January 26, 1955 – Davy Crockett Goes to Congress Premieres on ABC.
“Now, again from Davy’s own journal, we’d like to present another story of Davy’s fabulous life. This one is called, ‘Davy Crockett Goes to Congress.’” – Walt Disney.
On the evening of January 26, 1955, the second installment of The Adventures of Davy Crockett premiered on the Disneyland television show on ABC. Shown a little over a month after the first installment, the series continued the Davy Crockett craze that had taken over the youth of America. This episode, entitled Davy Crockett Goes to Congress, was directed by Norman Foster, and written by Tom Blackburn. It stars Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, Buddy Ebsen as Georgie Russel, Basil Ruysdael as Andrew Jackson, William Bakewell as Tobias Norton, and former professional wrestler Mike Mazurki as Bigfoot Mason.
A page from Davy's own journal, as seen in the show, which introduces the story of Davy's political career
The show opens with Davy and his pal Georgie setting out to find a new piece of land to settle. Although they find the perfect spot, Georgie reminds Davy that they need to file a claim for the land. As they approach the settlement, looking for the judge to file their claim, they stumble upon a shooting match. Ever competitive, Davy challenges a man named Bigfoot Mason, wagering $15, the estimated price of the prize cow. They tie with the first round, but with their second shots, Bigfoot believes he won, as it appears that Davy completely missed the target. When it’s discovered that Davy hit the exact spot twice, he makes an unintentional enemy out of Bigfoot. The judge, discovering who Davy is, is thrilled that Davy is in town, as he may be the man that can stop Bigfoot’s schemes. The judge informs Davy and Georgie that Bigfoot and his gang have been running the Indians off of their land and selling it to newcomers who have no idea that the land has been stolen. Davy reminds the judge that there’s a treaty that guarantees the Indians their land, but the judge says that Bigfoot disregards any treaty of that nature. The few people who have tried to stop Bigfoot have disappeared, presumed dead. The judge, knowing Davy’s reputation, asks Davy to be the magistrate and serve a warrant on Bigfoot and his gang. Davy says he’d have to think about it. It doesn’t take long for Davy to decide, as he finds that the Cherokee Charlie Two Shirts has been beaten and run off his land. Davy confronts Bigfoot, and it turns into a no-holds-barred fistfight. Davy emerges victorious, and peace comes over the settlement again as the gang is brought to justice.
During one of the celebrations in town, the judge tells Davy that since the settlement is experiencing a lot of growth, they’ll be getting someone to represent them in Nashville, and the town has picked Davy as the man they want to run for the state legislature. Davy responds, “I’m plumb flutterated by the honor, but, well, I ain’t no politician.” When the judge informs him that his competition is Amos Thorpe – the lawyer who tried to get Bigfoot off, and made a lot of money from the illegal Indian land grabs – Davy considers running. The thing that sets him on his political path, however, is the sad news that his wife, Polly, came down with a fever and died. Consumed by grief and needing a distraction, he decides to run for the spot in the state legislature, proclaiming that he’ll represent the town as honestly as he can. Davy wins by a landslide.
Davy in formal clothes after he's been elected to the state legislature
Davy’s political career has been watched closely by his old Major, Tobias Norton, and General Andrew Jackson. Jackson is preparing to run for the presidency, and both he and Norton want Davy to have a seat in Congress. As Jackson puts it to Davy, “I want men I can trust, men I know are with me, men that can get the rest of the country behind me.” Davy responds, “Well, if I was to do what you asked, and I did get in, I wouldn’t be taking orders from you, General. I’d be taking them from them that elected me.” Thanks to a set of books Georgie has been publishing about their adventures together, Davy is able to win the seat in Congress, and surprises the members by showing up in buckskins. Georgie is there to greet him, and Davy tells him off about having to show up as the “king of the wild frontier, thanks to you.” He introduces himself with a strange speech, but promises that he won’t be one of those politicians who doesn’t do anything more than listen, and the next time he stands before them, he’ll “have something to say worth saying.”
Davy’s career hits a snag when Norton tells Davy he’s to go on a speaking tour, calling it a “great service for the country.” Norton adds that people want to make Davy the next president of the United States. Georgie, ever suspicious of Norton, finds out the truth: Norton sent Davy out of the way so he wouldn’t be able to vote against a bill meant to take away all lands from the Indians. Georgie and Davy race back to Washington, where Davy punches Norton out as the former major tries to stall him, and storms in to Congress, giving the last great speech of his political career.
Davy giving a speech in Congress, dressed in his buckskins
Compared to most of the shows on television at the time that featured cowboys and Indians, the Davy Crockett serial was very well made, especially when it came to the matte paintings of Nashville and Washington, D.C., painted by Peter Ellenshaw. Walt Disney sent crews to picturesque areas in North Carolina to do research of the landscape, and it made the serial stand out against all the other shows. There’s also no denying the charm of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. The last impassioned speech he gives as Congressman Davy Crockett is one that will be remembered.