Glory (1989 film)

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Glory ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEdward Zwick
Produced byFreddie Fields
Screenplay byKevin Jarre
Based onLay This Laurel 
by Lincoln Kirstein
One Gallant Rush 
by Peter Burchard
StarringMatthew Broderick
Denzel Washington
Cary Elwes
Morgan Freeman
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyFreddie Francis
Editing bySteven Rosenblum
StudioFreddie Fields Productions
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • December 14, 1989 (1989-12-14) (Limited)
  • February 16, 1990 (1990-02-16) (Wide)
Running time122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$26,828,365[2]
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Glory ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEdward Zwick
Produced byFreddie Fields
Screenplay byKevin Jarre
Based onLay This Laurel 
by Lincoln Kirstein
One Gallant Rush 
by Peter Burchard
StarringMatthew Broderick
Denzel Washington
Cary Elwes
Morgan Freeman
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyFreddie Francis
Editing bySteven Rosenblum
StudioFreddie Fields Productions
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • December 14, 1989 (1989-12-14) (Limited)
  • February 16, 1990 (1990-02-16) (Wide)
Running time122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$26,828,365[2]

Glory is a 1989 American drama war film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. The screenplay was written by Kevin Jarre, based on the personal letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, and the novels Lay This Laurel, by Lincoln Kirstein, and One Gallant Rush, by Peter Burchard.

The story is based on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first formal unit of the US Army to be made up entirely of African American men, as told from the point of view of Colonel Shaw, its commanding officer during the American Civil War.

The film was co-produced by TriStar Pictures and Freddie Fields Productions, and distributed by Tri-Star Pictures in the United States. It premiered in limited release in the US on December 14, 1989, and in wide release on February 16, 1990, making $26,828,365. It was considered a moderate financial success taking into account its $18 million budget. The soundtrack, composed by James Horner in conjunction with the Boys Choir of Harlem, was released on January 23, 1990. The home video was distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. On June 2, 2009, a widescreen Blu-ray version, featuring the director's commentary and deleted scenes, was released.

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards and won three, including Denzel Washington for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Private Trip. It won many other awards including from the British Academy, the Golden Globe Awards, the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, Political Film Society, the NAACP, among others.


Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

During the American Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment engages Confederate forces in the bloody Battle of Antietam. Captain Robert Shaw (Matthew Broderick) is injured in the battle and assumed lost, but is found alive by a gravedigger named John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman) and sent to a field hospital. While on medical leave in Boston, Shaw visits his family, and is introduced to Frederick Douglass. Shaw is offered a promotion to the rank of Colonel, and command of the first all-black regiment the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He accepts the responsibility, and asks his childhood friend, Major Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes) to serve as his second in command. Their first volunteer soldier is another one of Shaw's friends, a bookish freeman named Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher). Other recruits soon follow, including Rawlins, timid freeman Jupiter (Jihmi Kennedy), and Trip (Denzel Washington), an escaped slave who is mistrustful of Shaw. Trip instantly clashes with Thomas, and Rawlins must keep the peace.

When the Confederacy issues an order that all black soldiers found in Union uniform will be summarily executed as will their white officers, the opportunity is given to all men in the 54th to take a honorable discharge, but none do. The black soldiers undergo a Draconian training regimen under the harsh supervision of Sgt. Mulcahy (John Finn). Forbes and Shaw argue over the brutality of the training, as the former believes they will never be allowed to fight and will only be used as a manual labor force.

When Trip goes AWOL and is caught, Shaw orders him flogged in front of the troops. The scars of his previous beatings as a slave are exposed and this presents a real dilemma for the abolitionist Shaw. While talking to Rawlins, Shaw finds out that Trip had left merely to find suitable shoes to replace his own worn ones. Shaw realizes that supplies are being denied to his soldiers because of their race. He belligerently confronts the quartermaster, Kendric (Richard Riehle), and finds out that indeed shoes and socks were in stock but had not been given to the black soldiers. His advocacy on behalf of his soldiers continues through a pay dispute during which the Federal government decided to pay black soldiers less than white soldiers.

