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  • This program is now available on professional DVD under the title "John Wayne's Tribute to America". The release date is July 31, 2007 but my copy arrived a few days early.

    This video runs approximately 80 minutes. The only extras on the disk are the original sponsor commercials and a clip of JW on "What's My Line?". The picture quality is very good for a 37 year old show - crisp and clear (nothing like the faded, blurred quality of a VHS version I purchased on eBay a few years ago).

    This is a production typical of the 60's & 70's musical comedy shows but that's what fun for anyone who regularly tuned in to watch Dean Martin, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, etc. It's hokey and as patriotic as a 4th of July special.

    An internet search showed that several major book and/or DVD sellers have it. FYI, I have no connection to the company that put it out - I'm just happy to finally have it!
  • ...and yes, it was theme park quality song-and-dance, variety show with a history outline. But it was not meant to be anything else. It was entertainment. PBS has done more "serious" in-depth, and well-researched history TV documentaries in later years as have the History channel, A & E, etc. But please note that these are just as much entertainment for audiences, otherwise the ratings wouldn't be there, the audience would not be there, and the motivation for the makers (at least enough money to live on) would not be there to make them. I remember this and others like it fondly, perhaps through rose-colored glasses of remembrance. But I also remember (and I don't know why this has stuck in my strange memory) that when it came to a Civil War section some mention was made of current racial unrest and the continuing themes of equality.

    I would enjoy seeing it again if only for a glimpse of the celebrities that are gone and seeing a time when such did not hesitate to say patriotic things for fear of being hissed at.
  • For many years, the wonderful montage of each guest singing a line from "God Bless America" stayed with me. I managed to find a cassette of the show and got chills watching it again. They don't make shows like this anymore...I can't imagine a group of today's stars so large who I'd care to see at all. What would it take to get this special seen on TV again? In our post-9/11 world, it would be a nostalgic reminder of a generation that APPRECIATED where we came from, and what LIBERTY and FREEDOM are all about. To anyone reading this who may own the rights to this special, bring it back on video and you'll find a very receptive public.
  • Even those who aren't fans of John Wayne would probably still enjoy this series of vignettes that Wayne narrates almost like the Stage Manager in "Our Town," stepping from era to era through a few centuries of American history. Wayne had been burned in his earliest foray into television nearly two decades earlier: Making a guest appearance on a variety show in 1953 while his movie "Hondo" was in theatres, he was supposed to act like he didn't know why the audience was reacting, and then every time he turned around he'd press a button in his pants and a sign on his back would light up to say "Hondo." The indignity of the appearance embarrassed him enough so that, except for rare guest appearances on shows like "I Love Lucy," Wayne avoided television for most of the next 20 years. "Swing Out, Sweet Land" gave him a chance to show his unabashed red-white-and-blue sentiments and to feel far more comfortable in front of the television cameras.

    Still, although it's an enjoyable and a somewhat tongue-in-cheek television special, sticking to many of the clichés of the American history genre, it's also very much a curio of its era -- when you could spend a couple of hours recounting those clichés as history, and also present them by featuring a raft of then-current celebrities often doing their own shtick as a counterpoint to the history -- Jack Benny (of course!) finding the silver dollar that Washington threw across the Delaware; Roy Clark as a banjo player at Andy Jackson's funeral; even Rowan and Martin as the Wright Brothers! You won't find the kind of insight that Ken Burns puts forth on his PBS series, certainly . . . and, as history, perhaps its most poignant feature is realizing just how many of the folks who were well-known at that time (like Wayne himself, Benny, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Greg Morris, and even Ricky Nelson) are themselves already gone.
  • I remember this program from it's original airing on network television and have tried for years to find it on video tape (and now DVD). I hope at some point TPTB realize what a true American treasure this is and arrange for it's sale or at the least re-airing for the general public.
  • Purchased this at Wal-Mart for under $10.00 and it's worth every cent. Too bad more Variety specials aren't available on DVD.

