Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett here. When I drew July 4th as my next blogging date, I wasn’t sure at first what to write about. Last year I spent the day selling books with several other Maine Crime Writers in Belgrade Lakes. Fun, but tiring. Kate Flora, Vaughn Hardacker, and Maureen Milliken are doing that this year, so if you’re in the vicinity, be sure to stop by. One year, when my cousin Moira was visiting, we invited the in-laws over and had a cookout on our back deck. But to tell you the truth, most years we don’t do anything special. We tend to avoid parades, and although I enjoy watching fireworks, I get nervous if they go off close to the heavily wooded area where we live.
That said, when I was writing the proposal for what became Kilt at the Highland Games (in stores July 26), the title I started out with was Kilt on the 4th of July. Setting it on this patriotic holiday was nixed by my publisher’s sales department. I’m still not entirely sure why, but I’ve learned not to argue. The main reason I wanted that setting was so I could have fireworks to cover up the sound of a gunshot. Solution: add fireworks to the annual (fictional) highland games taking place in Moosetookalook, Maine at the end of July.
But I digress. What I really want to write about is how a curmudgeonly, eccentric, semi-hermit like myself is likely to celebrate the day. Staying home, obviously. Perhaps doing a bit of writing, even on the holiday. Reading—of course! It’s likely there’s a Red Sox game on TV. And what else? How about a movie with a 4th of July theme?
Out of curiosity, although I already had a couple in mind, I went to Google for lists of 4th of July movies. Such lists were plentiful, but a bit odd. For one thing, they weren’t limited to Independence Day itself. All the ones I looked at broadened their definition to “patriotic” movies rather than movies that were 4th of July specific. A list of ten from Forbes in 2012 put Jaws at #4. Well, it does take place as the town prepares for Independence Day festivities. #1-3 were Rocky, Independence Day, and The Patriot. ABC News in 2013 didn’t rank by number but their list of eight included Miracle (the U.S. ice hockey win at the winter Olympics—um, stretching it a little!), National Treasure, and Frost/Nixon. A 2015 list from Entertainment was also eclectic, including Captain America: The First Avenger, Top Gun, A League of their Own, Saving Private Ryan, and Forrest Gump. Boston.com, also in 2015, listed thirty titles, including Air Force One, All the President’s Men, Apollo 13, Die Hard, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. That last one seems an odd choice. Most of the characters are British!
The actual 4th of July appears to be missing from most of these selections, with the exception of the one movie that made every list I looked at: Independence Day. That was the first one I thought of. Invaders from outer space attack earth, humans go into battle on the 4th of July, following a speech by the U. S. President that ranks right up there with Henry V’s on St. Crispin’s Day, and the world is saved. What’s not to love? Since there’s a sequel in theaters now, I expect some intrepid souls will go see that today. As a semi-hermit, I’ll wait till it comes out on DVD.
What struck me as even stranger than the inclusion of titles like The Bridge on the River Kwai and Die Hard (set at Christmas) was the absence of what has to be the quintessential 4th of July movie. Where was 1776, that superbly-cast musical account of how the Declaration of Independence was written? Its freeze-frame ending on the 4th of July as the Liberty Bell rings in the background is about as patriotic as you can get.
So, what films are on my list of top patriotic movies to watch on Independence Day? I’m going to put 1776 first and then go with three I own on DVD, have watched multiple times, and will quite possibly watch again today: Independence Day, National Treasure, and Captain America: The First Avenger.
Other suggestions, anyone?
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games ~ July 2016) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com