Once the 54th completes its training, they are transferred under the command of General Charles Garrison Harker (Bob Gunton). On the way to joining the war in South Carolina, the 54th is ordered to sack a Georgia town and burn it by Harker's second-in-command, Colonel Montgomery (Cliff De Young). After first refusing, he obeys the order and the town is destroyed. Shaw continues to lobby his superiors to allow his men to join the fight. All their duties since being activated involved building and manual labor. Shaw invests Rawlins as a Sergeant Major and Rawlins begins the difficult task of earning respect from both the white and black soldiers.

Shaw confronts Harker and threatens to report the smuggling, looting, and graft he has discovered unless Harker orders the 54th into combat. In their first battle on James Island, South Carolina, early success is followed by a bloody confrontation with many casualties. However, the Confederates are beaten and retreat. During the battle,Thomas is wounded but saves Trip, finally earning the respect of the former slave. He subsequently refuses to go home to recover.

Some time after, General George Strong (Jay O. Sanders) informs Shaw and his superiors of a major campaign to secure a foothold in Charleston Harbor. This will involve assaulting the nearby Morris Island and capturing its impenetrable fortress, Battery Wagner.The fort's only landward approach is via a small strip of beach with little cover, and the first regiment to charge is sure to suffer extremely heavy casualties. Shaw volunteers to have the 54th lead the charge.The night before the battle, the black soldiers conduct a religious service where individual soldiers offer their prayers amid hymn signing. Rawlins and Trip make emotional speeches to inspire the troops and to ask for God's help.

The 54th leads the charge on the fort and heavy casualties ensue on the beach as artillery fire smashes through the ranks. As night falls the bombardment continues and no progress can be made. Shaw attempts to urge the men forward, but is shot several times and killed. Stunned, the soldiers stay where they are until Trip lifts up the flag and rallies the soldiers to continue on. He is shot several times while doing so, but holds up the flag to his last breath. Forbes takes charge of the regiment, and they are able to break through the fort's outer defenses, but find themselves greatly outnumbered once they are inside. The morning after the battle, we see the beach littered with bodies as the Confederate flag is raised over the fort. As the corpses are buried in a mass grave, Shaw and Trip's bodies fall next to each other.

The closing narration reveals that Battery Wagner was never taken by Union forces. However, the sacrifice of the 54th, which lost nearly half its men in the battle, was not in vain, as their bravery inspired the Union to recruit more black men for combat.



Kevin Jarre's inspiration for writing the film came from viewing a monument to Colonel Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (the first formal unit of the US Army to be made up entirely of African American men) in Boston Common.[3] Jarre's screenplay was based on Colonel Shaw's letters and on two books, Lincoln Kirstein's Lay This Laurel and Peter Burchard's One Gallant Rush.[4] He then based the story on letters written by Shaw during the Civil War.

Principal filming took place primarily in Massachusetts and Georgia. Opening passages, meant to portray the Battle of Antietam, were volunteer military reenactors filmed at a major engagement at the Gettysburg battlefield. Zwick did not want to turn Glory "into a Black story with a more commercially convenient white hero."[5] Actor Freeman noted, "We didn't want this film to fall under that shadow. This is a picture about the 54th Regiment, not Colonel Shaw, but at the same time the two are inseparable."[5] Zwick hired the historian Shelby Foote as a technical adviser; he later became widely known for his contributions to Ken Burns' popular PBS nine-episode documentary, The Civil War (1990).[5]

Glory was the first major motion picture to tell the story of African Americans fighting for their freedom in the Civil War and came as a revelation to millions of Americans who had no knowledge of their participation.[who?] The 1965 movie Shenandoah (starring Jimmy Stewart) also depicted African Americans fighting for the Union, but suggested that the Union army was integrated.


