History Goes to the Movies: A Viewer's Guide to the Best (and Some of the Worst) Historical Films Ever Made

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9780385496780: History Goes to the Movies: A Viewer's Guide to the Best (and Some of the Worst) Historical Films Ever Made

From Birth of a Nation to Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan, here is a compulsively readable and endlessly browsable book that brings to life for film buffs, history lovers, students, and teachers the real stories behind the stirring events on screen.

No medium is more effective than film in bringing to vivid life the epochal events of our past; yet none is as prone to sometimes dangerous distortions of fact and emphasis. History Goes to the Movies separates fact from fiction for more than three hundred important historical films, in the process enhancing both viewing pleasure and historical understanding.

Organized into twelve categories such as "Biography," "The American West," "World War Two," and "Ancient, Classical, and Medieval History," the book includes chronologies for each historical period covered. For every film, a detailed essay is provided describing the historical context and events portrayed, a brief plot summary, and an assessment of the movie's accuracy and entertainment value, concluding with suggestions for further reading and viewing.

Comprehensive, entertaining, scrupulously researched, and often bracingly opinionated, History Goes to the Movies will turn your VCR into a clear (and accurate) window on all human history. For every moviegoer who has wondered, "Did that really happen?"--here at last is the answer.

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Review:

History, as Henry Ford said, may be bunk, but as author Joseph Roquemore's book about 350 historical movies reveals, it's good box office. An independent scholar from Chicago, Roquemore measures his chosen fictions against the facts of 150 episodes in world history. Beginning with movie subjects drawn from the past 3,000 years, he spins sprightly, dense, witty essays on, for example, Jesus' life (Jesus of Nazareth), Spartacus's revolt (Spartacus), the Salem witch trials (The Crucible), JFK (JFK), and, well, Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves). The essays are at their best when he pauses to consider the flotsam: a piece on King David estimates Goliath's height (an inch or two taller than Michael Jordan); one on Jesus slows enough to reflect that his "public career was eerie, strange, dreamlike." And he lists the sights Wyatt Earp would have first seen coming into Tombstone--25 saloons, 14 casinos, and "a restless sprawl of tents and cabins."

He grades historical feel as high as historical facticity. So Pat O'Connor's grim Irish gestalt movie, Cal, is called "one of the best period films ever made"; other kudos go to Steven Soderbergh's King of the Hill, the Sally Field tear-jerker Places in the Heart, and Das Boot, for its "stinking look." Still, where there's history there's subjectivity; Roquemore browbeats the philosophically disquieting The Thin Red Line for being "pretentious," and dresses down Oliver Stone for littering JFK with so much error that it "makes Cinderella look like a BBC documentary." Exceptions aside, anyone interested in the historical or the hysterical will get a kick out of this fascinating book. --Lyall Bush

About the Author:

Joseph Roquemore is a speechwriter and corporate communications specialist who holds a Ph.D. in English literature and is an avid reader of history. He lives in the Chicago area.

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Joseph H. Roquemore
Editorial: Main Street Books (1999)
ISBN 10: 0385496788 ISBN 13: 9780385496780
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Joseph H. Roquemore
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Roquemore, Joseph H.
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