    This show isn't meant to be a 'written in stone' history lesson. It's just what the title suggests: "Swing Out, Sweet Land". Maybe because it is hosted by John Wayne that so many of his contemporary thespians are in this or because of just about every big name on NBC at the time, but I found it quite enjoyable.

    I had heard of this special before seeing it because it is mentioned during an episode of my favorite show "All in the Family." So when I saw this I had to have it just to see what I had missed all those years ago (I was only nine and never had control of what to watch). Since they don't produce specials anymore I loved watching all the corny sketches and sincere songs; seeing all the true "stars" of days gone bye having a bit of fun. That's what "SO,SL" was too - fun with just a dash of patriotic preaching that is so politically incorrect these days. And that's a shame we've moved in that direction.
  • I remember this from I was eleven years old watching it on TV. It would be great to have this available on tape or DVD. A very patriotic show - all historic figures were presented as larger than life, but it was all in good fun. Running across this entry has brought back some good memories.
  • 'Swing Out, Sweet Land' is the deeply annoying title of a variety special that's actually fairly entertaining. Because this special allegedly has something to do with American history, IMDb have listed it as a 'documentary'. Actually, this is a comedy/variety special that presents a series of skits (most of them attempting to be funny, a few of them serious) with modern actors impersonating figures from American history. Oddly, two of the U.S. Presidents depicted here are played by Canadian actors: Lorne Greene as Washington, William Shatner as John Adams. The whole affair was a personal project of John Wayne, and was produced by his company Batjac Productions.

    I attended a press screening of this special in London in 1971. A Batjac rep was hoping to persuade British TV producers (one of them my employer) to buy the UK syndication rights. Unsurprisingly, British TV producers were chary to give British audiences a programme dealing entirely with American history, much of it concerning America's War of Independence against Britain. 'Swing Out, Sweet Land' was never transmitted in the UK.

    CONTAINS SPOILERS. Most of the humour here is simple displacement of 1970s showbiz personalities into earlier eras. Bob Hope shows up in a tricorn at Valley Forge for Christmas 1776, doing his usual shtick of entertaining the troops (who look surprisingly well-fed, well-dressed and warm ... in what's clearly an indoor set). Ann-Margret, in a mob cap and petticoats, does a dance routine for the enthusiastic soldiers, lifting her skirts surprisingly high for the 18th century. Then Bob Hope sings his usual 'Thanks for the Memories', with Revolution-era lyrics: 'We all hold very dear / that patriot Revere. / He rode all night to aid our plight, but just think of his ... rear!' On the word 'rear', Hope pauses slightly and he gooses Ann-Margret, and she squeals in delight! That's the biggest surprise here.

    Phyllis Diller shows up as Belva Lockwood, the first woman to stand for election as U.S. President (1884 & 1888), and also the first woman lawyer to plead a case before the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, Diller's turn here is treated largely as a joke. In fairness to Diller, Belva Lockwood's political campaigns were largely regarded as a joke in the 1880s.

    Lorne Greene, in elaborate costume and wig, is seen as President Washington. As he walks away from his advisors, he is confronted by Jack Benny in 18th-century costume but wearing his usual hornrims. Benny tentatively asks Washington if the rumour is true that he once threw a dollar across the Potomac. When Washington confirms this, Benny nervously asks if Washington would be able to identify the dollar. When Washington answers in the negative, Benny replies: 'Good. So I can keep this one, then.' Ha bloody ha.

    Dean Martin shows up as the inventor of the cotton gin, just so he can drunkenly belch 'Keep yer cotton-pickin' hands off my gin.' The rule in this special tends to be that white figures in American history will be mocked for cheap laughs, but black figures in American history will be depicted respectfully (though not always effectively).

