Real History vs Reel History: The Never-Ending Debate

The Gettysburg Compiler

By Laurel Wilson ’19

Movies based on history have been popular since the rise of film in the entertainment industry. Transporting audiences to a different place and time period is something that film has always had the ability to do and often does very well. Though many films that are based on historical subject matter are carefully researched and try to be as historically accurate as possible, many historians take issue with their historical inaccuracies. There are countless opinions out in the world about the importance and role of historical accuracy in film. Most of these opinions fall into one of two camps: those that argue films should try to be more historically accurate if they are portraying a specific event or time period and those that argue that films should be allowed to take creative liberties with historical accuracy.

Historians will often argue, with good reason, that films that do…

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Founding Mothers Who Need A Movie Made After Them

1. Angelica Schuyler Church

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Famously known as a feminist and strong willed female in the Broadway hit musical Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler is seldom thought about, but should be associated as a founding mother.

Angelica Schuyler was born in Albany, New York; the eldest child of Phillip Schuyler and Catharine Van Rensselaer Schuyler. She had seven siblings who lived to adulthood, including Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

Angelica came of age during the American Revolution, and met many of the prominent revolutionary leaders. Because of her father’s rank and political stature, the Schuyler house in Albany was the scene of many meetings and war councils.

Angelica never failed to enchant the famous, intelligent men she met; and in Paris she befriended Benjamin Franklin, U.S. Ambassador to France. She also developed lasting friendships with Franklin’s successor, Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette. Through her newly formed friendships, she was able to have a backseat in politics – girl power!

Angelica’s  now famous correspondence with Alexander Hamilton shows their deep affection for each other, but also their spiritual connection. Hamilton relied on Angelica for advice and ultimately her opinion on the forming country.

2. Dolley Madison

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Dolley Payne Todd Madison was the wife of James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. Dolley Madison defined the role of First Lady. Dolley Madison also helped to furnish the newly constructed White House. When the British set it on fire in 1813. Madison was credited with saving the portrait depicting George Washington.

Despite much controversy about what happened on the night of 1814, a movie depicting Dolley Madison would be interesting in itself to truly understand how she shaped the role of First Lady.

3. Abigail Adams

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Abigail Adams was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, to William Smith and Elizabeth Smith. Adams was a sickly child and was not considered healthy enough for formal schooling. Although she did not receive a formal education, her mother taught her and her sisters to read, write and cipher. As an intellectually open-minded woman for her day, Adams’ ideas on women’s rights and government would eventually play a major role in the founding of the United States. She became one of the most famous first ladies.

Adams’s life is one of the most documented of the first ladies making her a perfect choice for a movie subject. She is remembered for the many letters she wrote to her husband, John Adams as he stayed in Philadelphia during the Continental Congresses. John frequently sought the advice of Abigail on many matters of women’s rights and slavery. Her letters provide for an excellent eyewitness report of life on the home front of the American Revolution.

4. Phillis Wheatley

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Although the date and place of her birth are not documented, Wheatley is believed to be born in 1753 in West Africa. Wheatley was brought to British-ruled Boston, Massachusetts, on July 11, 1761, on a slave ship called The Phillis. She was brought to the Wheatley family and given their surname.

The Wheatleys’ daughter, Mary, tutored Phillis in reading and writing. John Wheatley was known as a progressive throughout New England; his family gave Phillis an unprecedented education for an enslaved person, and for a female of any race. By the age of 12, Phillis was reading Greek and Latin classics and difficult passages from the Bible. Recognizing her literary ability, the Wheatley family supported Phillis’s education and left the household labor to their other domestic slaves. The Wheatleys often showed off her abilities to friends and family. Through her poetry, she became the voice of the American Revolution.

