Disney’s Swamp Fox Leslie Nielson as Francis Marion in Disney's Swamp Fox
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Disney television show often featured serialized stories of great Americans. People who had helped to shape the nation during its early days. Or perhaps people who had overcome some adversity. One such American was General Francis Marion.
Francis Marion, better known as the Swamp Fox, helped to turn the tide of the Revolutionary War. His unconventional fighting tactics included hiding in the Carolina swamps and attacking the British as they marched in formation. Because of this, his opponents accused him of abandoning the gentlemanly ways of fighting, which consisted of meeting your enemy face to face. Because Marion and his men knew the swamps so well, the British never could find him or anticipate his attacks.
Disney's version kept the main points of history, although perhaps presenting a somewhat sanitized view of things. The British were under the command of General Cornwallis and Colonel Tarleton. Also serving as villains were the Tories, those colonists who were still loyal to British rule. Marion was helped in his fight by his fiancee, Mary Videau, and her parents. The Videau family posed as Tories and then passed information along to Marion and his men.
Leslie Nielsen starred as General Marion, long before Nielsen's days as Frank Drebin in the Police Squad television show and the Naked Gun movies. The series also featured such Disney regulars as J. Pat O'Malley and Slim Pickens. Hal Stalmaster, from Disney's movie of Johnny Tremain appeared in the series, as did Tim Considine, who had previously appeared as Spin on in the Spin and Marty serials on the Mickey Mouse Club and later appeared as Mike Douglas in My Three Sons.
Disney obviously had high hopes of the Swamp Fox achieving the same popularity as Davy Crockett. Here was another great American hero who had practically reached folk hero status. Each episode featured action and intrigue. Marion wore a fox tail on his hat, and his men wore feathers on theirs. And he even had a catchy theme song, with words by Lew Foster and music by Buddy Baker. But for whatever reason, the Swamp Fox didn't quite catch on as the King of the Wild Frontier did. Eight episodes aired between 1959 and 1961. A single version of the theme song was released with Leslie Nielsen providing vocals, but that song didn't climb the charts like the Ballad of Davy Crocket did.
Even though the show may not have been as popular as its predecessor, it was still fun to watch and made for great television. The Swamp Fox found a whole new set of fans when the episodes were aired on the Disney Channel in the 1980s and 1990s. Now that the Disney Channel has dropped its Vault Disney programming block, the Swamp Fox is no longer seen. But perhaps this Revolutionary War hero is hiding somewhere, just waiting to make another appearance!