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Let Us Talk About History Movies, ...


Palmerin
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... and how inaccurate they can often be!

I am an expert at catching anachronisms, such as the fact that, at the beginning of DANCES WITH WOLVES, you can see the modern 50 star USA flag.

Then, of course, there is obvious miscasting, such as Katharine Hepburn trying unsuccessfully to pass herself off as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Anthony Hopkins trying even more unsuccessfully to pass himself off as Nixon, when the fact is that neither resembled the character they were supposed to portray.

And then there is such nonsense as the flags in ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN. At the beginning, an English town, thinking that Don Juan is the bridegroom for a distinguished lady, greets him with a big display of pomp which includes many flags: beautiful, heraldically correct--and totally imaginary, since they do not correspond to any real English civic entity or any real English noble family.

When he returns to Spain, Don Juan is appointed fencing master to the king's court. While there, he shows the Queen the trophy room of the conquistadores, which includes what are supposedly the flags of such as Columbus, Cortes, Garay, Pizarro, Ponce de Leon and Valdivia. Look carefully at those flags: THEY ARE THE SAME EXACT FLAGS OF THE TOWN RECEPTION SCENE IN ENGLAND!

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Fact is, the history Hollywood attempts to portray in movies was probably not all that enthralling to begin with. So Hollywood tries it's best to "juice it up" in order to make an entertaining film. And nobody is SUPPOSED to notice the flags anyway.

 

Take for example the new presentation of "Bonnie and Clyde" on A&E. While it IS more historically accurate than the familiar, old Beatty/Dunaway film, though less entertaining, it, too, contains some historical innaccuracies. Clyde probably wasn't that good a saxophone player. Their sex life was said to be somewhat drab and unsatisfying due to Clyde's inabilities. There was no female reporter who was sent those famous pictures of Barrow and Parker. Those pictures were found in a camera left behind during an attempted capture of the gang, and published later. And semi-retired Texas lawman Hamer didn't join the investigation and search until shortly before the pair was gunned down.

 

But historical movies in Hollywood don't CARE about accuracy, if being accurate also means boring. And physical resemblance means less if it means using an actor or actress without box office draw.

 

Sepiatone

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I'll give Shakespeare a pass, but other than that I much prefer movies that are set in the present, at least for movies that pretend to represent public events rather than purely private lives. This especially goes for those godawful "costume dramas" that Hollywood so loved to spit out from the 30's through the early 60's, set in the royal courts of Europe or in ancient Rome or Greece, which are interesting mainly as anthropological peeks into the mindsets of the marketers of the time.

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Why would I want to watch an historical drama in which the performers clearly do not resemble the historical characters they portray, and the production itself is chock full of other easy to catch mistakes? At no moment while watching the CLEOPATRA of De Mille did I believe that Claudette Colbert was the real Cleopatra VII, or that the servant girls of the royal lady were real Egyptians; they were all women of the 30s dressed up for a costume party.

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One of the most enjoyable aspects of watching classic film (for me) is the true historical aspect. I love seeing the real hairstyles, clothing, sets & language of the 20's-50's films. (I remember the 60's)

 

It kind of makes my mother's & grandmother's stories come to life for me.

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I see that POV, Tiki. And as I said in other threads before, I like to take notice of the furnishings and gadgets. Many of them are striking in their design, and more advanced technologically than we usually give credit for.

 

As for fashion, I STILL want one of them hats from the '30's or '40's.

 

Oh, and the CARS...

 

As for Cleopatra...OK, wise guy. WHERE are you gonna find ANY actress that actually resembles the REAL Cleopatra? And WHAT did she really LOOK like anyway?

 

Sepiatone

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I don't know that physical resemblance is as important as the performance. I totally bought Frank Langella's portrayal of Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

I will reserve judgement on Tom Hanks as Disney.

Re: Cleopatra - Claudette Colbert did not look a THING like Elizabeth Taylor so I was not convinced.

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>Every time I see the movie "1776," I really want to believe it all went down exactly as portrayed on screen: dancing, singing, sex in the afternoon

 

LOL, I agree. That is really a fun movie, and I would like to think of our Founding Fathers in that way. :)

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>I will reserve judgement on Tom Hanks as Disney.

 

From the promo clip I saw yesterday afternoon, I couldn't tell there was any connection at all with Walt Disney. We've got a middle-aged, puffy Tom Hanks with a moustache talking to someone.

 

I'll bet if I didn't see a single cartoon reference I wouldn't be able to tell

what I was watching.

 

That's just my initial impression. Perhaps the film will be another magnet

for Oscar(s).

