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The Toughest Goof To Avoid Is ...


Palmerin
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... the ANACHRONISM.

Can anybody name three period movies that do not have one single anachronism? Anachronisms are almost impossible to avoid because there is nobody in the world who knows everything about how things such as fashions, weaponry, vocabulary, art and technology were at different eras of the past.

The mistake of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY of the women wearing hairdos of 1953 in an story set in 1941 was an easy one to make because the time covered is only 12 years, and it's easy to overlook the quite subtle fashion changes in such a short time. What is not so easy to explain away is the fact that, in THE SCARLET EMPRESS, Marlene Dietrich portrays Catherine II of Russia--a woman of the 18th century--with the pencil thin eyebrows and cupid bow lips fashionable in 1934. Did Josef von Sternberg actually believe that Catherine the Great looked like Jean Harlow???

Another easy mistake to make involves autos. People are so used to seeing a wide variety of models at the same time at any road and street that they forget that there was a time when a particular model did not exist. In GREASE, at the Thunder Road sequence, you can see models of the 1970s riding across the avenue close to where Danny Zuko does his race.

Even easier are mistakes involving symbols. Like autos, symbols are so ubiquitous that people forget that there was a time when particular symbols did not exist. In DANCES WITH WOLVES, an story set during the US Civil War, the US flag has the fifty stars of the present day.

Obvious anachronisms are easy to avoid. Nobody expects US Civil War soldiers to wear body armor or carry automatic rifles. What nobody notices are the shoes, which are usually depicted as right and left, when in fact at that period shoes were made the same for both feet.

There is nothing obvious about language. In THE BLACK SWAN, a swashbuckler set in 1674, Tyrone Power tells Maureen O'Hara not to be a snob--a word first recorded in 1781.

Then there is technical knowledge that only experts would know. In THE BLACK SWAN, the ships are steered with wheels, an invention of the 18th century, as any seaman can tell you.

Oh, mercy, the world of anachronisms has no end! What anachronisms do you recall, people?

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I agree about the anachronisms. I think about this a lot, actually. I was watching a rerun on Me-TV recently of The Streets of San Francisco. There was a scene where Paul Fix was driving a station wagon down a country road, the type of vehicle that was very popular from the late 60s to mid 70s. The tires looked shot, the car was dusty and there were patches of dirt along the lower section of the doors. It was a perfect example of how a car would like in the period.

 

But if you had a studio making this show today in 2015, but set in 1975, they would research it to get the exact make of the car. But-- and here's where they always go wrong in my opinion-- the car would be newly restored, it would be sparkling clean all over, with no evidence of wear and tear. In short, it would look like it rolled out of a showroom. Not every car on the road then or now looks so polished and well-taken care of. Filmmakers and TV producers go out of their way to use artifacts (props, vehicles, clothes, etc.) from the depicted period but they never take into account the way these things are used. And speaking of clothes, have you ever seen a period piece where the old dresses and bonnets weren't perfectly sewn and perfectly worn? In every era, there are clothes with buttons missing and slightly ripped or frayed fabric. But we never see that on screen.

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There is nothing obvious about language. In THE BLACK SWAN, a swashbuckler set in 1674, Tyrone Power tells Maureen O'Hara not to be a snob--a word first recorded in 1781.

 

 

Your other points are all quite wonderful but I believe than exception must be made for language.

 

I see language as vehicle for delivering the story rather than being part of the story. 

 

To use your example of shoes in Civil War: to show differentiation between right and left is wrong because costume is part of the setting of the story. To show them in Technicolor when photography in that period was black and white only is not wrong because it is how the story is being delivered.

 

I believe that any movie of Medieval knights would fail to find wide audience if characters spoke lines such as: "My lady Prioresse, by youre leve, so that I wiste I sholde yow nat greve, I wolde demen that ye tellen sholde."

 
There are rare exceptions such as: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990) where language is truly part of the story. Part of brilliance of play and resulting script is that lines which appear also in Shakespeare's Hamlet are delivered true to that source but all other lines are in the spirit of the language spoken at the time but are not academically accurate because that would be difficult for modern popular audience to understand.
 
It is common understanding in science fiction and fantasy that not all beings in universe and beyond speak colloquial English and so that which we are reading or hearing is as if translation for our benefit.
 
Rose Tyler: If you are an alien how come you sound like you're from the North?
The Doctor: Lots of planets have a North!
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Re fashions: we went over this topic a few months ago.

 

During the studio era, many period films would have the fashions of the time they were made. Good News is set in 1927, but all the women's hairstyles are of the late '40s.

 

The reason for this was explained ro Garson Kanin when he was making Bachelor Mother, and asked the producer why Ginger Rogers had a wardrobe change for every scene. The producer replied that for many women the movies were their only exposure to new fashions, and wanted a chance to see them.

 

And as for the most common anachronism in movies, it was mentioned re Calamity Jane: facial hair in westerns. You can watch dozens of oaters without seeing a single actor with a beard or even a mustache. Then look at some photographs of the real West (such as those in the Time-Life Old West series of books) and you'll see the difference.