5. Mercy Otis Warren

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Mercy Otis Warren was born on September 14, 1728, the third of thirteen children and first daughter of Colonel James Otis and Mary Allyne Otis. The family lived in West Barnstable, Massachusetts. The Otis children were raised with revolutionary ideals. Although Mercy had no formal education, she studied with Reverend Jonathan Russell while he tutored her brothers Joseph and James in preparation for College. Unlike most girls of the time who were simply literate, Warren wanted to learn as much as she possibly could. This set her apart from other girls, and most likely paved the way for her to break the traditional gender roles of her time. Her father also had unconventional views of his daughter’s education, as he fully supported her endeavors, a very rare situation for the time.

She married James Warren on November 14, 1754. After settling in Plymouth, James inherited his father’s position as sheriff. Her husband James had a distinguished political career. This led to Mercy actively participating in the political life of her husband including the American Revolution. Their Plymouth home was often a meeting place for local politics and revolutionaries including the Sons of Liberty. With the assistance of her friend Samuel Adams, these meetings laid the foundation for the Committee of Correspondence. Afterwards Mercy became her husband’s  chief correspondent and sounding board. Warren formed a strong circle of friends including Abigail Adams, Martha Washington,  and John Adams. Through their correspondence they increased the awareness of women’s issues. Mercy then became an advisor to many political leaders including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Sadly, all of Mercy’s works were published anonymously until 1790 when she republished all of her works including her political poems and dramas.

Mercy Otis Warren is considered as being the most influential writers of the Revolutionary War making this list incomplete without her.

 

 

 

Women in Film: Bette Davis

Bette Davis – The First Lady of the American Screen

Bette Davis created a heroine persona on and off screen by being a liberated woman in an industry dominated by men. She could play a variety of roles ranging from powerhouse dramas to raging psychopaths. Off-screen Davis battled the studio hierarchy in order to gain equal rights for all actors. Bette Davis has been a hero of mine since I first started watching classic film when I was nine. Even after doing biography after biography, I have always found her an interesting woman on and off screen.

“This has always been a motto of mine: Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work.” – Bette Davis

Filmography:

1989 Wicked Stepmother
1987 The Whales of August
1986 As Summer Die
1984 Murder with Mirrors
1983 Right of Way
1982 A Piano for Mrs. Cimino
Little Gloria
Hotel
1981 Family Reunion
1980 The Watcher in the Woods
White Mama
Skyward
1979 Strangers: The Story of a Mother and a Daughter
1978 Death on the Nile
Return from Witch Mountain
The Dark Secret of Harvest Home
1976 Burnt Offerings
The Disappearance of Aimee
1973 Scream, Pretty Peggy
1972 The Scientific Cardplayer
Connecting Rooms
Madame Sin
The Judge and Jake Wyler
1971 Bunny O’Hare
1968 The Anniversary
1965 The Nanny
1964 Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Where Love Has Gone
The Empty Canvas
Dead Ringer
1962 Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
1961 Pocketful of Miracles
1959 The Scapegoat
John Paul Jones
1957 Stranded
1956 Storm Center
The Catered Affair
1955 The Virgin Queen
1952 Phone Call from a Stranger
Another Man’s Poison
The Star (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
1951 Payment on Demand
1950 All About Eve (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
1949 Beyond the Forest
1948 June Bride
Winter Meeting
1946 Deception
A Stolen Life
1945 The Corn is Green
1944 Mr. Skeffington (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
Hollywood Canteen
1943 Old Acquaintance
Watch on the Rhine
Thank Your Lucky Stars
1942 Now, Voyager (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
In This Our Life
1941 The Little Foxes (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
The Bride Came C.O.D.
The Great Lie
The Man Who Came to Dinner
Shining Victory
1940 The Letter (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
All This, and Heaven Too
1939 Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
The Old Maid
Juarez
Dark Victory (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
Day at Santa Anita
1938 The Sisters
Jezebel (Best Actress Academy Award Winner)
1937 It’s Love I’m After
That Certain Woman
Kid Galahad
Marked Woman
1936 Satan Met a Lady
The Golden Arrow
The Petrified Forest
1935 Dangerous (Best Actress Academy Award Winner)
Special Agent
Front Page Woman
The Girl from 10th Avenue
Bordertown
A Dream Comes True
1934 Housewife
Of Human Bondage (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
Fog Over Frisco
Jimmy the Gent
Fashions of 1934
The Big Shakedown
1933 Bureau of Missing Persons
Ex-Lady
The Working Man
Parachute Jumper
20,000 Years in Sing Sing
1932 Three on a Match
Cabin in the Cotton
The Rich Are Always with Us
So Big
The Man Who Played God
Hell’s House
The Menace
The Dark Horse
1931 Waterloo Bridge
Seed
Bad Sister
Way Back Home

