Johnny is largely a historical autobiography with a touch of realistic scenes integrated in between the photographs and drawings from the Civil War. Despite the educational approach with which the film was shot, its entertainment value is not lessened thanks to the dramatized scenes and the wonderful performance of the young lead, Cody Piper, who makes his debut in the role of Johhny.
The narrator begins the film by describing the importance of the rank of drummer boy during the American Civil War. He quotes documents which show that both sides employed thousands of soldiers under the age of eighteen, many of those thirteen or younger.
A unique experience for the viewer
Johnny Joseph “Lincoln” Clem joined the US Army at the age of nine and fought shoulder to shoulder with the older soldiers from his regiment. As soon his name is introduced, he starts to narrate the story in his own voice, much as if he was reading from his personal diary. About that time, the viewer starts to truly appreciate the masterful usage of camera and props to accurately recreate those past times. The narrator of the film joins in again and, for the rest of the film, the story is shared equally between his words and the words of Johnny – creating quite a unique experience for the viewer who is able to observe the events from both the first and third persons.
A young boy holding a rifle
The film begins intensely, wasting no time in throwing the viewer right into the action. The viewer hears Johnny’s rapid breathing, sees the sweat on his forehead, and the fear in his eyes. And then his surroundings are shown – soldiers moving, Johnny among them – a young boy holding a rifle. His life and adventures are then followed throughout the movie. Soon it becomes clear that even if there are uncertainties about Johnny’s life and war record, the only certain thing is that his determination to join in the fight continued. The story told is not just that of Johnny, but it’s the story of the thousands of young soldiers who found themselves on the battle field during one of the most intense periods in American history.
During these times, boys like Johnny were beginning to learn the ways of life. When they entered the war, these boys were mere innocent youths. But, with the tolls taken of them in a man’s war — the death, disease, corruption and evil upbringings, they are morphed into adults faster than ever should be. In those conditions, it didn’t take long for a boy to quickly become a man.
Director R. David Burns and Executive Producer Wayne W. Whited have sorted through the legend to find the true facts about the boy’s adventures in order to tell this heroic tale of a young boy’s determination and struggle against war, disease, death and destruction that was the American Civil War.
The DVD features a video clip of Matthew Rank’s song When Johnny comes Marching Home, a photo slideshow featuring production shots and close up portraits of the characters in the film. It also contains seven minutes of footage showing the set and the actors getting ready for their scenes. In addition, the DVD includes Actor and Director Audio Commentary, Production Subtitles, Blooper Reel, Deleted and Extended Scenes.
Johhny is highly recommended for classroom usage and to anyone who has an interest in US history. A true story, told documentary style, it’s become a legend, appearing in newspapers of the times and in song — and now at theskykid.com.
TheSkyKid.com would like to thank cvmc.net for proving a review DVD for Johnny – The True Story of a Civil War Legend.
If you liked this review – we highly recommended checking out the review of the movie American Drummer Boy which is similarly themed.
Last but not least, does the approach of mixing documentary footage with live acting appeal to you, or would you prefer them to be separate?
Film title: Johnny – The True Story of a Civil War Legend
Release year: 2007
Director: R. David Burns
Cast: Cody Piper, Jack Dolezal, Terri Fisher, Gary Chambers