The Last Days of a President: Films of McKinley and the Pan-American Exposition, 1901
Overview | History | Critical Thinking | Arts & Humanities
This film collection focuses on pivotal events of 1901, a year that marked the start of a new millennium. Students can use the films as a springboard to compare aspects of American life and technology at the beginning and end of the twentieth century. They can examine these films for evidence of the significance of a shift to a new century, then speculate on what life will be like in the twenty-first century. Ask students to imagine the types of buildings, exhibits and simulations that would be featured at a world's fair held in 2001 and one hundred years later, in 2101. Students might also make a time line of world's fairs and illustrate their predications for the future.
Search on exhibitions and exhibition buildings to find examples of Pan-American Exposition elements and architecture.
Historical Analysis and Interpretation
The Pan-American Exposition is a cultural artifact that illustrates values and perspectives of the era. Students can study the films to view the past from the perspective of people living at a particular time in history. For example, students can discuss why shows such as the re-enactment of a Native American battle and exhibits such as the Eskimo village were so popular with Americans in 1901.
Search on Eskimos, Indians and Japanese to find films showcasing these different groups.
Some films follow President McKinley as he and his entourage toured the Exposition. These films provide a perspective of how Americans viewed their place in the world. In the film A Trip Around the Pan-American Exposition, the President takes a boat trip on Exposition waterways to exhibits of different cultures. These exhibits were American-built and provide visual evidence of racial stereotypes, imperialism, and perceptions of America's superiority over other nations. Students can analyze what it means to put people and cultures on display and if there are right and wrong ways to exhibit a people's culture. Ask students to share their views on cultural exhibits and village tableaus they have seen at museums and theme parks. Students might then be asked to make their own exhibit focusing on a people's culture.
Students can use the films to launch a study of cause and effect relationships and the issue of historical inevitability. Because McKinley was assassinated, Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt became President. How did the two presidents differ in personality and policies? How did McKinley's assassination change the course of American history?
Historical Research Capabilities
President McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901 and died two weeks later on September 14. In the collection, students can view films of McKinley as president and of McKinley's funeral. Who was in charge of the country during that interim period? Throughout American history, what other presidents were unable to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities? How has the U.S. government dealt with the problem of presidential disability? Students might also research the topic of presidential succession, including the Twenty-fifth Amendment ratified in 1967.
Search on speech to see films of President McKinley addressing the public and burial to see films of the rituals surrounding McKinley's death.
Historical Issue Analysis and Decision Making
The topic of assassination lends itself to an analysis of a wide range of controversial social and political issues. In the film, The Martyred Presidents, images of three assassinated presidents—Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley— fade in and out of what appears to be a tombstone. After students have viewed this film, have them analyze how Americans deal with political assassination and how they honor martyred presidents and other assassinated leaders.
One film in the collection recreates the execution of Leon F. Czolgosz, the 28-year-old unemployed millworker who shot President McKinley at point-blank range. A self-avowed anarchist, Czolgosz told witnesses to his electrocution: "I killed the president because he was the enemy of the people - the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime."
This film can be used to introduce a debate on current issues such as gun control, the death penalty, and media coverage of court trials and executions.
Search on assassination to find films related to the fatal shooting of President McKinley.
Unstoppable is a 2010 American disasterthriller film directed and produced by Tony Scott in his final film as director before his death in 2012. The film stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. The film, loosely based on the real-life CSX 8888 incident, tells the story of a runaway freight train and the two men (Washington and Pine) who attempt to stop it.
The film was released in the United States and Canada on November 12, 2010. It has received mostly favorable reviews from film critics; it garnered a "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based upon aggregated reviews, and a rating of "Generally favorable reviews" at Metacritic. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing at the 83rd Academy Awards, but lost to Inception.