Glory Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by James Horner
ReleasedNovember 1, 1990
LabelVirgin Records

The original motion picture soundtrack for Glory, was released by the Virgin Records label on January 11, 1990. The score for the film was orchestrated by James Horner in association with the Boys Choir of Harlem.[6] Jim Henrikson edited the film's music; while Shawn Murphy mixed the score.[7]



A nonfiction study of the regiment appeared first in 1965 and was republished in paperback by St. Martin's Press, One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment, in January 1990. The book dramatizes the events depicted in the film, expanding on how the 54th Massachusetts developed as battle-ready soldiers.[8] The book summarizes the historical events and the aftermath of the first Union black regiment influencing the outcome of the war.[8]


Critical response[edit]

Among major professional critics in the U.S., the film received overwhelmingly positive reviews for its story line and production values, though the critical verdict was more moderate in its evaluation of Matthew Broderick's performance in the leading role. Vincent Canby, writing in The New York Times, exclaimed: "[Broderick] gives his most mature and controlled performance to date....[Washington is] an actor clearly on his way to a major screen career...The movie unfolds in a succession of often brilliantly realized vignettes tracing the 54th's organization, training and first experiences below the Mason-Dixon line. The characters' idiosyncrasies emerge."[4] Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times called it "a strong and valuable film no matter whose eyes it is seen through."[3] He believed the production design credited to Norman Garwood and Freddie Francis paid "enormous attention to period detail". Ebert just had one qualm about the film wondering why a "black experience" had to be seen "largely through white eyes."[3]

"Glory is constructed as an inspirational tale, but the inspiration is not forced or false. It is rooted in the characters and the manner in which they overcome obstacles, including, most prominently, their own personal demons."
—James Berardinelli, writing for ReelViews[9]

Similarly, the Variety staff wrote that the film was "A stirring and long overdue tribute to the black soldiers who fought for the Union cause in the Civil War" and that the film "has the sweep and magnificence of a Tolstoy battle tale or a John Ford saga of American history." On Broderick's performance, they believed his "boyishness becomes a key element of the drama, as the film shows him confiding his inadequacies".[10] Desson Howe of The Washington Post, stated that with Glory, "it's hard not to get carried along".[11] He praised the individual cinematic elements saying the motion picture was "a thoroughly pleasant experience, a lightweight, liberal-heart-swollen high."[11] He did, however, point out some flaws by mentioning Broderick as "an amiable non-presence, creating unintentionally the notion that the 54th earned their stripes despite wimpy leadership".[11] Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, rated Glory as "pretty watchable" and calling it an "always interesting period film, well photographed by English cinematographer Freddie Francis."[12] The film, however, was not without its detractors. Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone, was not impressed at all with the overall acting, calling Broderick "catastrophically miscast as Shaw".[13] Alternatively, Richard Schickel of TIME described his enthusiasm for the picture by saying, "the movie's often awesome imagery and a bravely soaring choral score by James Horner that transfigure the reality, granting it the status of necessary myth."[14]

Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Mark Bernardin said the film's strength "belongs to the powerhouse supporting cast – Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher (in his first movie role), and Denzel Washington". He added: "The magic of Glory comes from the film itself. It speaks of heroism writ large, from people whom history had made small."[15] James Berardinelli writing for ReelViews, called the film "without question, one of the best movies ever made about the American Civil War" and noted that it "has important things to say, yet it does so without becoming pedantic"[9] Berardinelli also commented: "For a motion picture made on a relatively modest budget, Glory looks great. From a technical standpoint, the movie is a masterpiece, and the verisimilitude of the battle scenes is not in question."[9] Marjorie Baumgarten of The Austin Chronicle, applauded the film as a "fabulous historical re-creation [that] depicts the experiences of America's first unit of black soldiers in the Civil War and the young Northerner who leads them."[16] Rating the film with 4 Stars, critic Leonard Maltin wrote that the film was "Grand, moving, breathtakingly filmed (by veteran cinematographer Freddie Francis) and faultlessly performed". He ardently exclaimed that it was "One of the finest historical dramas ever made."[17]

