Past and Present: National Identity and the British by James Chapman

By James Chapman

This groundbreaking booklet through one in all Britain's best movie historians is the 1st to tackle this significant style in all its complexity. It takes to center Ken Loach's view that "the purely cause to make motion pictures which are a mirrored image on historical past is to discuss the present." With this proposition as his place to begin, James Chapman examines where of ancient motion pictures in British cinema historical past and picture tradition. via in-depth case stories of fourteen key movies, from Henry V and Zulu to Chariots of fireplace and Elizabeth, he analyzes the subjects they current, together with gender, ethnicity, militarism and and imperialism--throughout exploring their dialectical dating among earlier and current and the way they undertaking pictures and ideologies of "Britishness" to audiences within the united kingdom and North the USA.

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Example text

Alex well understood the accidental nature of Henry VIII. 13 It is surprising that Michael Korda, who in his memoir is usually at great pains to assert his uncle’s vision and tenacity, should not credit him with greater insight on this occasion. Indeed, far from being a hastily produced, cheaply made film, The Private Life of Henry VIII shows every indication of having been a deliberate and calculated example of the kind of ‘prestige’ film that was a rarity in British cinema at the time. Its success was no accident.

He believed that The Private Life of Henry VIII would succeed in the international market because its story and subject, while arising from British history, would be familiar to overseas audiences. The thing to avoid, Korda believed, was ‘to set out to try to suit everybody. . ’ It is ironic that some of the films which Korda made following The Private Life of Henry VIII – including The Private Life of Don Juan, Catherine the Great and Rembrandt – might be seen as examples of such mongrel films in so far as they were British-made but did not concern specifically British subjects.

In the last shot of the film he looks at the camera and says: ‘Six wives. ’ The popular success of The Private Life of Henry VIII was such that other producers, both in Britain and in Hollywood, immediately took note. The historical film, unfavoured by the film industry since the coming of sound, was suddenly back in vogue. Thus, as Forsyth Hardy observed early in 1934: After Henry VIII, the deluge. The remarkable and unexpected success of Korda’s spectacular experiment with history has sent his fellow-producers scurrying to their text-books, there to search for romantic heroes and heroines with traits of character sufficiently and suitably startling to make the story of their lives attractive on the screen.

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