Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chet Arthur on Film?

The other night I watched The Cattle King, a 1963 movie staring Robert Taylor. Most likely I would not have watched this film had the plot not been summarized as a rancher who sought the assistance of President Chester A. Arthur. The movie itself is very dated and chock full of Cold War analogies. All in all, I would say it urged a middling policy, one that stressed fighting when it was only absolutely necessary, but avoiding unnecessary and provocative violence. It is also dated in the way that everyone is killed with one clean, bloodless gun shot and falls right over like they were suffering from extreme narcolepsy. No blood and certainly no agony. How did Chester Arthur get there? The movie is set in the summer of 1883 when the 21st president traveled to Yellowstone National Park for some much needed rest. The celluloid Arthur was much shorter and thinner than the original. I imagine Arthur had the same gracious manners, but not sure if he would have had the same vigor. Like several other trips the president took during his term in office, the train carried a weary man on this vacation. Although Arthur is recognized as one of the least hard working of our nation's chief executives, he still suffered from a debilitating case of Bright's Disease, one that sapped his energy and ultimately took his life. He was always trying to hide the attacks of this illness. One one trip to Florida in spring 1883 a crippling attack of Bright's Disease was reported as food poisoning. Nevertheless, it was good to say a Gilded Age president make it to the big time!

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