by Ronald F. Maxwell
Videos in this documentary
|1||Gettysburg: June 30, 1863||Play Video|
|2||Gettysburg: July 1, 1863||Play Video|
|3||Gettysburg: July 2, 1863||Play Video|
|4||Gettysburg: July 3, 1863||Play Video|
Gettysburg is a 1993 film that dramatizes the decisive Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. It was directed by Ronald F. Maxwell, who also wrote the screenplay, a close adaptation of Michael Shaara's 1974 novel The Killer Angels, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1975. The film follows the plot line of Killer Angels. The focus on the first day is on John Buford, who selects the battlefield. The focus on the second day is Joshua Chamberlain's defense of Little Round Top. The focus on the following evening is on preparation for and the execution of Pickett's Charge. James Longstreet is the major focus of those scenes.
The film was originally intended to have been a TV miniseries. The producers originally pitched the project to ABC in 1991. ABC initially agreed to back the project, but when a TV movie about George Armstrong Custer got low ratings, ABC pulled out. It wasn't long until media mogul Ted Turner picked it up and the film went into production. For the first time, the National Park Service allowed the motion picture industry to recreate and film battle scenes directly on the Gettysburg Battlefield, including scenes of Devil's Den and Little Round Top. However, much of the movie was shot at a nearby Adams County farm. Thousands of Civil War reenactors from across the country volunteered their time and expense to come to Gettysburg to participate in the massive battle scenes.
The miniseries was set to air on TNT. But when Turner saw part of the film during post-production, he realized it was much bigger than a miniseries and decided to release the film theatrically. The film was distributed by New Line Cinema which Turner had just acquired. Only being released to 248 theaters at its widest release, and limited to just one or two showings per day because of its length, the film still managed to gross $10,769,960 at the box office, but statistically speaking was still a box-office flop. It would go on to become an all-time high seller on the VHS and DVD market, and has become a staple of classroom history lessons. Its broadcast TV premier on TNT in June 1994 garnered over 23 million viewers, a record for cable TV at the time.
One of the longest films ever released by a Hollywood studio, Gettysburg runs 254 minutes (4 hours, 14 minutes) on VHS and DVD. A "Director's Cut", with several extended or deleted scenes, was produced and sold as a part of a special "Collector's Edition" released on VHS and LaserDisc, which also included Mort Künstler's book of Gettysburg paintings, an original Civil War lead Minié ball, some stock photographs of key officers from the battle, and other items. The editor's cut has not appeared on any DVDs to date. Ron Maxwell's 271-minute (4 hours, 31 minutes) Director's Cut has been shown on Turner's TNT Station regularly. This version is not available on DVD.
The soundtrack was composed by Randy Edelman. A prequel, Gods and Generals, was released in 2003.