Hollywood and history is offering an enormous Hollywood-and-Vine moment this Memorial Day. The History Channel is debuting the Hatfields & McCoys, a three-part miniseries starring Kevin Costner, Powers Boothe, and Bill Paxton.
The actors are no strangers to Western-themed cinema, with Costner winning an Oscar for Dances with Wolves, and appeared in Silverado, Wyatt Earp, and Open Range; and Paxton in Tombstone and Frank and Jesse. Mare Winningham co-stars in the saga. The television event is produced by Leslie Greif, who is best known for co-creating Walker, Texas Ranger. The History Channel is currently running a graphic trailer promoting the program.
The Hatfield / McCoy feud involved two large nineteenth century families that lived along the border of the West Virginia and Kentucky back country. A simple misunderstanding touched off a 25-year feud leading to an extreme number of revenge slayings. This prolonged showdown forced a resolution by the US Supreme Court. The upcoming small-screen special is expected to chronicle events in detail.
The feud entered the lexicon of folklore as a metaphor for any bitter activity between rival parties. Ma and Pa Kettle were a cinematic gun-toting family based on the historic feud. Tom Dooley, the #1 song by The Kingston Trio, has its folk roots tied to the Hatfields & McCoys. References were made in movies by Buster Keaton and Abbott & Costello; and in an animated one-reeler created by Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies starring Bugs Bunny. Television also joined the fray in cartoon episodes of Huckleberry Hound, The Flinstones, and Scooby Doo; and in programs, including Star Trek and The Andy Griffith Show.
Descendents are quite aware of their past. They fittingly appeared together on the game show… Family Feud in 1979. In fact, the program was created by producers, inspired by the famous vendetta. After appearing on two episodes, the Hatfield & McCoy families tied at 1-1.
In 1999, the Hatfield and McCoy Historic Site Restoration was completed. Many tourists travel each year to parts of West Virginia and Kentucky to analyze the remaining relics. The Hillbilly Days fest in Pikeville, Kentucky is an annual Shriners fundraiser. It was reportedly founded by one member from each of the two families. Recently, an account of the feud was presented on How the States Got Their Shapes; a History Channel program.
Part of my Memorial Day television viewing is now set, I’m thrilled to admit.
Until next time> “never forget… y’all”