"Watching "Glory," I had one reccuring [sic] problem. I didn't understand why it had to be told so often from the point of view of the 54th's white commanding officer. Why did we see the black troops through his eyes — instead of seeing him through theirs? To put it another way, why does the top billing in this movie go to a white actor?"
—Roger Ebert, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times[3]

Chris Hicks of the Deseret News, said the film was "Big in scope, powerful in its storytelling drama, yet intimate in its character and relationship development." Referring to Broderick, he found the acting "does very well as the young officer, and among his troops are two of our finest actors — Morgan Freeman...and Denzel Washington."[18] In TimeOut, author CM wrote that in terms of authenticity, "the battle sequences are truly impressive." He exclaimed, "the stark clarity of Freddie Francis' cinematography combined with Zwick's intimate style evokes immediacy and fear."[19] On another positive front, the staff of TV Guide commented on the production values of the film, saying they were "Richly plotted, alternately inspiring and horrifying, Glory is an enlightening and entertaining tribute to heroes too long forgotten." While on the acting merits, they noted "Glory also contains especially compelling performances by Broderick, Washington, and Freeman."[20] Film critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film a thumbs up review saying, "like Driving Miss Daisy, this is another admirable film that turns out to be surprisingly entertaining." He thought the film took on "some true social significance" and felt the actors portrayed the characters as "more than simply black men." He explained: "They're so different, that they become not merely standard Hollywood blacks, but true individuals."[21]

Rotten Tomatoes reported that 93% of 40 sampled critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 7.9 out of 10.[22]


The film was nominated and won several awards in 1989–90.[23][24] Among awards won were from the Academy Awards, the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards and the Golden Globe Awards. A complete list of awards the film won or was nominated for are listed below.

62nd Academy Awards[25]Best Actor in a Supporting RoleDenzel WashingtonWon
Best Art DirectionNorman Garwood, Garrett LewisNominated
Best CinematographyFreddie FrancisWon
Best Film EditingSteven RosenblumNominated
Best SoundDonald O. Mitchell, Gregg Rudloff, Elliot Tyson, Russell WilliamsWon
41st ACE Eddie Awards[26]Best Edited Feature Film————Won
44th British Academy Film Awards[27]Best CinematographyFreddie FrancisNominated
British Society of Cinematographers Awards 1990[28]Best CinematographyFreddie FrancisWon
Casting Society of America Artios Awards 1990[29]Best Casting for Feature Film, DramaMary ColquhounNominated
47th Golden Globe Awards[30]Best Motion Picture – DramaFreddie FieldsNominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion PictureDenzel WashingtonWon
Best DirectorEdward ZwickNominated
Best ScreenplayKevin JarreNominated
Best Original ScoreJames HornerNominated
33rd Grammy Awards[31]Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for TelevisionJames HornerWon
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards 1989[32]Best Film————Won
Best DirectorEdward ZwickWon
Best Supporting ActorDenzel WashingtonWon
NAACP Image Awards 1992[33][34]Outstanding Motion Picture————Won
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion PictureDenzel WashingtonWon
1989 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Awards[35]Best Picture————Nominated
1989 New York Film Critics Circle Awards[36]Best Supporting ActorDenzel WashingtonNominated
1990 Political Film Society Awards[37]Human Rights————Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards 1989[38]Best Adapted ScreenplayKevin JarreNominated

American Film Institute Lists

Box office[edit]

Director Edward Zwick

The film premiered in cinemas on December 14, 1989 in limited release within the U.S.. During its limited opening weekend, the film grossed $63,661 in business showing at 3 locations. Its official wide release was screened in theaters on February 16, 1990.[2] Opening in a distant 8th place, the film earned $2,683,350 showing at 801 cinemas. The film Driving Miss Daisy soundly beat its competition during that weekend opening in first place with $9,834,744.[39] The film's revenue dropped by 37% in its second week of release, earning $1,682,720. For that particular weekend, the film remained in 8th place screening in 809 theaters not challenging a top five position. The film Driving Miss Daisy, remained in first place grossing $6,107,836 in box office revenue.[40] The film went on to top out domestically at $26,828,365 in total ticket sales through a 17-week theatrical run.[2] For 1989 as a whole, the film would cumulatively rank at a box office performance position of 45.[41]

