Past Imperfect: History according to the Movies

Overview

In this widely-acclaimed volume, some of our greatest historians address the facts—and fiction—as seen in Hollywood’s often epic recreations of historical events. Distinghuished historians such as Stephen Ambrose, Antonia Fraser, James McPherson, Gerda Lerner, Dee Brown, Frances FitzGerald, David Levering Lewis, and Simon Schama explore the relationship between film and the historical record. Offering hundreds of movie stills, archival photographs, maps, and other illustrations, along with sidebars on related ...

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Overview

In this widely-acclaimed volume, some of our greatest historians address the facts—and fiction—as seen in Hollywood’s often epic recreations of historical events. Distinghuished historians such as Stephen Ambrose, Antonia Fraser, James McPherson, Gerda Lerner, Dee Brown, Frances FitzGerald, David Levering Lewis, and Simon Schama explore the relationship between film and the historical record. Offering hundreds of movie stills, archival photographs, maps, and other illustrations, along with sidebars on related historical events, Past Imperfect sheds new light on the uses of history in popular culture.

It has been said that most of what we know about history we learn from the movies, and so much of what we think we know is probably wrong. Featuring a keynote dialogue between noted director John Sayles and historian Eric Foner, this book will tantalize history and film buffs alike with its thought-provoking inquiry into the relationship between filmmaking and the historical record. 400 photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Perhaps this summer's boomlet of historical movies and costume dramas have sparked interest, for this is only one of several recent books by historians examining films set in the past. Editor Carnes (Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America, LJ 8/89) persuaded 60 historical writers, including such popular figures as Gore Vidal, William Manchester, Antonia Frasier, James McPherson, and Frances FitzGerald, to write an original piece on an historical film. The authors gleefully skewer, pick apart, praise, and censure film classics such as Gone with the Wind, Mutiny on the Bounty, A Man for All Seasons, Spartacus, Jurassic Part, Patton, etc. There is, not surprisingly, considerable nitpicking over historical details, but the writers seem to share a common fondness for the movies. Indeed, several confess that their interest in history was first awakened by a film they saw as a child. Film buffs will thoroughly enjoy. Highly recommended for large public libraries and subject collections.-Marianne Cawley, Enoch Pratt Free Lib., Baltimore
Booknews
Filmmakers often use dramatic license in playing with facts to enhance a story's drama, illuminate an overlooked perspective, or fuel historical debate. Here, 60 historical writers (including popular authors such as Stephen Jay Gould, Antonia Fraser, and Gore Vidal) look beneath the celluloid surface of classic movies to explore the relationship between film and reality, from prehistory (Jurassic Park) to modern times (Dr. Strangelove, Malcolm X, Apocalypse Now). Entries look at plot, costume design, technology, and character portrayals, examine the historical aftermath of events in the film, juxtapose film stills with historical paintings and photos, and suggest background reading for the historical period depicted in each film. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805037609
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 8.03 (w) x 10.02 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark C. Carnes is the chairman of the department of history at Barnard College, Columbia University, and the executive secretary of the Society of American Historians.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 9
A Conversation Between Eric Foner and John Sayles 11
Jurassic Park 30
The Ten Commandments 36
Spartacus 40
Julius Caesar 44
Henry V: Two Films 48
Joan of Arc: Three Films 54
Christopher Columbus: Two Films 60
Anne of the Thousand Days 66
A Man for All Seasons 70
Aguirre, the Wrath of God 74
Black Robe 78
The Last of the Mohicans 82
The Scarlet Empress 86
1776 90
Drums Along the Mohawk 94
Mutiny on the Bounty 98
Danton 104
The Buccaneer: Two Films 110
The Alamo 116
The Charge of the Light Brigade 120
The Young Lincoln: Two Films 124
Glory 128
Gone with the Wind 132
The Birth of a Nation 136
The Molly Maguires 142
They Died with Their Boots on 146
Fort Apache 150
The Tale of Wyatt Earp: Seven Films 154
Khartoum 162
Murder by Decree 166
Freud 170
Young Winston 174
Hester Street 178
Gallipoli 182
World War I: Five Films 186
Reds 192
Rosa Luxemburg 196
The Front Page 200
Matewan 204
Shanghai Express 208
Houdini 212
Sullivan's Travels 216
Bonnie and Clyde 220
The Grapes of Wrath 224
Tora! Tora! Tora! 228
PT 109 232
The Longest Day 236
Patton 242
Fat Man and Little Boy 246
The Human Condition 250
Gandhi 254
Tea and Sympathy 258
The Long Walk Home 262
Dr. Strangelove 266
JFK 270
Mississippi Burning 274
Malcolm X 278
Apollo 13 284
Apocalypse Now 288
All the President's Men 292
Nixon 296
The Emperor's Last Review 300
A Conversation Between Mark Carnes and Oliver Stone 305
The Contributors 313
Index 316
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2006

    Very helpful resource!

    If you are interested in how history is portrayed in the movies, this book is useful. I hope future editions will include more films.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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