Longstreet’s Beard


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On this, the anniversary of the Pickett-Pettigrew assault, I offer you a few words on unsightly faux whiskers:

You know, sometimes things are just plain ridiculous. I mean……asinine. Case in point – Tom Berenger did a fair enough job playing Confederate General James Longstreet in the Film Gettysburg. But the beard….really?????

Whoever did the hair and makeup for this film should be tarred and feathered. Or at least, never allowed to work in the motion picture business. I have heard that wretched looking thing compared to squirrels, beavers, brooms, coon-skin caps, and any number of other things that all would look equally ridiculous glued to a man’s chin.

My God people, did anyone think this thing looked like a real beard? Couldn’t Berenger have just grown one? It would have been worth the time. It is really really distracting.

But here is another problem. To a whole lot of people, the film Gettysburg is what the  battle – and those whoScreen Shot 2014-07-03 at 11.29.36 AM took part in it – looked like. So now, to my horror, when people think of James Longstreet – many of them think of Tom Berenger as Longstreet.

Don’t believe me? Take a trip to the battlefield sometime. You will find a very odd (dedicated post Gettysburg) monument to – James “Tom Berenger” Longstreet – beard and all. The power of the motion picture is simply remarkable – despite the sometimes hideous use of fake facial hair.


With compliments,



The Americanist Independent: A Monthly Journal of United States History

6 thoughts on “Longstreet’s Beard”

  1. Critical… critical… critical !! And to think, Buster Kilrain’s beard was done by the same makeup artist and was 100% accurate. He looked exactly like he did on July 2nd, 1863 ! 😉 Happy 4th of July !!

  2. Dear Sir,
    What does it matter? All acting is a suspension of belief not a documentary. Photographs of Longstreet look as if he was wearing a false beard ! James Earl Jones could have portrayed Longstreet.
    The most absurd feature of the film “Gettysburg” was the comic British stereotype of Colonel Fremantle-red coat, sipping tea ( arrow pointing or underscoring – “British”).

    1. Wow – calling me sir makes me feel old. So thanks for that. It matters because it is unbelievably distracting. The film’s creators seemed to have gone to great lengths to make the rest of the film look realistic, so why paste on a beard that looks like it came from a junior high-school drama department? By the way, are you a casting director? We here in Hollywood could use someone with your insights.
      And for what it’s worth, I would never mistake the historical Longstreet’s beard for false. I doubt many others would either.

  3. Gettysburg was a superb film and Tom Berenger was excellent in it. But I agree that his obviously fake beard was awful and distracting. Besides, the real General Longstreet had a much shorter beard, that Mr. Berenger could have grown in about two weeks. Tom Berenger’s slouch had was also inaccurate and distracting.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed the film but found it flawed in a number of ways. Still…and more important, it got people interested in the battle and the war. And that is always a good thing!

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