Cage takes on American folklore in a way we’re not used to but also not surprised by.
“The original ring-tailed roarer of the western woods, I called myself. The yellow blossom of the gum swamp.”
It probably wouldn’t surprise people to know that when I log into Amazon and other similar online retailers I often have recommended products that are Nic Cage-centric. More often than not it’s one of the many Nicolas Cage movies that most of us are well aware of but every now and then some movie that he randomly served as producer on like Shadow of the Vampire or Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police* pops up. And then sometimes a shirt or pillowcase or something else that someone decided to throw Cage’s face on will appear. Usually these recommendations don’t surprise me.
A few weeks ago something caught my eye that I did not expect, something I had not seen before. Under my recommended items was something called Davy Crockett: The Legendary Frontiersman. What?! Did Cage at some point play Davy Crockett without me knowing?
At a rental price of $1.99 I decided to find out and the answer is sort of. The Legendary Frontiersman is an animated storybook — or visual audiobook — illustrated by Steven Brodner and written by James Howard Kuntsler. Cage narrates the story as Crockett. It’s just as great as you think it is.
The story comes in at just over 22 minutes and it covers most of Crockett’s life starting with his childhood in Tennessee and finishing with his defense of the Alamo. In between we hear of his rise to Congress and his downfall after his disputes with then President Andrew Jackson.
Like with most stories about Crockett a lot of what happens here is more of a tall tale or at the very least fabricated to some degree. For example there are moments when Crockett has conversations with a bear and a possum. And in this version of Crockett’s life he survives at the Alamo and goes on to live happily ever after with his wife Polly Finley. In reality Crockett died at the Alamo — though how exactly remains a subject of debate — and Polly was his first wife and she died 21 years before the shindig at the Alamo even occurred.
The stretching of the truth is no surprise. This was made in 1992 and looks to have be done to educate elementary school kids. This is exactly like the type of stuff my elementary school used to show us. Hell, I may have actually watched this in school. At any rate, stories of folk heroes are always pretty loose with the facts, especially ones as old as this.
The hand drawn illustrations are really unique and done in a very playful manner. Everything is very abstract and proportions are all out of whack. The visual style is the perfect match for the liberal approach taken with the facts.
The subject matter allows Cage to have a whole lot of fun as the narrator/Crockett. He actually reads the whole thing in an accent that is very similar to H.I. McDunnough which makes it fun to imagine that this is a recording of H.I. reading Nathan, Jr. a bedtime story. Doesn’t Crockett seem like the type of American icon H.I. would be fascinated by?
There are a number of great lines and quotes Cage gets to deliver as he talks himself up as Crockett. There are moments where he gets to be very boastful and cocky as he delivers speeches with bravado. He even does the voices for the animals in the story, which in addition to the aforementioned bear and possum includes a swarm of bees. The bear just growls and roars so we hear Cage give his best growl and roar. And with regards to the bees he does plenty of buzzing. The possum actually gets a fun little voice and speaks actual words.
The best moment in the entire story comes when Cage contemplates whether he would prefer a face full of bees or a face full of bear. He decides on the bear becuase getting stung on the face a bunch wouldn’t be fun. Little did Cage know at the time that he would eventually get that face full of bees.
To the best of my knowledge this is the only audiobook Cage has done to date and that’s too bad. The format is a great platform for Cage to show off his bold approach to line reading. And he’s so good at it that even without the visual aids presented here it would be easy to picture the story in your head. Of course he’s done a number of animated films to great success which isn’t too far off from what he does here. Maybe somebody will approach him someday with an audiobook deal. I’d so be down with a series of tall tales read by Cage.
To Cage fans everywhere I would recommend checking out Davy Crockett: The Legendary Frontiersman. It’s a quick listen and allows you to experience a bit of a different performance from Cage than we’re accustomed to while still maintaining all the goodness that we love. And best of all it’ll only cost you only $2 on Amazon — Amazon lists the story under the title Davy Crockett, Told by Nicolas Cage. $2 spent on hearing Cage perform the life of Davy Crockett is $2 well spent.
*Cage’s producing credits are very interesting. I had assumed most would be the DTV releases he’s had in recent years but that’s not the case. In fact, over half of his producing credits are for films he did not act in.
…Such a lovely place, such a lovely face…
The Cage Hotel is a wonderful Twitter account that encourages people to request hotel staff leave a picture of Nicolas Cage on the night stand when making hotel reservations. The Twitter feed then shares any picture they receive when hotel staff obliges. On a recent stay at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco I made such a request and was happily greeted in my room with a picture of Cage waiting next to my bed. The next time you make a hotel reservation be sure to ask for the Cage special.