Archive for Tuesday, November 9, 1999


November 9, 1999


— "Ride With the Devil" tells the Missouri side of Quantrill's raid.

Lawrence takes a symbolic position in Ang Lee's soon-to-be released film "Ride With the Devil."

The movie begins with a wedding scene, where slave-owning Missourians talk about President Lincoln -- "the black Republican in the White House" -- and the pro-union, murdering Jayhawkers with the venom of a viper.

Later, another Missourian pinpoints the building of a school in Lawrence by New England immigrants as the straw that broke the Confederates' backs.

"They (Lawrence residents) think everyone should think like they do," the embittered man says. "The South will lose because we think only of ourselves."

"Ride With the Devil," based on Kansas University alumnus Daniel Woodrell's novel "Woe to Live On," was shown for the first time to a Kansas-Missouri audience Monday afternoon at a press screening at the Tivoli Manor Square in the Westport area. About 30 reporters, movie critics and other invited guests viewed the 134-minute, R-rated film.

Among those in the audience was Steve Jansen, director of Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass.

"I read the novel and the movie is faithful to the novel," he said. "" The Lawrence massacre was underplayed, which I was glad to see. It could have been exploited."

"Ride With the Devil" tells the story of childhood friends Jake Roedel (Tobey Maguire) and Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich), who become pro-Southern Bushwhackers in 1861 and engage in guerilla warfare along the Kansas-Missouri border. They join forces with Black John (James Caviezel), George Clyde (Simon Baker) and Daniel Holt (Jeffrey Wright), a former slave, and later band together with William Quantrill (John Ales) for the bloody raid of Lawrence.

Jansen said the movie brings home the idea that "violence begets violence."

"It's important to understand there are two sides to the story," he said. " " From a storytelling point of view, it's a well-told story."

Lawrence resident Barbara Brackman served as a production researcher during the early stages of the movie, from January 1998 to May 1998. Her job was to help production designer Mark Friedberg develop the look and mood of the movie.

"We looked at Goya paintings and American paintings to get the look of the 19th century," she said.

Brackman's job also was to maintain the accuracy of the story line. For example, Lee wanted Quantrill's raiders to enter Lawrence from Mount Oread, and Brackman had to tell him that was from the wrong direction.

Brackman was voted down, however, when she wanted dogs to be a part of the film. The dogs and their handlers cost too much.

"Everything's a balance between history, art and money," she said.

"Ride With the Devil" opens in theaters on Nov. 24. It will open in Lawrence before then during an invitation-only screening at 7:45 p.m. Sunday in Liberty Hall.

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is

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