While moving a train pulled by AWVR AC4400CW's #777 and #767 at the Veteran Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad (AWVR) trainyard in the fictional city of Fuller, Pennsylvania, the two hostlers, Dewey and Gilleece, take ill-advised shortcuts and accidentally allow the engine to leave the train-yard on its own power without the air brakes engaged. Initially believing the train to be a "coaster", yardmaster Connie Hooper orders Dewey, Gilleece, and chief welder Ned Oldham to drive and catch up the train to stop it. When Oldham finds that the train has already passed where it was supposed to be, they realize that the train is running on full power and now poses a dangerous threat. Dewey and Gilleece manage to catch up to 777 using a high railing truck but fail to board the train in time. Hooper alerts Oscar Galvin, director of operations for AWVR, and also instructs the local and state police and sheriffs to secure all the grade crossings to prevent injury. Visiting Federal Railroad Administration safety inspector Scott Werner warns that eight cars being pulled by 777 contain highly toxic, and highly flammable, molten phenol, which would be a major disaster if the train should crash or derail in a populated area. Triple 7 is also filled with around 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which poses another serious threat. News of the runaway train soon becomes a media event.
However, Hooper suggests they purposely derail the train, but Galvin disagrees and believes they can safely stop the train by lashing it behind two slower-moving diesel engines helmed by veteran engineer Judd Stewart, slowing it down long enough for AWVR employee and former U.S. Marine Ryan Scott to descend via helicopter to 777's cab and stop the train manually. Though the lashing initially works, a sudden hard bump knocks Scott out and derails the two diesel engines, causing them to explode, which ultimately kills Stewart in the process. They realize that 777, traveling at its current speed, will certainly derail on "Devil's Curve", a tight, elevated portion of track in the middle of the city of Stanton and would supposedly crash into a large fuel depot near the curve on the eastern side of the state. Plans are made to purposely derail the train outside the town of Arklow using a portable derailer.
Meanwhile, retiring AWVR engineer Frank Barnes and conductor Will Colson, a new hire looking to turn his life around after an incident with his now estranged wife, are pulling several cars with SD40-2 #1206 from Stanton. Though originally aware of 777 coasting away from the Fuller train yard, they are ordered at the last minute to pull into a Repair-In-Place track, making it just in time as 777 races by and clipping the last few cars they are pulling. Barnes observes that the last car on 777 has an open knuckle, which means that if they could catch up to the train, they could couple their engine to 777 and use their own brakes to slow the train before it reaches Stanton. As Colson unhitches their cars to give them the best chance of catching up, Barnes reports his plan to Hooper and Galvin and warns them that the derailing idea will not work given 777's momentum, but Galvin threatens to fire Barnes if he continues. Given that AWVR has already given him a forced early retirement notice, Barnes ignores Galvin and sets 1206 on course to catch up with 777. As 777 passes Arklow, police attempt to shoot the fuel shutoff switch on the engine, but fail to hit it. As Barnes predicts, the train barrels through the derailers without slowing down or derailing. Hooper and Werner fully support Barnes's plan and take over control of the situation from Galvin.
Barnes and Colson catch up to 777 and attempt to engage the coupling. Their attempts to connect with 777 cause the grain car seal to break and leak grain at a blinding rate. Colson notices the locking pin on the coupler is not engaged. He attempts to kick it in but the pair again hit 1206 and Colson gets his right foot crushed in the process. However, he is able to hold on enough to fully engage the locking pin. Barnes works his way across 777 to its cab, manually engaging the brakes on the freight cars along the way, while Colson engages 1206's dynamic brakes, which initially slow down 777, but would prove to be no match for 777's speed. They are able to reduce the speed slow enough to clear the Stanton Curve without derailing by using the independent brake, but 777 remains out of control and threatens to crash into the Stanton train yard. Despite attempting to reach the locomotive by jumping on the cars, Barnes finds his path blocked to 777's cab, but Oldham arrives in his truck with a police convoy and drives on a parallel road to the tracks. Colson jumps to Oldham's truck, and Oldham drives him up to the front of 777 allowing Colson to get into the cab and engage the brakes. 777 is safely stopped before it reaches the end of the line.
Barnes, Colson, and Oldham are heralded as heroes, with Barnes retiring (with full benefits) and Colson reuniting with his wife and child. Hooper is promoted to Galvin's former position for her leadership, Ryan Scott recovered from his injuries and Dewey goes to work in the fast food industry, indicating he was fired.