    The most bizarre turn is a dead-earnest skit featuring Red Skelton as a newspaper printer in Philadelphia in 1776, with Tom Smothers as his assistant; I leave it to you to imagine how these two actors look in 18th-century work clothes. They've been hired to run off copies of a new document called the Declaration of Independence. Smothers nervously feels that perhaps they shouldn't print this document; it defies King George, and it might just stir up trouble. Skelton reads off a few passages of the galley proof -- something about freedom and liberty -- and he hands it to Smothers with the verdict 'Print it.' Much as I admire John Wayne's sentiments in producing 'Sing Out, Sweet Land', I found this sequence extremely sententious and a little too pleased with its own boldness. I still have the press kit from the London screening I attended. The text in the press kit attempts to make a great deal of the fact that conservative John Wayne and liberal Tom Smothers had divergent political beliefs, yet were able to work together amicably to make this special. Right, so what? Tom Smothers is a member of the establishment, even if he pretends otherwise, and he wasn't going to rock the boat to compromise this special. The press kit mentions that Wayne and Smothers got along just fine during rehearsals by avoiding politics altogether. 'We talked about sailing,' Smothers is quoted in the press kit.

    There's really nothing of great interest in 'Swing Out, Sweet Land' unless you're a fan of one of the performers in this cast ... and even then you'd have to be a completist. The comedy here isn't especially funny. As for the serious stuff: I'd be delighted to watch a special that gives respectful tribute to the subject of America's greatness ... but this special ain't it. I'll rate 'Sing Out, Sweet Land' 4 out of 10, purely for its novelty value.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was a personal project for John Wayne, with the intention of boosting patriotism with the unrest over Vietnam. There will be spoilers ahead:

    This show is part history lesson (some of that history being flawed) and part variety show. It's also all flag-waving patriotism. It's also interesting to note just how many of the stars in the show had shows airing on NBC, which broadcast this in 1970.

    Some of the material here is hopelessly dated and/or of marginal quality. Some of it is still quite impressive, even after 45 years. The show starts with a jokey take on Peter Minuet and the island of Manhattan, with Michael Landon and Dan Blocker trading often pained yucks in a comedy routine John Wayne horns in on-something Wayne does frequently in here. The first of the in-jokes about Wayne comes here as well.

    There's a musical number by the Doodletown Pipers, which is a portion of the Declaration of Independence set to music and sung. It's actually not too bad, Glen Campbell, Roy Clarke, Johnny Cash and Leslie Uggams have musical numbers which hold up well and there's a musical presentation of the building of the transcontinental railroad which doesn't hold up at all.

    A lot of the other parts here are little more than set pieces for the performers, with Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Dean Martin, Rowan and Martin and Ann-Margret all essentially playing themselves in segments and with John Wayne suiting up and riding a horse in a segment on western ghost towns.

    Then there are the performances, where stars actually have some acting to do, playing parts. Some of these are very good, like Bing Crosby playing Mark Twain and Roscoe Lee Browne playing Frederick Douglass in a conversation essentially taken from their own words and Lucille Ball as the Statue of Liberty. Some are okay, like brothers David and Rick Nelson as two soldiers fighting on opposite sides in the American Civil War and Greg Morris essentially given a cameo as Crispus Attucks, with one line and the other four dead in the Boston Massacre unknowns.

    There are two performance segments which are head scratchers. The first has a quartet of actors playing Washington and three of his cabinet which seems to serve only as a lead in to Jack Benny's turn as Jack Benny. The second is a pioneer family (Dennis Weaver and Celeste Holm) which is an obvious and strained scene serving to show some things it presents with a heavy hand. It doesn't really work.

    Overall, the show is a decent time capsule. It's on DVD for a reasonable price. Woth watching once if you like the performers.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Who doesn't love the USA? I do! Who doesn't love John Wayne? I do! Who wouldn't love John Wayne in a show about the USA? Well, me. This show is as bad as you might imagine it to be. Unbelievably awful corn-ball humor. Cringingly sexist punch lines. Cliché writing. Actors sleeping-walking through their lines. I would have given it a 1 but I added a point for the true talent displayed by Roy Clark and Johnny Cash and Leslie Uggams and another point for the attractive sets and props. Otherwise this show isn't even so bad it's good. It's just bad. It seems some of the reviews have a lot of sentimental feelings about this show from having seen it when they were very young and I'll give them that, value as nostalgia. But I think someone watching it for the first time in the year 2010 is in for a bad time.