Thursday, March 31, 2011

Longstreet's Beard

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

You know, sometimes things are just plain ridiculous. I mean......asinine. Case in point - Tom Berenger did a fair enough job playing Confederate General James Longstreet in the Film Gettysburg. But the beard....really?????

Whoever did the hair and makeup for this film should be tarred and feathered. Or at least, never allowed to work in the motion picture business. I have heard that wretched looking thing compared to squirrels, beavers, brooms, coon-skin caps, and any number of other things that all would look equally ridiculous glued to a man's chin.

My God people, did anyone think this thing looked like a real beard? Couldn't Berenger have just grown one? It would have been worth the time. It is really really distracting.

But here is another problem. To a whole lot of people, the film Gettysburg is what the  battle - and those who took part in it - looked like. So now, to my horror, when people think of James Longstreet - many of them think of Tom Berenger as Longstreet.

Don't believe me? Take a trip to the battlefield sometime. You will find a very odd (dedicated post Gettysburg) monument to - James "Tom Berenger" Longstreet - beard and all. The power of the motion picture is simply remarkable - despite the sometimes hideous use of fake facial hair.




  1. Berenger's beard is far superior to the one the producers made C. Thomas Howell wear in both Gettysburg and Gods and Generals.

  2. When I worked at the American Civil War Center we always joked that we wanted to find that beard and put in on display in our "memory" section.

    However, we could not locate the zoo where it currently resides...

  3. Both Beringer's beard and that midget statue that looks out of sync in the national park are rediculous...Yes Beringer should have grown a natural one, and did the artist that made that dwarf horse and longstreet, actually visit the other monuments.
    Before I was an Infantry Captain, I was cavalry and I had to vault to get on the horse,,,that statue looks like they went over to the miniture horse show for a model...I just shake my head..and move along

  4. The problem with growing a natural one is that it would take at least a year, probably eighteen months, to get there. A working actor can't do that.

    Read a description of Longstreet last night in Budiansky's Bloody Red Shirt (and about the only thing to smile about in that book): He was a messy bear of a man, six foot two with unkempt beard and hair and a big chest,- and he was technically an Edgefield man, born there in South Carolina though reared in Augusta and backwoods Alabama. He could ride better than anyone who better looked the part of the model Southern cavalier. He was the best fence jumper in the whole Confederate army. When he was accidentally shot through the neck by
    his own men while aligning the troops for an attack in heavy underbrush and spent weeks convalescing, Lee sent him a fine horse from Virginia. Longstreet named his son Robert Lee Longstreet.

    That's about the most vivid description of Longstreet as a man (as opposed to a solider) I've seen in a long while.

    I really dislike that statue, as well. It's too stylized to be considered realistic, and too realistic to be considered stylized.

  5. [...] History professor, Civil War blogger, marathon runner, restaurant critic and all-around smart-ass Keith Harris goes there: WTF is up with Tom Berringer’s beard in Gettysburg? [...]

  6. Maybe it is because I rarely see such a large beard or that I originally saw the movie at a very young age, but I do not think it is as bad as people make it out to be. However, the statue is disappointing.

  7. Didn't Berringer have the line in that film "Hell we should have freed the slaves, and THEN seceeded"?

    I guess the "fact checkers" got their facts same place as the beard. The Southern leaders screamed from the rooftops, from their headlines, from their own documents and speeches, that their Ultimatum --- not their wish, not their hope -- their ULTIMATUM was to spread slavery per the word of GOD.

    EXPAND OR PERISH screamed Toombs to cheering crowds. Somehow that speech didn't get in there. Nor did they find room for the Southern Ultimatums in SOuthern newspapers. Or the Southern leaders own writings in their own Declarations about the SPREAD of slavery.

    Not the protection of slavery -- I mean the SPREAD of slavery. Of the five Southern Ultimatums listed in the Richmond paper, guess how many were about the spread of slavery?


    Forget the beard. It's pathetic and nonsense to worry about Tom's beard, and but present the entire war in a far more phoney way than the beard.

  8. Chill, dood. We appreciate your passion, but there's room for both that and levity in this.

    You might also want to look more closely at Longstreet's career and politics after the war. The man is not a two-dimensional caricature.

  9. Does anyone know, did the beard get mentioned in the credits of Gettysburg or do you need to have a speaking role to end up there?

  10. Hi Keith!

    Greetings from Kalamazoo! On the topic of Civil War movies, have you seen the movie Ride With the Devil? If so, I would be interested in your opinion of this film.


  11. I have not yet, Dave - but plan on it very is high on the list. Stay tuned for a review. Hope all is well!


  12. [...] made up my mind yet. Sure, there is always room for levity, as evidenced by many of the posts right here on Cosmic America. But this image – as preposterous as it is, got me thinking. [...]

  13. [...] of historical actors’ persona and appearance can be when translated to the screen. HERE is a healthy dose of good-natured ribbing leveled at the Gettysburg make-up [...]