- Denzel Washington as Frank Barnes, a veteran railroad engineer
- Chris Pine as Will Colson, a young train conductor
- Rosario Dawson as Connie Hooper, a train yardmaster
- Lew Temple as Ned Oldham, a railroad lead welder
- Ethan Suplee as Dewey, a hostler who accidentally instigates the disaster
- Kevin Dunn as Oscar Galvin, vice-president of AWVR train operations
- Kevin Corrigan as Scott Werner, an FRA inspector who helps Frank, Will, and Connie
- Kevin Chapman as Bunny, a railroad operations dispatcher
- T. J. Miller as Gilleece, Dewey's friend, also a hostler
- Jessy Schram as Darcy Colson, Will's estranged wife
- David Warshofsky as Judd Stewart, a veteran engineer who dies in an attempt to slow the runaway
- Victor Gojcaj as Groundman, a railroad ground specialist
- Meagan Tandy and Elizabeth Mathis as Maya and Nicole Barnes, Frank's daughters who work as waitresses at Hooters
- Ryan Ahern as Ryan Scott, a railway employee and US Marine veteran of the war in Afghanistan who attempts unsuccessfully to board the runaway from a helicopter
- Aisha Hinds as Railroad Safety Campaign Coordinator
- Jeff Wincott as Jesse Colson, Will's brother who helps him on his family situation
Unstoppable suffered various production challenges before filming could commence, including casting, schedule, location and budgetary concerns.
In June 2007, 20th Century Fox was in negotiations with Martin Campbell to direct the film, and he was attached as director, until March 2009 when Tony Scott came on board as director. In April, both Denzel Washington and Chris Pine were attached to the project.
The original budget had been trimmed from $107 million to $100 million, but Fox wanted to reduce it to the low $90 million range, asking Scott to cut his salary from $9 million to $6 million and wanting Washington to shave $4 million off his $20 million fee. Washington declined and, although attached since April, formally withdrew from the project in July, citing lost patience with the film's lack of a start date. Fox made a modified offer as enticement, and he returned to the project two weeks later.
Production was headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the fictional railroad depicted in the movie, the "Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad," is headquartered. Filming took place in a broad area around there including the Ohio cities of Martins Ferry, Bellaire, Mingo Junction, Steubenville and Brewster, and in the Pennsylvania cities of Pittsburgh,Emporium, Milesburg, Tyrone, Julian, Unionville, Port Matilda, Bradford, Monaca, Eldred, Turtlepoint, Port Allegany and Carnegie, and also in Portville and Olean, New York. The Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad's Buffalo Line was used for two months during daylight, while the railroad ran its regular freight service at night. The real-life bridge and elevated curve in the climactic scene is the B & O Railroad Viaduct in Bellaire, Ohio. A two-day filming session took place at the Hooters restaurant in Wilkins Township, a Pittsburgh suburb, featuring 10 Hooters girls from across the United States. Other interior scenes were shot at 31st Street Studios (then the Mogul Media Studios) on 31st Street in Pittsburgh. Filming began on August 31, 2009, for a release on November 12, 2010.
Filming was delayed for one day when part of the train accidentally derailed on November 21, 2009.
The locomotives used on the runaway train, 777 and trailing unit 767, were played by GE AC4400CWs leased from the Canadian Pacific Railway. CP #9777 and #9758 played 777 and 767 in early scenes, and CP #9782 and #9751 were given a damaged look for later scenes. These four locomotives were repainted by Canadian Pacific in standard colors following the filming, but the painted pilot warning stripes from the AWVR livery were left untouched and remained visible on the locomotives. The plow on 9777 appears to have been repainted black as of 2013.
Most of the other locomotives seen in the film, including chase locomotive #1206, and the locomotive consist used in an attempt to stop the train, #7375 and #7346, were played by EMD SD40-2s leased from the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway. #1206 was played by three different SD40-2s: W&LE #6353 and #6534, and a third unit that was bought from scrap and modified for cab shots. Judd Stewart's locomotive consist #7375 and #7346 were played by W&LE #6352 and #6351, which also played two locomotive "extras" (#5624 and #5580), wearing the same grey livery with different running numbers. The excursion train locomotive (#2002) was played by a Southwestern Pennsylvania Railroad Paducah-built EMD GP11 rebuilt from an EMD GP9. Passenger coaches carrying schoolchildren were provided by the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society.
