Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners [NOOK Book]

Overview

Christians in the Movies traces the arc of the portrayal in film of Christians from 1905 to the present. For most of the first six decades, the portrayals were favorable and even reverential. By contrast, from 1970 on, Christians have often been treated with hostility and often outright ridicule. This book explores this shift through in-depth reviews and commentaries on 100 important films, as well as briefer discussions of about 75 additional ...
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Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners

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Overview

Christians in the Movies traces the arc of the portrayal in film of Christians from 1905 to the present. For most of the first six decades, the portrayals were favorable and even reverential. By contrast, from 1970 on, Christians have often been treated with hostility and often outright ridicule. This book explores this shift through in-depth reviews and commentaries on 100 important films, as well as briefer discussions of about 75 additional Christian-themed films.

Peter E. Dans examines various causative factors for this change such as the abolition of the Hays Motion Picture Production Code, the demise of the Catholic Legion of Decency, and the associated profound societal and cultural changes. From a look at the real story behind the Scopes trial to portraits of actors, directors and writers most prominently associated with films involving Christians and Christianity, Christians in the Movies provides a great resource for those who wish to select films for showing at churches, universities or for personal viewing and critical examination of the recent cultural movements and thought.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Dans (Doctors in the Movies) considers nearly 200 films from 1905 to the present chronologically by decade. In an extended essay on the portrayal of Christians in films (too often negative, he believes), Dans considers the effect of early decency codes, explores differing treatment of Christian groups (e.g., fundamentalists, Catholics), describes the watershed impact of The Passion of the Christ, and meditates on why Christians should care about how they are portrayed in films. The author casts a wide net, including some films not regarded as religious, notably Dead Man Walking and the Godfather movies. Dans gives his approval to diverse films such as Schindler's List, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and Robert Duvall's The Apostle. As most of the films are currently available on DVD, this can be read as a film history or a viewing guide. VERDICT Dans's critical judgments are generally reliable or provocative, but the lengthy plot summaries seem unnecessary. Because movies are rarely covered from a specifically Christian perspective, the flaws can be forgiven. Students researching depictions of Christians and Christian concerns and people selecting Christian-themed films for churches and other institutions will find valuable information here.—Stephen Rees, Levittown Lib., PA


