“Forgotten Hollywood”- Movies Seldom Get It Right…

Posted on January 9, 2015 by raideoman1 | No Comments

Manny P. here…

   The controversy surrounding LBJ’s role over Civil Rights as depicted in Selma is just the latest flap regarding artistic license; an argument that goes back to Hollywood’s Golden Age. The more celebrated recent furor involves Lincoln (Connecticut lawmakers were in a major uproar for incorrectly depicting state’s representatives voting against the 13th Amendment); Zero Dark Thirty (suggesting intelligence gathered through torture helped lead to Osama bin Laden’s capture led to a public outcry that was spearheaded by Senators Diane Feinstein and John McCain; and JFK (many still take as fact conspiracy theories floated by Oliver Stone).



   I write in my Forgotten Hollywood Book Series that this often occurs by screenwriters not bound to the truth. It’s the job of historians and critics to point out the corrections when movie moguls get the facts wrong in a production. The argument of a filmmaker remains that they are simply trying to entertain. A character in the movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, succinctly sums up how history was portrayed in the Old West by real newspaper reporters: When legend becomes fact, print the legend! The John Ford-Western boldly pokes fun at the tall tales created, and the historical implications from the narrative.

The_Man_Who_Shot_Liberty_Valance   Drumsalongthemohawk

   The most celebrated legend by Hollywood was created by the script from the 1939 drama, Drums Along the Mohawk. As I surmise in my chapter on Ward Bond:

Bond plays Adam Helmer, a Revolutionary War hero. Helmer, a frontiersman, is actually credited in warning the people of German Flatts, New York of an impending raid by Indians and Tories (British sympathizers). Due to his efforts, only two men were killed in the attack. Unfortunately, the true depiction in the novel and the subsequent film version differs; giving credit to Gil Martin, a settler in the Mohawk Valley. This inaccurate discrepancy is the highlight in the movie. The heroic assignment was made by Darryl F. Zanuck to showcase the star of the film, Henry Fonda.

   My Book Series is quick to point out these kinds of areas of issue because that is my literary job as a film and American historian. I don’t agree with those folks who claim a movie is less great because it gets the facts wrong.

   The bottom line… as a Screen Actors Guild member, my awards ballot will be based on acting style, production qualities, and effective use of narrative storytelling; not on whether the facts behind the motion picture are correct. My suggestion to a theatre-going audience:  Visit the snack counter, buy a tub of popcorn and soft drink, and then, enjoy the legend!

Until next time>                               “never forget”

This entry was posted on Friday, January 9th, 2015 at 12:53 pm and is filed under Blog by Manny Pacheco. You can follow any comments to this post through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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