A thorough but uneven study of the presentation of history in film.

A Critical History of History in Moving Pictures

An examination of how the film industry has interpreted and depicted history from the early 20th century to the present.

In this debut work of film criticism, Dunbar offers a detailed examination of how historical topics have been presented in movies, from the days of silent films to the present. Although Dunbar doesn’t ignore the question of a film’s artistic merits, his primary focus is on how well the movie presents an accurate view of history and if it provides the viewer with an engrossing sense of the past. The book moves both chronologically and thematically through Hollywood history (non-U.S. movies are addressed toward the end of the book). Dunbar displays an encyclopedic knowledge of movies, citing dozens of films in detail as he explains how historically effective narratives—John Adams, Band of Brothers—distinguish themselves from the rest of the industry. The book isn’t shy in its judgments: The Production Code Administration was an “idiotic agency of moral regulation”; “any film maker who undertakes to portray the members of that ‘Greatest Generation’ as anything less than they were is committing an act of cultural and historical libel”; John Wayne is “the prince of phonies.” The result is a highly idiosyncratic approach to historical analysis, and its effectiveness depends on how much credence readers are willing to give Dunbar’s interpretation. The high frequency of misspellings, from the names of notable historians (Leopold von Ranke; Thomas Macaulay; Herodotus) to filmmakers and the authors of works cited in the text (Barbara Tuchman; Steven Spielberg; Jeanine Basinger; John Huston) to simple typos (“New Wold,” “Sargent,” “profit” for “prophet,” “grizzly” for “grisly”), is evidence that the book could have benefited from further editing. In addition, the book’s inline citations make frequent references to Wikipedia.

A thorough but uneven study of the presentation of history in film.

Pub Date: March 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491868850

Page Count: 438

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2014

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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