Home media[edit]

Following its cinematic release in theaters, the film was released in VHS video format on June 22, 1990.[42] The Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the United States on January 20, 1998. Special features for the DVD include, interactive menus, scene selections, widescreen 1.85:1 color anamorphic format along with subtitles in English, Spanish and French.[43]

A special edition repackaged version of Glory was also officially released on DVD on January 2, 2007. The DVD set includes two discs featuring; widescreen and full screen versions of the film; Picture-in-Picture video commentary from director Ed Zwick and actors Morgan Freeman and Matthew Broderick; a director's audio commentary; a documentary entitled, "The True Story of Glory Continues" narrated by Morgan Freeman; an exclusive featurette entitled, "Voices of Glory"; an original featurette; deleted scenes; production notes; theatrical trailers; talent files; and scene selections.[44]

The Blu-ray disc version of the film was released on June 2, 2009. Special features include a virtual civil war battlefield, interactive map, "The Voice Of Glory" feature, "The True Story Continues" documentary, the making of Glory, director's commentary, and deleted scenes.[45] The film is displayed in widescreen 1.85:1 color format in 1080p screen resolution. The audio is enhanced with Dolby TruHD sound and is available with subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.[45] A UMD version of the film for the Sony PlayStation Portable was also released on July 1, 2008. The disc features dubbed, subtitled, and color widescreen format viewing options.[46]


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  2. ^ a b c "Glory". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ebert, Roger (January 12, 1990). Glory.Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  4. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (December 14, 1989). Glory (1989). The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  5. ^ a b c "Glory (1989)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  6. ^ Glory Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  7. ^ "Glory (1989) Cast and Credits". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Burchard, Peter (1990). One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-04643-9.
  9. ^ a b c Berardinelli, James (December 1989). Glory. ReelViews. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  10. ^ Glory. Variety (December 31, 1988).
  11. ^ a b c Desson, Howe (January 12, 1990). 'Glory' (R). The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  12. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (December 1989). Glory. Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  13. ^ Travers, Peter (December 1989). Glory (1989). Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  14. ^ Schickel, Richard (December 5, 1989). Cinema: Of Time and the River. TIME. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  15. ^ Bernardin, Mark (February 13, 2001). Glory: Special Edition (2001). Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  16. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (February 7, 2001). Glory. The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  17. ^ Maltin, Leonard (August 5, 2008). Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. Signet. p. 528. ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9.
  18. ^ Hicks, Chris (February 20, 1990). Glory. Deseret News. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  19. ^ CM (December 1989). Glory (1989). TimeOut. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  20. ^ Glory: Review. TV Guide (December 1989).
  21. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 1989). Glory. At the Movies. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  22. ^ Glory (1989). Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  23. ^ "Glory: Awards & Nominations". MSN Movies. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Glory (1989) Awards & Nominations". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  25. ^ "The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
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  27. ^ "British Academy of Film and Television Arts". Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
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  32. ^ "KCFCC Award Winners 1980-1989". Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
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  34. ^ "Naacp's Image Awards Honor Black Entertainers". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  35. ^ "Awards for 1989". National Board of Review. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
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  37. ^ "Previous Winners". Political Film Society. Archived from the original on October 28, 2009. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild Awards. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  39. ^ "February 16–19, 1990 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  40. ^ "October 23–25, 1990 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  41. ^ "1989 Domestic Grosses". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
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  43. ^ "Glory DVD". Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  44. ^ "Glory Special Edition". Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
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  46. ^ "Glory UMD for PSP". Retrieved November 7, 2010. 

External links[edit]