The trickiest thing about any Alamo movie is sending Davy Crockett into eternity. The new Alamo is the first to provide Crockett with an actual death scene—one that some might find heretical.
Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier: In the unforgettable, boomer-traumatizing finale of Disney’s 1955 version, Davy (Fess Parker) stands alone as waves of Mexicans swarm over the Alamo wall. Out of bullets, he’s last seen bravely swinging the butt of his musket Ol’ Betsy as the movie fades out.
The Alamo: John Wayne’s 1960 psychodrama is somewhat more graphic. Crockett (Wayne) topples a horse with his bare hands, shoves away the Mexican soldier who runs him through with a lance, and then, even as he dies, manages to blow up the powder magazine. According to Wayne biographer Emmanuel Levy, the star’s mother never saw the end of The Alamo: She “could not tolerate the idea of her son being killed on the screen.”
History: Crockett and six others surrendered and were executed. This story, cited in early accounts as proof of Mexican barbarity, was accepted until the Disney and Wayne movies changed history. When, in 1975, Alamo librarian Carmen Perry translated the diary of a Mexican officer describing Crockett’s death, she received hate mail and phone threats while historians who defended her were labeled Communist dupes. Some insist that the diary is an elaborate forgery and that Wayne, whose picture hangs in the Alamo, told the truth. In 1985, Peggy Dibrell, chair of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Alamo Committee, revealed that “there were plans made before the battle to blow up the gunpowder stored in the main shrine if it was overrun and Davy Crockett was attempting to do that when he was killed.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2004