“A flag beneath whose folds every man shall find protection.”
In history classes in America we are somewhat taught in grade school at some point about Betsy Ross. Betsy Ross created the first American flag during the Revolutionary War. That is all I ever remember learning about her which is kind of a shame but history is not usually very kind to women. Early Hollywood, however, was a little kinder to women. In 1927 MGM released the colored film The Flag: A Story Inspired by the Tradition of Betsy Ross to tell her story along with a fictitious subplot of one of her friends.
The story begins with George Washington receiving a letter that the British are planning on landing in Staten Island. He is holding a meeting and the members agree that a flag is needed to lead the defense. What they cannot agree on is the type of flag since they are all from different states. Washington tells them that a new flag is needed and he and Betsy Ross, who was also in attendance, have an idea of what the new flag should look like.
Meanwhile at Betsy’s home, her friend Edith Brandon has been staying with her. Edith’s husband has been fighting on the side of the British. Brandon risks his life to be with Edith before the battle begins. He makes it to the house without being seen but soon word spreads that a British soldier is somewhere in the town. There is a notice about the soldier all over the town. When Edith returns to Betsy’s home Washington is there with Betsy. Edith is beyond nervous and acting strange. When he leaves, Washington sees the notice of the British spy and remembers Edith being terribly nervous. He goes back into the house and sees the new flag moving over the fireplace. Brandon is caught and Washington says he could take him away as a prisoner. Betsy tells Washington to remember that everyone beneath the flag shall find protection. Moved by Betsy’s reminder, Washington places Brandon under house arrest in the parole of Betsy until he can return to his line.
As you can see The Flag really has nothing to do with the making of the actual American flag or Betsy Ross too much. The film is not long it is a two reel colored short. The sappy love story is just that, sappy and also uncalled for but I see where the studio needed to add a little extra drama to draw people in since there is no real drama to the factual story. Although, it was nice to see MGM create a film around a female historical figure. The primitive coloring technique used was so cool. The colors in the clothes and the flag, especially the red, were so saturated but really cool. The Flag is worth watching if you are into silent films.