Eight Great Poltical Movies

Movies focusing on politics are shown in many different formats. Some take a serious approach on a major issue in history, or engage in a satirical plot designed around a major issue. As the election is vastly approaching, take a seat, grab some popcorn, and watch these poltical showstoppers. 

The Candidate (1972)

Without a candidate to run for the senate seat against Republican Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter), campaign manager Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) recruits leftist lawyer Bill McKay (Robert Redford). McKay’s appearance interests the public’s eye, and gradually Lucas pushes McKay toward a more centrist message in order to gain more popularity. As McKay’s original platform gets watered down, his popularity increases so much that he is running even with Jarmon as Election Day approaches. When McKay receives the vote at the end of the movie, he famously asks Lucas what to do next. Many candidates have gone through the stress of getting into their position, but tend to not know what to do afterward. As election day is vastly approaching, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump must now evaluate what they must do after they get elected.  

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
(1939) 

When the dreamer Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) winds up appointed to the United States Senate, he gains the mentorship of corrupt Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). However, Paine isn’t as honest as his reputation would indicate, and he becomes involved in a scheme to discredit Smith, who wants to build a boys’ campsite where greater scandal lies ahead. Determined to stand up against Paine, Smith takes his case to the Senate floor. Smith soon becomes a popular figure in the Senate due to his desire for his project and patriotism. Despite its mixed reviews, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington won an Academy Award for Best Writing. In today’s election, Clinton and Trump must defend what they believe in even if the people disagree. 

All the President’s Men (1976)

Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and  Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) work for the Washington Post. They research the 1972 burglary of the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex. The two reporters make a connection between the burglars and a White House staffer. Despite many warnings, the duo follows the money all the way to the President. As the 2016 Election has been an election of scandal with the Washington Post once again breaking the latest headlines, the American people must decide what they want in a president. 

Election
(1999)

Political movies do not always have to revolve around adults. Alexander Payne’s look at a high school election and the consequences that occur when a teacher (Matthew Broderick) is fed up with Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), who is running for student body president. Election satirizes the life of suburban high schoolers and politics and describes today’s view on politics. 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

This political satire focuses on what would happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button. Directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove is a film satirizing the Cold War fears between the USSR and the USA. During this election, voters must decide who they would rather have with their finger on the nuclear button.

Advice & Consent
(1962)

 Based on the novel by Allen Drury, this drama depicts the debate when candidate Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda) is nominated as U.S. Secretary of State. As concerns are shown during the Senate investigation of Leffingwell’s qualifications, Senator Brig Anderson (Don Murray), soon finds that Leffingwell is being used for separate parties political agenda. As we saw with Obama filling a Supreme Court Justice spot, there may be controversy for the next President when filling similar spots.  

All the Way
(2016)

 Lyndon B. Johnson (Bryan Cranston) becomes President of the United States after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. LBJ must immediately work on the passage of the Civil Rights Act as he is pressured by Martin Luther King (Anthony Mackie) and other movement leaders. However, LBJ is almost unable to pass the bill due to Southern Democrats. Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam escalates. As the 2016 Election breaks, and barriers affecting minorities become more apparent each day, Clinton and Trump must decide how to address and ultimately resolve these pressing issues. 

All the King’s Men
(1949)

 This drama depicts the rise and fall of Southern Democrat Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) who promises his way to power. In the beginning of his campaign he swears against the corruption in government, but towards the end of his career, he is the most corrupt politician. All the King’s Men won three Oscars for Best Motion Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. As we enter the 2016 Election, once elected, the next President will decide whether to run the country in a corrupt or innocent manner to accomplish their objectives.