 

I keep forgetting the need to put things in perspective as far as this goes. Young viewers, most likely, won't have any idea what Walt Disney looked or sounded like as they're watching this film and will take it at face value.

 

This is exactly what all of us have done as we watched films like Young Mr. Lincoln and They Died with Their Boots On - we did not then, nor do we now, know what Lincoln and Custer sounded like. We most likely took these at face value, possibly even as fact to some extent.

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I believe Jesus, Hitler, then Abraham Lincoln - in that order - are the three most represented historical persons. This would include all representations by actors in TV and film. Stage plays are a whole other bag-o-worms.

 

Now, when you accept Jesus as a real historical person, you must also accept The Devil - at least in a form in which Jesus dealt with. That would put The Devil at the top of the list as far as representations by actors - nearly 1000 using the name "The Devil". This alone is more than triple those of Jesus'. And don't forget all the other names he goes by; Lucifer, etc..That would put "him" at the top of that list.. unfortunately.

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>At no moment while watching the CLEOPATRA of De Mille did I believe that Claudette Colbert was the real Cleopatra VII, or that the servant girls of the royal lady were real Egyptians; they were all women of the 30s dressed up for a costume party.

 

If you have pictures of paintings or sculptures of both Cleopatra and her servant girls, made while they were still alive, I sure would like to see them. :)

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Sorry folks, but I just couldn't let finance's following statement go unchecked here:

 

>Clyde Barrow certainly didn't look like Beatty. Of course, virtually nobody, past or present, looked like Beatty.

 

I guess you've forgotten about Guy Madison here, eh finance?

 

guy-madison-2_opt.jpg

 

(...and who I'll admit looked NOTHIN' like Wild Bill Hickok!!!) ;)

 

WildBillHickok.jpg

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"Passion of The Christ" (2004) told the best accurate account of the crucifixion.

 

"Amadeus" (1984) story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

 

"Paths of Glory" (1954) about the brutality of WWI

 

"Judgement At Nuremberg" (1961) the trail of the Nazis.

 

"Lettesr From Iwo Jima" (2006) show the personal side of the Japanese based on letters found on the island.

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Sepiatone wrote:

<< As for Cleopatra...OK, wise guy. WHERE are you gonna find ANY actress that actually resembles the REAL Cleopatra? And WHAT did she really LOOK like anyway? >>

 

These head bust are the most accurate image of Cleopatra. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

cleopatra_vii_altes_museum1.jpg

 

cleopatra.jpg

 

Nefertiti is perhaps Egypt's most beautiful Queen. Sorry Liz.

nefertiti23.jpg

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> "Passion of The Christ" (2004) told the best accurate account of the crucifixion.

"Amadeus" (1984) story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

 

Most of "Passion's" accuracy only comes in the fact they spoke in Aramaic. Gibson STILL used that huge, wooden cross instead of a crossbar like the other two carried, and most historians claim is more accurate.

 

AMADEUS was a fiction based on the "urban" legend of a rivalry between Salieri and Mozart, which never took place. There WAS no rivalry. The two admired each other and got along great.

 

Sepiatone

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Personally I don't think Judgement at Nuremberg is a very good film, and it muddles all kinds of things together. (Why include a film about the Holocaust, as Richard Widmark's prosecutor does, when the judges on trial were only marginally connected to it? And when Marlene Dietrich's Wehrmacht widow says most Germans didn't know about Nazi atrocities, this is misleading in two respects. First, there were enough rumours around to note to most Germans that something very wrong was going on with the Reich, even if the full force of Nazi genocide was kept secret. Second, there's no excuse for Wehrmacht officers, since it's clear they were involved in the key Nazi atrocities.)

 

If you want to look at a great history film, try The Leopard.

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Although I must admit I still enjoy them, I can be very hard on historical inaccuracies in westerns and baseball movies.

 

Specifically, there has never been a portrayal of Wyatt Earp or Tombstone of the 1880s that has been close to accurate. What is surprising to me is that many of the subplots and motivations involving the principles who participated in the Gunfight at the OK Corral have never been included in any film even though some are more dramatic and interesting than the myths. I like the Burt Lancaster/Kirk Douglas version from an entertainment standpoint, but I cringe when I hear Burt yell "Hit the Dirt!" prior to the climactic five minute shootout (the real one lasted 28 seconds and was confined to an empty lot between two buildings only a few feet wide). I also cringe when I see the huge saguaro cactus in the scenes. There are no saguaros in Tombstone, Arizona because the mineral content of the soil will not allow them to grow there as they do throughout the rest of the Sonoran Desert. The rivalry between Wyatt and John Behan was almost entirely due to politics not Josephine Marcus. In fact, many historians consider Wyatt Earp's reputation to be as shady as any of the "villains" he rivaled, which if put on film, would be a more interesting character study than the myth Stuart N. Lake created. Although I am willing to overlook much of this for entertainment purposes, just once it would be cool to someday see Wyatt Earp as the crook and weasel that he may have been.

