Howards of Virginia

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The Howards of Virgina

May 6, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Action Factor:
  • Special Effects:
  • Suspense:

Pros:Historically accurate, great costumes and sets, convincing atmosphere

Cons:black and white (although I love B&W, I would love to see the colors!

The Bottom Line: I love this movie for two reasons: 1:CARY GRANT is my favorite! and 2:It is historically accurate


Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie's plot.

The Howards of Virginia
“One of the best historical pictures to date.”- The New York Times

The back cover of the movie reads: ”Cary Grant stars in this stirring romantic adventure set during the turbulent years of Colonial and Revolutionary America. Beautiful young Virginian Jane (Martha Scott) steps down from her proper aristocratic upbringing when she marries down-to-earth surveyor Matt Howard (Grant). Deeply in love, they move to the backwoods and begin to raise their family. Major differences emerge, however, when the conservative Jane and her Tory brother [it should be noted that it says that he is her father, but after reviewing the movie over and over, I know it is her brother...] rebel against Matt's staunch democratic ideals. Eventually, Matt joins the Colonial forces in the fight for freedom against England, and Jane and Matt are forced to choose between their love for each other and their political beliefs. Exciting and dramatic, THE HOWARDS OF VIRGINIA is a tumultuous tale of love and adventure.”

Columbia Pictures and Frank Lloyd Pictures, Inc. present Cary Grant, Martha Scott in “The Howards of Virginia” with Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Alan Marshal, Richard Carlson
Screenplay by Sidney Buchman
From the Novel “Tree of Liberty” by Elizabeth Page
1940, Renewed 1968 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. Approx. 116 Minutes www.SonyPictures.com
Not Rated
Black and White

This movie was filmed in colonial Williamsburg, and is historically accurate, as far as I have researched. I enjoyed watching it, and Cary Grant is a handsome devil, like always. The female lead, Martha Scott, does an excellent job of portraying a woman torn between her devotion to her free-spirited husband and strict upbringing.

Here is the plot of the movie:

The Howards are a dirt-poor family of Virginia farmers. Their farm is a small one, and the land is too worn-out to produce crops. The first scene opens on a small farm, in the colony of Virginia, in the dark of night. James Howard and his son Matthew are hiding in a barn, when a man on horseback rides up quickly. They recognize him, and rush to meet him and hear what he has to say. Matt’s Uncle Ruben has come to their home with news that could save their families from starving, and help them to gain wealth in the future. Ruben tells James and his wife that they are sending troops of men to Ohio, and any man who will go and help fight the Indians will be paid in land. This interests James, and he decides to go with Ruben and many other men from Virginia to help “clear the frontier,” and fight for their share of land in Ohio.

Young Matthew desperately wants to go with his father and uncle, but is told that he must stay and finish his schooling. Although he does not agree, he is left behind at the home of his friend, Thomas Jefferson. During school one day, Thomas Jefferson’s father comes to pick him up so he can speak to him. He takes him back to the Jefferson home and tells him details of the waging war in Ohio. Matthew is informed that out of 400 men from Virginia, only 30 survived the most recent battle. His father and uncle were not among the survivors. Matthew is very upset, and asks permission to go home to his mother, to comfort her. Mr. Jefferson sends Matthew home with a slave to help plant the crop. He reminds him that he needs to stay in school so that he can become a surveyor, like they had planned.

Twelve years later, in 1766, Matthew Howard, now a surveyor, is in Williamsburg, Virginia. He goes to the inn where Thomas Jefferson is staying, and Tom introduces him to wealthy men that are in need of surveyor work. He secures Matt a position as a surveyor in the Tidewater region of Virginia, with Fleetwood Peyton, a wealthy landowner. While surveying Elm Hill, the Peyton property, Matt falls in love with and marries Jane Peyton, much to her family’s dismay. He is not of their social class, and they are convinced that she won’t be happy with him. Nevertheless, they marry and move to Matt’s property in the Piedmont/frontier region of Virginia. They make plans to build a plantation on their land, and their dream becomes a reality after only a few short years.

As the Howards begin to start their family, Thomas Jefferson convinces Matt to run for the House of Burgesses. Soon after, Matthew becomes involved in politics in his area. He is voted in to replace a retiring House of Burgesses member, and goes to Williamsburg to represent his region. The Howard family returns to Williamsburg and tension develops between Matt’s democratic ideals and Fleetwood Peyton’s tory ideals. Matthew continually fights for what he believes he is entitled to, freedom from English rule. Fleetwood Peyton believes that he will never have that, and that it is a foolish thing to pursue.

Once in session, the House of Burgesses begins to debate the ramifications of the Stamp Act. In the middle of a debate, the governor enters unexpectedly. He walks to the podium quickly, and formally dissolves the House of Burgesses in the name of the king, then leaves, just as abruptly.

Despite strong opposition by a great majority in England, tax after tax is imposed on the colonists by the mother country. To enforce new laws imposed on the colonies under the Declaratory Act, troops land at the Port of Boston. A secret group of men, some of them former members of the House of Burgesses, start meeting to discuss possible courses of action. Illegally assembled in the Raleigh Tavern, the Committee of Correspondence worked night after night. It is during this time period that the Boston Tea Party takes place.

While Matt is in living in Williamsburg for work, there is an Indian uprising in the woodlands, close to the Howard home. The neighboring families relocate to a safer place nearby, but because they know Matt is in Williamsburg, one of the men offers to move Jane and her three children there. Jane agrees and they leave their home. With his family in Williamsburg, Matt’s political views bring him into conflict with the British and he is among the first to volunteer for duty in the Revolutionary War. He asks Jane to move to Philadelphia, to be closer to him but she refuses. They decide to separate, and Jane returns to Elm Hill with the children.

As the years pass, the Howard boys, Peyton and James, become old enough to have opinions on the war and society. Peyton runs into Thomas Jefferson and speaks to him for a long time about his father and their shared views. Peyton returns to Elm Hill and is late for supper. Fleetwood Peyton opposes his friendship with Thomas Jefferson, who is now the governor, and Peyton stands up for him. Fleetwood kicks him out of the house for being insubordinate, and James defends his brother. James is also told to leave, and so they decide to find their father and join the army.

Matthew’s sons discover him on the battle front, in a pitiful state. The army has no food or supplies, and deserters are being shot on a daily basis. The boys bring food and horses that the army needs. Although they are technically too young to join, they are admitted by lying about their ages, and they are appointed to a messenger and a clerk on Colonel Hamilton and General Washington’s staffs. They are assigned to ride dispatches to Lafayette, crossing British lines. Matt’s oldest son Peyton is wounded and distracts the British soldiers to enable the other riders to get through. He is taken back to Elm Hill and named a hero. Unable to obtain any word of his sons’ well-being, Matt demands to see General Washington and is denied access. He barges into George Washington’s office where he interrupts many officers, discussing the war. He inquires about his son, and then learns of his bravery and sacrifice, and that he was wounded. They tell him that he was taken home, and Matt immediately heads for Elm Hill in search of his son.

When he arrives, his daughter, Mary opens the door, and is excited to see him. She shows him to the drawing room, from which Peyton is calling to his father. Matt goes straight to Peyton, oblivious to the rest of the family in the room. Fleetwood Peyton gets his attention, and invites him to have a drink. He is rude, and Jane asks him to go to his room and rest. Embarrassed, Jane says she needs to go check on one of the slaves who is sick, and leaves the room as well. Matt follows her, and they talk about the war, and about going back to their home when it is over. The scene fades out as they are walking back to Elm Hill and everyone is content.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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