THE COLUMBIA COMPANION TO AMERICAN HISTORY ON FILM: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past

Peter C. Rollins, Editor, Peter C. Rollins, Other . Columbia Univ. $85 (696p) ISBN 978-0-231-11222-2

The average person in the industrial world will spend nine years watching film and television, says Rollins, an American film studies professor at Oklahoma University and editor in chief of Film & History . He claims the sense of "popular memory" people get from watching movies provides a skewed sense of history, but what film and documentaries do illustrate, he says, are the attitudes of the director and the society at the time of production. Rollins organizes his book into eight chapters, on historical eras, famous personalities, movements, places and other prisms through which we can view history. He charges his contributors (scholars of history, communications, politics and other disciplines) with finding the messages behind the medium, be it the legend of Abraham Lincoln or John Kennedy or the mythology of small towns. All reveal the social expectations embedded in pop culture. Concise historical summaries precede examples of films to illustrate the shifting views of women, politics, race, etc. Although the book is structured by themes, the index allows readers to explore particular films from different perspectives: e.g., Hester Street is not only about Jewish immigration and assimilation, but its heroine may also be seen as an archetype of the modern woman. Rollins's reference allows readers to appreciate films in context, enhancing the experience. Film buffs will find the mix of history and cinematic analysis captivating, while historians will be intrigued by the book's analysis of popular culture. Photos. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 671 pages - 978-0-231-11223-9
Ebook - 696 pages - 978-0-231-50839-1
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