Friday, March 22, 2013

Film History at the Guardian

Randall Stephens

For about the last five years the historian Alex von Tunzelmann has composed short pieces at the Guardian on history films.  "Reel History," so reads the description, focuses on "classics of big screen history and prises fact from fiction." Does the plot square with historical realities?  What about the acting? The costumes? Do anachronisms abound

Here's a bit from her recent piece on Northwest Passage (1940). Writes Tunzelmann:

The search for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has little to do with what's going on in this film. At the end, Rogers announces his intention to find one. This was supposed to be the sequel, and indeed its own title card announces it as Northwest Passage (Book I - Rogers' Rangers). Though it was a hit with audiences, it had cost too much to make. MGM canned Book II – and, just as in real life, no northwest passage was ever found.

Verdict: It's an impressively rough and tough look at frontier warfare, but Northwest Passage's historical judgment is skewed by its racism.

"Reel History" is definitely worth checking out. See more reviews here.

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