Star Studded Patriotism
What happens when you get a whole host of celebrities together to make a TV special where they each deliver a sketch or a musical interlude to do with the history of America and tell you what is great about it? You get the unapologetically patriotic "Swing Out, Sweet Land" with John Wayne leading us through this comical, informative, entertaining and proud look at America's past.
Watching "Swing Out, Sweet Land" not only as a non American but now over 45 years after this TV special was made it has to be said what a curious experience it is as it throws everything at you from some old comedy with Bob Hope to the musical interludes with that 60s "Hair" style vibe to some of the singing. But of course watching this now it has to be said that the whole patriotic side leaves you with a strange feeling because whilst there is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are and where you came from can you imagine any other country delivering an hour long patriotic history lesson now. It has left me impressed but also bemused especially when you have dated elements such as some of the unintentional racism of the era which now would be frowned upon such as Dan Blocker dressed as an Indian who sells Manhattan which comes after John Wayne has gone on about the poor treatment of the natives way back at the start.
The thing is that ignoring that "Swing Out, Sweet Land" is a product of the 70s and has issues it is entertaining. And the reason is because so many celebrities came together to do their bit from Jack Benny to Dean Martin, basically if you were a star back in 1970 who could deliver comedy or sing it seems you were involved. And of course there is John Wayne who acts not just as the compeer, linking all the sketches but he gives us the history lesson and as a non-American I learned a surprising amount from this little TV special although aI get a feeling that some of the aspects of America's history was ignored or rushed over.
What this all boils down to is that I can appreciate why back in 1970 many would have enjoyed "Swing Out, Sweet Land", in truth I enjoyed plenty of it even as a non-American. But watched now it is a product of its era not only when it comes to the gags but also some of the dated elements which would not pass today. But trust me when I say whilst "Swing Out, Sweet Land" will make you think various things, some will feel a sense of patriotism, what it made me feel as a Brit is a sadness because something like this would never be made now as being proud of your country is scorned upon.