said, “Not so fast.”

Each contributed to building the American character of hero. And, Unsolved History questioned the notion that Crockett did not fight to the end but was executed like a criminal by General Santa Ana. Attucks, a former slave, did not lead the unarmed protestors against the British and was not the first man killed in the American Revolution, but a background figure.

The controversies, as always, were always hosted by resident historian Daniel A. Martinez, on the spot, glossing the facts.

Testing a Mexican officer’s manuscript as witness to the end of the Alamo and using satellite imagery to verify the Mexican army’s route to the Alamo, you had an interesting use of science.

In Boston, they re-created the acoustic noise of gunfire in a riot with studio sound systems and fired replica British muskets at melons to determine bullet damage. Paul Revere’s famous print is quite inaccurate.

In both cases, you had an unpopular notion that the Mexicans and British were not completely the bad guys but acted as people under duress.

Host Martinez goes a long way to suggest the heroes are not lessened by determining a different angle to their stories. And, it is fascinating business to see how science changes the past.

 

 

 

 

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Alternative History of Hollywood Murder!

DATELINE: New movie book challenges true story!

One of the more interesting, great untold stories about Hollywood concerns the murder on location when John Wayne was filming The Alamo in 1959.

Most books on Wayne assiduously avoid the topic, but Wayne’s progtege, actress LeJean Ethridge, was given a larger role in the picture by Duke Wayne—and one of her roommates, a man named Chester Harvey Smith, stabbed her to death.

Wayne testified at a hasty hearing—and the subject was buried almost as fast as the unfortunate actress. Chester Smith was given a 30-year sentence—and the story was allegedly over.

Now comes an alternative history book called MURDER AT THE ALAMO, which pulls no punches with its speculative look at what may have precipitated the controversies around the movie.

Wayne apparently lost control of his film—and nearly lost his personal fortune. Casting problems and egotistic costars dogged Duke. It’s no wonder he had John Ford come to the rescue to film scenes and give the star a break. It was too much to star and to direct under such pressures.

The book looks at how a rival star seemed to exacerbate Wayne’s troubles. We can’t tell where the truth ends and fictional speculation begins. And, if you can’t tell, perhaps the difference no longer matters after 50+ years.

The story is told in press releases, news reports from minor newspapers, and gossip columnists. And, there is a who’s who of appearances of notable figures to weigh in on the controversy.

A fascinating tale, this re-telling of tragedy and movie history compels the reader to wonder why the killer was let out of prison 4 years later with a large stipend of money that he parlayed into a radio network empire.

Now available on Amazon.com for ebook and soon as paperback by 1960s gossip columnist Dam Chewy.