—Stephen Rees
The Catholic Review
An extensively researched 406-page work, complete with index and photos, of the treatment Christians have received on the big screen.
National Catholic Register
Dans, a Catholic, has published a second book, Christians in the Movies, a similarly impressive inquiry into the cinematic portrayal of Christianity and Christians. Like his first book, Christians in the Movies is both a highly readable and informative work of film commentary and a discussion of changing social attitudes. . . . Dans not only documents changing images of faith, he sketches the larger social context of films from The Passion of Joan of Arc and Angels With Dirty Faces to Dogma and The Magdalene Sisters. . . . Even when Dans' opinions diverge from the reader's, his views are always engaging and thought-provoking, and the reader's views will benefit from interacting with Dans'. For serious Christian movie buffs, Christians in the Movies is a must-have.
Books and Culture
Dans is a physician and professor by trade, and a man of good film taste by a lifetime of cultivation. The longtime writer of a movie column for the Pharos journal and author of Doctors in the Movies: Boil the Water and Just Say Aah, Dans is a true cinephile. Approximately 200 titles are covered in this volume, from the silent era right up to 2008's Doubt. Each entry features a plot summary and brief commentary from Dans on how a film fares in its treatment of Christianity. We hear a fair amount of grumbling about Hollywood's "ridicule of organized religion, especially Christianity," but Dans also enjoys highlighting films that handle the faith with sympathy or ingenuity, from mid-century Bible spectaculars to made-for-TV gems that you probably missed....Dans packs his chapters with tons of information, including mini-essays that historicize cinematic and cultural developments, institutions like the Catholic Legion of Decency, and directors like Buñuel. These essays are delivered in Dans' frank style, and his writing is enjoyably informed by a lifetime of learning.
CHOICE
Dans adds a welcome, stimulating voice to the discussion about those smudged and sterling religious characters created more in the image of Hollywood than in imago Dei. . . . Recommended.
Catholic Library World
Dans is a thoughtful, intelligent observer whose considered views merit respect. As either a historical study of the shifting fortunes of the Church in Hollywood or as a guide to particular films, this solid book offers much of use, and is happily recommended to academic and parish libraries.
First Things
Dans, a professor at Johns Hopkins Medical School, wrote a well-received volume about Hollywood’s portrayal of doctors from 1931 to 2000. As a serious Catholic and longtime film aficionado, he decided to do the same for Christians. Dans selected over 200 Christian-themed films produced from 1905 to 2005 and organized them by decade, with a brief historical overview for each section. Although he likes most of the films, he also includes films that attack Christians. In this way he is able to trace the steady decline, with some notable exceptions, of the generally positive film portrayals of Christians until, as he puts it, 'all orthodox clergy and believers were either vicious predators or narrow-minded, mean spirited Pharisees.' Dans includes plenty of photos along with the plots and his analyses. . . . A worthy participant in the ongoing battle for the culture, Dans’ book should find a prominent place in every family’s home theater.
The Pharos
Christians in the Movies was a pleasure to read. It should appeal to cinephiles of any faith, and may prove an important analysis of how the treatment of Christians in the movies reflects society's challenge, as once-revered institutions may be vilified, undervalued, and discarded. With our leisure time and disposable funds so limited, and the shift of viewing habits from a night at the movies with friends to DVD family nights at home, the movie industry is facing a crisis of its own. This may be a critical time to pick up Dans's clarion call to participate in restoring the balance. His backstories can show us why; the chapter introductions explain how.
Christian Cinema
Christians in the Movies traces the arc of the portrayal in film of Christians from 1905 to the present [2008]....To do an exhaustive study would take more time and effort than an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University would have, so [Dans] narrowed the field down to a manageable number. That, in turn, makes the book more accessible to the reader than one with several hundred....This is a book to be watched with your computer on and your web browser open to your Netflix account, because you will learn about films you'll want to watch.
Hopkins Medicine
In his new book, he offers concise synopses of plots and characters, anaylses, and interesting background details on the movies' makers.
Patheos
He exhibits a deep knowledge of film history and, by and large, insightful engagements of each film…. Given the wealth of material here, there is much to praise about Dans' work…. As a whole, Christians in the Movies is a valuable resource and a much-needed one. This will be a perfect text for classroom and congregational use. Entire courses, lectures, and discussion series are just waiting to be created from the material that he has provided here.
Movieguide
In his book, Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners, Peter E. Dans reviews, with great insight and aplomb, movies released during various periods (such as The Silent Era) over the last century of the motion picture industry. He also reveals the magnitude of the cultural shift that has occurred during that time period....This book is extremely comprehensive and very readable. There are wonderful insights into the directors, authors and others involved in some of the greatest films of all times. There are also interesting reflections by critics of those films. It is well researched and well organized....MOVIEGUIDE® is very enthusiastic about this book and recommends it to everyone who likes film history or wants to know what to watch.
Books & Culture
Dans is a physician and professor by trade, and a man of good film taste by a lifetime of cultivation. The longtime writer of a movie column for the Pharos journal and author of Doctors in the Movies: Boil the Water and Just Say Aah, Dans is a true cinephile. Approximately 200 titles are covered in this volume, from the silent era right up to 2008's Doubt. Each entry features a plot summary and brief commentary from Dans on how a film fares in its treatment of Christianity. We hear a fair amount of grumbling about Hollywood's "ridicule of organized religion, especially Christianity," but Dans also enjoys highlighting films that handle the faith with sympathy or ingenuity, from mid-century Bible spectaculars to made-for-TV gems that you probably missed....Dans packs his chapters with tons of information, including mini-essays that historicize cinematic and cultural developments, institutions like the Catholic Legion of Decency, and directors like Buñuel. These essays are delivered in Dans' frank style, and his writing is enjoyably informed by a lifetime of learning.
Choice
Dans adds a welcome, stimulating voice to the discussion about those smudged and sterling religious characters created more in the image of Hollywood than in imago Dei. . . . Recommended.
Michael Medved
Dr. Dans provides a thoughtful and informed perspective on the fascinating intersection of faith and film, using some surprising insights and examples to explode the discouraging old idea that movies and religion must always convey opposing messages.
Robert Knight
Peter Dans is a gifted writer, with crystal clear prose and an eye for essential details. Christians in the Movies is a panoramic, film by film view of Hollywood's treatment of religion over the years, from the reverential to the profane. Although the book is a boon for researchers, writers and students, Dans' witty insights make it an enjoyable read for anyone interested in movies, culture or religion.
Ted Baehr
Peter E. Dans’ book, Christians in the Movies, is a fascinating, compelling, insight into movies featuring Jesus Christ and Christian personalities over the last 100 years.
Peter Malone
Christians in the Movies is a stimulating contribution to the discussion about religion and cinema. Peter Dans shows a true love and knowledge of film.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742570320
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/16/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 410
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Peter E. Dans, M.D. is associate professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is the author of Doctors in the Movies.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Portraying Christians in Film
Chapter 2 Piety and Passion: The Silent Era
Chapter 3 He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother: The 1930s
Chapter 4 "There Are No Atheists in Foxholes": The 1940s
Chapter 5 The Age of the Epic: The 1950s
Chapter 6 "The Times, They Are A'Changin'" The 1960s
Chapter 7 The Flower Children's Hour: The 1970s
Chapter 8 Heaven Help Us: The 1980s
Chapter 9 Broken Vows: The 1990s
Chapter 10 Amazing Grace: The Millennium and After
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2010

    A unique film history

    Dr. Dans' focus on the depiction of Christians (particularly Roman Catholics) gives a reference line as he surveys (mostly) American film from 1905 to 2008.

    He mentions "...those who are sick of films with profanity, violence, and gratuitous sex and are searching for films about someone who takes religion seriously." (page 312). He keeps that perspective in mind as he reviews film history and individual films.

    He reports the good and the bad. Despite descriptions of many films that misrepresent Christianity or Catholicism, the book kept me interested, often encouraged.

    I was confused by a few apparent mistakes in the text, these two in particular:

    1) In describing the "Luther" movie, Dr. Dans writes that "Luther translates the New Testament into German and tells the people to learn to despise the cross and pretense." (page 309). "...despise the cross..."? Does Luther do that in the movie? I don't recall that. Wouldn't that be totally opposite to all he believed? I think it's simply a typo.

    2) On "The Passion of the Christ", Dr. Dans refers twice to Christ's bones being broken (pages 314 and 315). Again, I do not recall that in the movie, and I know it's contrary to the Bible, which notes that Christ's bones were not broken (as he is the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb) (John 19: 31-37 and Exodus 12:46). Surely Mr. Gibson knew that. Didn't Dr. Dans?

    But, I learned about many films and many eras. I wonder why Dr. Dans did not include "Daens" (1993, Netherlands), in which a tough, compassionate priest confronts child labor and industrialists' oppression of the working poor.

    I'm glad I read this unique movie history.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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