A march to film's premiere

Costumed crowd sees `First Invasion'

September 09, 2004|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

A ragtag march from an Irish pub to the Senator Theatre last night marked the premiere of First Invasion: The War of 1812, a History Channel documentary that city leaders hope will stir civic pride and boost historical tourism in Baltimore.

Mayor Martin O'Malley, who has been known to don a historical costume from time to time, seemed to revel in the festivities. He has made Baltimore's starring role in the war a focal point of his efforts to improve the city's national reputation and make it a tourist destination.

Last night, however, O'Malley wore his mayoral uniform of navy suit, blue shirt and red tie. The costumes were left to the Fort McHenry Guard and historical re-enactors dressed as Francis Scott Key, Mary Pickersgill, American soldiers and members of the Chesapeake flotilla - citizens who used their private boats to help repel the Royal Navy.

After a reception at Ryan's Daughter in Belvedere Square, the guard, replete with drummers and fifers and in excellent formation, led the group past a pizza place and an Exxon station to the Senator two blocks away. The mayor followed, holding the hands of son William and wife Katie.

O'Malley's march, it must be noted, was more of a leisurely gait. Nevertheless, he has been given the Francis Scott Key Award by the Patriots of Fort McHenry.

"Some call Fort McHenry a hidden jewel, but we are determined to let the country know where Fort McHenry is," O'Malley said last night at the Senator. "Our true spirit as a people was revealed at that time. I truly believe it was a golden moment in our history."

In a ceremony at Fort McHenry last month, O'Malley issued a "Star-Spangled Banner Flag Executive Order" that requires all city office buildings, parks, police stations and firehouses to fly the 1814 flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, instead of the modern version. The new flags will be ordered as the old ones wear out.

First Invasion will make its debut on the History Channel at 9 p.m. Sunday. Copies are being sent by Comcast cable to all Baltimore high schools to help teach about the war in history classes.

Director Gary Foreman said that he found Fort McHenry and Baltimore officials highly cooperative, and that he also used the Constellation and Fells Point in the film.

Battle scenes, however, were filmed at Fort Meigs in Ohio because it has a replica water battery - the line of artillery closest to the shore - while Fort McHenry officials are still building one. But Baltimore seemed a natural place for the premiere.

"Baltimore recognizes the fact that this is their heritage," Foreman said last night. "This is the opportunity to show how their heritage is unique, and the whole city's effort to reinvigorate itself is becoming obvious around the country. It shows the spirit of Baltimore then and now."

Foreman said O'Malley was given a spot in the film because he is a "great communicator who loves his history." Before the premiere last night, Senator owner Tom Kiefaber pointed out that most actors complain that their best work is usually left on the cutting room floor.

"We'll see what our mayor's acting chops are all about," Kiefaber said.

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