 

As for the baseball movies, I am much less forgiving of historical inaccuracies. I like "Field of Dreams", but every time I see "Shoeless" Joe Jackson batting right handed it drives me insane. Plus, he is throwing left handed. I have never heard an acceptable explanation for this seemingly trivial yet significant historical gaffe. If they worked for months to teach Gary Cooper to bat and throw lefty for "The Pride of the Yankees" along with some camera tricks in the name of realism, why could they not get Ray Liotta to hit left and throw right here? After all, his skills were pretty mediocre anyway considering he was portraying perhaps the greatest natural ballplayer of that era. Another inaccuracy that gets a rise out of me is in "The Winning Team" with Ronald Reagan when as Grover Cleveland Alexander he staggers in from the bullpen (in reality due likely to a hangover instead of some post-concussion syndrome) to strike out Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded to win the World Series for the Cardinals. That strikeout actually ended the 7th inning of Game 7. The 1926 World Series really ended on one of the most bone-headed moments of Babe Ruth's legendary career. He was thrown out trying to steal second base. It certainly would have been less appropriate carrying Ronald Reagan off the field with that ending. Also, no major league team wore numbers on their backs until 1930 (a gaffe repeated often in time period films). I have other examples, but I think I have made my point. Plus, it's getting late. By the way, Liotta and Reagan look nothing like Jackson and Alexander, but I haven't a problem with that. Like I said, I still enjoy all these pictures and others not mentioned here, but I can't help reacting whenever I view these types of errors.

 

Edited by: tommyphils31 on Dec 13, 2013 1:49 AM

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Along the same lines of the last post....

 

I am an equestrian as well as a film fan and everyone assumes I love any movie with horses in it. 99% of "horse" movies are so way off whack of how horses really are, I'm infuriated more than enamored.

 

I especially hate Westerns, where horses are treated terribly. The ranches that provided the horses used very severe bits and you can see horses swing their heads avoiding the bit when an actor yanks on them.

But it's fun spotting costume directors ideas of proper horse tack. I love seeing Olivia DeHavilland riding Trigger in ROBIN HOOD in an ugly western saddle disguised by draped fabric!

 

The only "horse" movies I really enjoy are those laced with fantasy, touching more on the magical bond humans and horses can have. NATIONAL VELVET, THE BLACK STALLION, INTO THE WEST and that type of movie. Thanksgiving, I visibly weeped in front of my entire family over the scene where Elizabeth Taylor gallops along side the train & waves. Amazing.

 

In reality, horses really love routine. The most realistic horse in movies are those contented pulling a milk wagon or plow and loves the owner that feeds him.

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My favorite moment in any baseball movie was in the tearjerker Bang The Drum Slowly, when a batter hit a popup in one stadium, and it came down to earth and was caught in another stadium *225 miles away!* The two stadiums were Shea Stadium in Queens and RFK Stadium in Washington, and I can't remember in which one the ball was hit and in which one the ball was caught, but the background in the two shots showed Shea Stadium signage in one of them and RFK signage in the other. Apparently the film used four different stadiums for location shots, for whatever reason that couldn't possibly have made much sense, since one of them was a minor league park, and anyway, The "New York Mammoths" were a fictional team all the way. It could have just as easily been shot on a studio location without destroying its non-authenticity any more than it was already by the absurd plot and the impossibly non-athletic actors.

 

Baseball movies in general are pretty lame, especially the older ones, but there are two magnificent exceptions: The relatively recent Eight Men Out, which is about Buck Weaver and the 1919 Black Sox scandal; and the classic potboiler from 1934, Death on the Diamond. The former movie wins points for its relatively accurate depiction of history, while the latter wins my personal Oscar for its sheer outrageousness.

 

To elaborate a bit on the "outrageousness", *THREE* players are murdered within a short period of time: One by a sniper while he's rounding third base; one by the placer of a mysterious phone call just as he's about to throw the first pitch and gets called into the clubhouse to receive this "important" message; and the third by a poisoned hot dog in the clubhouse feed line.

 

And yet, with the killer still at loose, in none of these instances is the game cancelled, or even delayed by more than a minute or two! Dead body on the field? Scrape him off and let's get on with it! We've got a train to catch!

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