Main article: CSX 8888 incident
Unstoppable was inspired by the 2001 CSX 8888 incident, in which a runaway train ultimately traveled 66 miles (106 km) through northwest Ohio. Led by CSX TransportationSD40-2 #8888, the train left the Walbridge, Ohio, rail yard with no one at the controls, after the hostler got out of the slow-moving train to correct a misaligned switch, mistakenly believing he had properly set the train's dynamic braking system, much as his counterpart (Dewey) in the film mistakenly believed he had properly set the locomotive's throttle.
Two of the train's tank cars contained thousands of gallons of molten phenol, a toxic ingredient of paints and dyes harmful when it is inhaled, ingested, or brought into contact with the skin. Attempts to derail it using a portable derailer failed, and police were unable to shoot out the fuel release valve, instead hitting the fuel cap. For two hours, the train traveled at speeds up to 51 miles per hour (82 km/h) until the crew of a second train coupled onto the runaway and slowly applied its brakes. Once the runaway was slowed down to 11 miles per hour (18 km/h), CSX trainmaster Jon Hosfeld ran alongside the train and climbed aboard, shutting down the locomotive. The train was stopped just southeast of Kenton, Ohio. No one was seriously injured in the incident.
When the film was released, the Toledo Blade compared the events of the film to the real-life incident. "It's predictably exaggerated and dramatized to make it more entertaining," wrote David Patch, "but close enough to the real thing to support the 'Inspired by True Events' announcement that flashes across the screen at its start." He notes that the dead man switch would probably have worked in real life despite the unconnected brake hoses, unless the locomotive, or independent brakes, were already applied. As explained in the movie, the dead man's switch failed because the only available brakes were the independent brakes, which were quickly worn through, similar to CSX 8888. The film exaggerates the possible damage the phenol could have caused in a fire, and he found it incredible that the fictional AWVR freely disseminated information such as employees' names and images and the cause of the runaway to the media. In the real instance, he writes, the cause of the runaway was not disclosed until months later when the National Transportation Safety Board released its report, and CSX never made public the name of the engineer whose error let the train slip, nor what disciplinary action was taken.
Main article: Unstoppable (soundtrack)
The film score was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and the soundtrack album was released on December 7, 2010.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(December 2010)
A trailer was released online on August 6, 2010. The film went on general release November 12, 2010.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(June 2013)
Unstoppable was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 15, 2011.
Unstoppable received positive reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 86% based on 177 reviews, with an average score of 6.9/10. The film is "Certified Fresh", and the critical consensus is: "As fast, loud, and relentless as the train at the center of the story, Unstoppable is perfect popcorn entertainment—and director Tony Scott's best movie in years."Metacritic gives the film a score of 69% based on reviews from 32 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Film critic Roger Ebert rated the film three and a half stars out of four, remarking in his review, "In terms of sheer craftsmanship, this is a superb film." In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis praised the film's visual style, saying that Scott "creates an unexpectedly rich world of chugging, rushing trains slicing across equally beautiful industrial and natural landscapes."
The Globe and Mail in Toronto was more measured. While the movie's action scenes "have the greasy punch of a three-minute heavy-metal guitar solo", its critic felt the characters were weak. It called the film "an opportunistic political allegory about an economy that's out of control and industries that are weakened by layoffs, under-staffing and corporate callousness."
Unstoppable was expected to take in about the same amount of money as The Taking of Pelham 123, another Tony Scott film involving an out-of-control train starring Denzel Washington. Pelham took in $23.4 million during its opening weekend in the United States and Canada.Unstoppable had a strong opening night on Friday November 12, 2010, coming in ahead of Megamind with a gross of $8.1 million. However, Megamind won the weekend, earning $30 million to Unstoppable 's $23.9 million.Unstoppable performed slightly better than The Taking of Pelham 123 did in its opening weekend. As of April 2011, the film had earned $167,805,466 worldwide. 
The film was nominated in the Best Sound Editing (Mark Stoeckinger) category at the 83rd Academy Awards and nominated for Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie - Action.
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