26 March 2008

Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead

As with most people, our household is in the ongoing process of replacing all videos of favorite movies with DVDs. Last night my son brought home "The Wind and The Lion" one of the truly entertaining movies of all time and who could ask for a better cast than Sean Connery as Raisuli, Candice Bergen as Eden Perdicaris, and Brian Keith as Teddy Roosevelt. In this political season, it is good to remember that virtually everything in this "historical" movie is either a tall tale or never happened.

Let's start with Eden Perdicaris with two children, one boy and one girl. First, Mrs. Perdicaris was named Ellen. Second, she had four children by a previous husband, C. F. Varley, whom she had deserted for Ion Perdicaris, and third she was never kidnapped. It was her husband Ion Perdicaris and one son, Cromwell Varley, who were kidnapped on May 18, 1904.

Did Teddy Roosevelt actually say, "Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead"? Well, yes he did - To the attendees of the Republican convention, who up to that point had been rather lukewarm towards Roosevelt. The delegates went wild at this remark. One Kansas delegate exclaimed, "Roosevelt and Hay know what they're doing. Our people like courage. We'll stand for anything those men do." This famous catchphrase quickly caught on, and helped Roosevelt secure his election.

Did the Marines land in Morocco to rescue Perdicaris? Not so much. All that bang bang up on the screen really looks good and certainly the Marine hymn does mention that they had invaded "the shores of Tripoli" a hundred years before to take on the Barbary pirates. This time the only Marines to actually land were a small force of a dozen men, carrying only side-arms, who arrived to protect the Consulate, Ellen Perdicaris and the other three children.

Roosevelt was advised on June 1 that Perdicaris was not a U.S. citizen. That he had given up his American passport for a Greek one many years earlier; but Roosevelt thought that since Raisuli thought Perdicaris was an American citizen, it made little difference. Roosevelt tried to get Britain and France to join the U.S. in a combined military action to rescue Perdicaris, but the two countries refused. Instead, the two powers were covertly recruited to put pressure on the Sultan to accept Raisuli's demands which he agreed to do on June 21. This led to the peaceful release of the hostages.

One thing in the movie is true. Perdicaris came to admire and befriend Raisuli. Perdicaris later said: "I go so far as to say that I do not regret having been his prisoner for some time... He is not a bandit, not a murderer, but a patriot forced into acts of brigandage to save his native soil and his people from the yoke of tyranny."

So there you have it: Real vs. Reel and another example of when politics are involved, don't believe everything you hear.