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I am very sore with Scorsese and Spielberg because they are very careless with anachronisms. Check movies such as GOODFELLAS, AMISTAD and LINCOLN at IMDB.COM/, and you will see that their GOOFS sections have very long lists of anachronisms.

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The series "Sleepy Hollow" fixed one goof, how people actually spoke during the 1700's.  I'm amazed how Tom Mison spoke the way people did during the Revolutionary War time period so well without any blunders.  One think he actually DID came from there.

Tom-Mison-Sleepy-Hollow.jpg

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Well, I don't if the following story is apokraful...err...apocraphul...err...true of not, but I HAVE heard of some incident where while a film editor was splicing a Western together he noticed a few rampaging Indians sportin' a Timex...and supposedly after the film's release, John Cameron Swayze was the very first moviegoer to notice it.

 

(...but like I said, this could all just be apocri...oh hell...not true)

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Well, I don't if the following story is apokraful...err...apocraphul...err...true of not, but I HAVE heard of some incident where while a film editor was splicing a Western together he noticed a few rampaging Indians sportin' a Timex...and supposedly after the film's release, John Cameron Swayze was the very first moviegoer to notice it.

 

(...but like I said, this could all just be apocri...oh hell...not true)

 

Well, I don't if the following story is apokraful...err...apocraphul...err...true of not, but I HAVE heard of some incident where while a film editor was splicing a Western together he noticed a few rampaging Indians sportin' a Timex...and supposedly after the film's release, John Cameron Swayze was the very first moviegoer to notice it.

 

(...but like I said, this could all just be apocri...oh hell...not true)

and. sp

 

Well, I don't if the following story is apokraful...err...apocraphul...err...true of not, but I HAVE heard of some incident where while a film editor was splicing a Western together he noticed a few rampaging Indians sportin' a Timex...and supposedly after the film's release, John Cameron Swayze was the very first moviegoer to notice it.

 

(...but like I said, this could all just be apocri...oh hell...not true)

 

..and, sport that he was, Swayze did his next newscast wearing a headdress and warpaint.

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... the ANACHRONISM.

 

Even easier are mistakes involving symbols. Like autos, symbols are so ubiquitous that people forget that there was a time when particular symbols did not exist. In DANCES WITH WOLVES, an story set during the US Civil War, the US flag has the fifty stars of the present day.

 

You might want to rephrase this comment somewhat. The flag that Kevin Costner's character flies while he is stationed at Fort Sedgwick and later takes with him on his horseback ride is a US Army flag of 30 stars. At the the time of the film 1863 or 1864 the American flag had 34 stars on it. And that included all eleven states that had seceded from the union in 1860 to 1861.

 

The flag Costner used was close to being accurate. It was off by 4 stars. But, not too bad considering many other elements of his movie were fairly accurate. It was not a 50 star flag.

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You might want to rephrase this comment somewhat. The flag that Kevin Costner's character flies while he is stationed at Fort Sedgwick and later takes with him on his horseback ride is a US Army flag of 30 stars. At the the time of the film 1863 or 1864 the American flag had 34 stars on it. And that included all eleven states that had seceded from the union in 1860 to 1861.

 

The flag Costner used was close to being accurate. It was off by 4 stars. But, not too bad considering many other elements of his movie were fairly accurate. It was not a 50 star flag.

 

Hey,  great eye for detail.    

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Thanks. Makes sense considering I AM a production designer.

 

It is one of my favorite films of all time.

 

Yeah Rey, while I haven't watched DWW since its initial release, I too questioned in my mind the accuracy of Palmerin's assertions about the flag.

 

(...I just couldn't believe Costner would make such an obvious mistake within his film) 

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That mistake pales against the mistake of the very character he plays in the movie. A truly puke-worthy performance to see.

 

Well dark, while I've also never been that impressed with Costner(particularly as an actor...always thought his "charisma quotient" pretty much on a par with Wendell Corey and Bruce Bennett...LOL), I gotta say I thought he was fairly good in this classic tale of "how the oh so 'noble savage' is so much more 'enlightened' than the mean ol' white man"!

 

LOL some more...sorry.

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Well dark, while I've also never been that impressed with Costner(particularly as an actor...always thought his "charisma quotient" pretty much on a par with Wendell Corey and Bruce Bennett...LOL), I gotta say I thought he was fairly good in his story about "how the oh so 'noble savage' is so much more 'enlightened' than the mean ol' white man"!

 

LOL...some more.

 

Nicely photographed for sure. Hard to go wrong with that scenery.

 

But early on, when he spreads his arms out wide and prances on his horse, back and forth, eyes closed, in front of all those rifles that are aiming at him that somehow, magically, can't hit him - I'm all like "this is bullsh!t".

 

Won't even get into the part with the wolf.

 

Talk about a Christ-complex. Sheesh.

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