During the late nineteenth century, magazines, newspapers, novelists, and even historians presented a revised version of the Civil War that, intending to reconcile the former foes, downplayed the issues of slavery and racial injustice, and often promoted and reinforced the worst racial stereotypes. The Reel Civil War tells the history of how these ...
During the late nineteenth century, magazines, newspapers, novelists, and even historians presented a revised version of the Civil War that, intending to reconcile the former foes, downplayed the issues of slavery and racial injustice, and often promoted and reinforced the worst racial stereotypes. The Reel Civil War tells the history of how these misrepresentations of history made their way into movies. More than 800 films have been made about the Civil War. Citing such classics as "Birth of a Nation "and "Gone With the Wind "as well as many other films, Bruce Chadwick shows how most of them have, until recently, projected an image of gallant soldiers, beautiful belles, sprawling plantations, and docile or dangerous slaves. He demonstrates how the movies aided and abetted racism and an inaccurate view of American history, providing a revealing and important account of the power of cinema to shape our understanding of historical truth.
Publishers Weekly, 2001-07-30 From the first of the silent movies, Chadwick (The Two American Presidents) asserts, the Civil War has been presented as a national tragedy, redeemed only by the gallantry of the combatants. Its origins have been obscured, with the slavery question in particular being virtually eliminated from the story. Blacks have been marginalized, presented at best as passive recipients of a freedom won for them by white Northerners. The "old South" emerges as an epitome of civilized grace, destroyed by a war few Southerners really wanted. For Chadwick, D.W. Griffith's virulent Birth of a Nation did not establish these cliches it only institutionalized them. Even Ted Turner's Gettysburg (1993), produced in an age of ethnic sensitivity and political correctness, is built around a story of Americans with two different visions of the right, fighting to sustain those visions. It is a white man's movie; blacks and women have no direct impact. Chadwick argues (and shows in 42 b&w stills) that while this restructuring of history may not be fair or honest, it has been necessary to reintegrate societies torn apart by civil war, and that we are only now approaching a time when the truth can be told cinematically. Others will certainly disagree, on both counts. (Sept. 26) Forecast: While Chadwick lectures on history and film at Rutgers University, few scholars are likely to take his pragmatic approach to heart (or syllabus). But with the racial politics of the Civil War still awaiting full cinematic treatment, this book, by dint of Knopf's distribution if nothing else, could serve as a wake-up call. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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