Reconstructing American Historical Cinema: From Cimarron to Citizen Kane

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2006 Hardcover New in New jacket New hardcover book and dustjacket. B&W Photographs. 8vo 8"-9" tall. J. E. Smyth dramatically departs from the traditional understanding of the ... relationship between film and history. By looking at production records, scripts, and contemporary reviews, Smyth argues that certain classical Hollywood filmmakers were actively engaged in a self-conscious and often critical filmic writing of national history. Her volume is a major reassessment of American historiography and cinematic historians from the advent of sound to the beginning of wartime film production in 1942. Focusing on key films such as Cimarron (1931), The Public Enemy (1931), Scarface (1932), Ramona (1936), A Star Is Born (1937), Jezebel (1938), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939), Stagecoach (1939), and Citizen Kane (1941), Smyth explores historical cinema's connections to popular and academic historigraphy, historical fiction, and journalism, providing a rich context for the industry's commitment Read more Show Less

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Overview

In Reconstructing American Historical Cinema: From Cimarron to Citizen Kane, J. E. Smyth dramatically departs from the traditional understanding of the relationship between film and history. Examining production records, scripts, and contemporary reviews, Smyth argues that certain classical Hollywood filmmakers were actively engaged in a self-conscious and often critical filmic writing of national history. Rather than emphasizing the divide between American historical cinema and historical writing, Smyth explores the continuities between Hollywood films and history written during the first four decades of the twentieth century, from Carl Becker's famous "Everyman His Own Historian;" to Howard Hughes's Scarface; to Margaret Mitchell and David O. Selznick's Gone with the Wind. Smyth's volume is a major reassessment of American historiography and cinematic historians from the advent of sound to the beginning of wartime film production in 1942. Uncovering Hollywood's diverse and conflicted attitudes toward American history, this text is a fundamental challenge to the prevailing scholarship in film, history, and cultural studies.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Keeping pace with the current practice of historians to examine the problems and failures of the past, this book critically studies classical Hollywood cinema's competence in reassessing U.S. history. Smyth (history, Univ. of Warwick, U.K.) begins with the 1931 version of Cimarron, which presents an eclectic, complex, multiracial, and feminist approach unconventional to American cinema, and ends with two efforts by Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), which portray history in a disjunctive, episodic, and contradictory style. Although Hollywood is noted for its formulaic filmmaking, Smyth argues that serious historical treatment is evident in different genres in the form of "forwards, projected text insert, use of extensive research, and the employment of one dominant screenwriter." Her endorsement of certain films as honest reflections of the American past will pique readers' interest, although the book does seem a little incomplete without comparisons between the remakes Smyth considers and the original movie. Nevertheless, Smyth's work leaves us hoping for a follow-up that looks at how current Hollywood filmmakers portray history. Recommended for large public and academic libraries.-Victor Or, Vancouver & Surrey P.L., B.C. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Smyth…takes a unique approach, uniting the study of popular and academic historical writing, historical fiction, and screenwriting, to provide a rich context for the movie industry's commitment to American history while investigating the rarely discussed production records and scripts from studio archives." —University of Kentucky News" —
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813124063
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 10/28/2006
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

J.E. Smyth is a lecturer in the history department at the University of Warwick (UK). Her articles have appeared in Film and History, Rethinking History, and The Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction: Toward a Filmic Writing of History in Classical Hollywood 1

1 Traditional and Modern American History

1 The New American History: Cimarron, 1931 27

2 Contemporary History in the Age of Scarface, 1932 57

2 Resolving Westward Expansion

3 Competing Frontiers, 1933-1938 89

4 The Return of Our Epic America, 1938-1941 115

3 Civil War and Reconstruction

5 Jezebels and Rebels, Cavaliers and Compromise, 1930-1939 141

6 The Lives and Deaths of Abraham Lincoln, 1930-1941 167

4 Veterans of Different Wars

7 War in the Roaring Twenties, 1932-1939 197

8 The Last of the Long Hunters, 1938-1941 225

5 Hollywood History

9 Stars Born and Lost, 1932-1937 251

10 A Hollywood Cavalcade, 1939-1942 279

Conclusion: From Land of Liberty to the Decline and Fall of Citizen Kane 307

Appendixes 341

Notes 367

Selected Bibliography 413

Index 435

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