1860's cart de visit of John ericsson
"John Ericsson - segraren vid Hampton Roads" (Sweden 1937. black and white. 92 min)
Gustaf Edgren (story)
Oscar Rydqvist (screenplay)
Film release dates
Sweden 13 December 1937
Finland 30 January 1938
Denmark 28 February 1938
USA 17 May 1938
Film also known as
Sweden : John Ericsson - segraren vid Hampton Roads
Denmark : Sejrherren fra Hampton Roads
Finland : John Ericsson
UK : John Ericsson - The Victor at Hampton Roads
USA : The Great John Ericsson
New York Times Film Review, May 18th 1938
Like Finland's payment of her war debts, Sweden's contribution of "John Ericsson, Victor of Hampton Roads" is less to be celebrated for its intrinsic value than for the sentiment that prompted it. So far as we know, it is the first foreign film dealing with American history and, although the deal is off the bottom, with the cards marked in Sweden's favor, the important thing is the deal itself. We have grown so used to our cinematic glorifications of foreign triumphs that it comes as a blessed shock to find ourselves on the receiving end for once.
At the Fifth Avenue Playhouse you will discover, among other things, that Sweden won the Civil War for the North. John Ericsson, you see, invented the Monitor and Karl Petterson, another Swede, put the double charges into its guns that drove the Merrimac to cover. Hence, although you might have been led to believe that a fellow named U. S. Grant had something to do with it, the evidence here I??? points to a two-man Swedish victory. If it hadn't been for John Ericsson, there would have been n???o Monitor; if it hadn't been for Karl Petterson, there would have been no end to the Merrimac; if it hadn't been for the rout of the Merrimac there would have been no blockade at Hampton Roads; if it hadn't been for the blockade, there would have been no Northern victory. Q. E. D. and Skaal! (or is that an exclusively Norwegian toast?)
Directed by Victor Seastrom, who used to ply his trade in Hollywood, and with Mr. Seastrom in the title role, the picture has certain fascinating attributes. Not the least of them is that every one talks Swedish, a language of hill and dale intonation, which flows hilariously from the lips of Southern darkies, General Lee, a company of Union naval officers and such Irish-American miscellany as Lieutenant Kergam, Mr. Mallory, Miss Mallory and Mrs. Cassidy. When Abraham Lincoln appeared, we held our breath, but Honest Abe wasn't talking, not in Svensk.
Technically, the picture is well up to the Hollywood standards, and the mayers—barring the natural incongruities which occasionally arise—are first-rate. But it's the principle, ???not the principal, of the product that counts. As a good-will gesture, inspired by the tercentenary of the first Swede's landing in this country, it is wholeheartedly welcomed. After all, it doesn't matter much new who won the Civil War: we are all being reconstructed these days.
A critique of the film by Ann-Kristin Wallengren can be down-loaded here (pdf format)