Some health conditions and a state of mind — an aversion to lawn and garden work and physical labor in general — keep me from doing a great deal of sweat-producing activity except for walking our dog Sawyer, formerly known as The Famous River Wonder Dog, several times a week. Since we no longer live on a river, he is now called Le Pup Savage (use a “sort of” French accent on that name).
But, I digress. This wonderful thing called retirement allows me time to read, to write, to watch selected TV programs and to take in an occasional movie at a real theater.
Recently, I awoke from a spontaneous nap just in time to catch the last one-third of a movie on TV that I’d seen before, The President’s Lady, starring Charlton Heston and Susan Hayward (woof, woof!). It was in black and white (“What’s that?” asked my laughing son).
Heston played Andrew (Old Hickory) Jackson, one of my two favorite historical heroes, and Hayward played his wife, Rachel Donaldson Jackson. In case you couldn’t tell from the “woof, woof!,” as a young man I had a mad crush on Susan Hayward. The only thing wrong with this B&W film was that I didn’t get to see her hair’s brilliant (woof, woof) red color.
Hayward was the star of this movie as Rachel Jackson, who was the subject of much public ridicule since she had divorced her first husband and married Andrew Jackson. He taught her to smoke a pipe just as he did. She was called a whore in public.
While her husband was pursuing, and serving in, various public offices, he thought his wife remained in their Tennessee home playing the genteel lady. Instead she was in the fields alongside their slaves pulling weeds, moving stones and harvesting crops. When she’d pull that long skirt slightly askance and tie it so she could perform fieldwork better, you could get a frequent glimpse of an ankle and, just once, a calf. Woof, woof!
OLD HICKORY was, as mentioned, one of my favorite characters for any number of reasons, not the least of which was speaking his mind even if it got him into trouble, which it frequently did. He fought a duel or two in his day. Jackson was a military hero. Among other accomplishments, he kicked the British hineys at New Orleans in 1815 to end the 32-month War of 1812.
Jackson was governor of Tennessee, then a U.S. Senator and finally president.
Another reason for Jackson’s designation as “one of my favorites” is that he was the friend and mentor of my other favorite historical hero, Sam Houston.
Houston, as most Texans know, led the fight for independence from Mexico and was the first and third president of the Republic of Texas, a U.S. Senator from Texas after it joined the U.S., then governor of the state. He also held state and federal offices in Tennessee, before moving into Indian Territory in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and then to Texas. He was alluded to in The President’s Lady.
AT ANY RATE, you have these two strong characters from a time in American history that is my favorite era. Unfortunately, my total likes weren’t fulfilled with the absence of Houston from the cast.
However, the story was basically historically correct, if not quite as correct as the 2012-13 showing of Lincoln. The biggest and much publicized flaw in Lincoln was the depiction of Connecticut’s senators and their vote on freeing the slaves. Otherwise, it was one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Again, a history lesson.
While, I admitted to having great admiration of one of the principal characters of The President’s Lady, Andrew Jackson, you might gather that my admiration of Hayward as his wife was a strong magnet to the film for me. I’m glad I woke up in time to see part of it. Woof, woof!
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.