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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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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