PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE (1952)

Filmic Context: Print

[1]  The sole actual reference to Plymouth Adventure I uncovered dismisses the film as a "superficial effort" (Pitts 234), deeming Mayflower:The Pilgrims' Adventure a far more realistic retelling of the voyage (Pitts 213).  (see my comparison films) However, some general comments about historical movies in general are applicable to this film:  (see my reviews)

[2]  Critics of historical movies recognize that Hollywood's version of the past can make a significant impact on film viewers.  Dramatic motion pictures that feature famous stars in the roles of historical characters and present vivid scenes of yesteryear via sophisticated cinematography can make strong impressions.  Historical films help to shape the thinking of millions; often the depictions seen on the screen influence the public's view of historical subjects to a greater extent than books do (Toplin vi).

[3]  Critics and the public tend to raise questions about cinematic history in connection with movies dealing with actual personalities and events.  Although filmmakers create movies to express their thoughts and make money, rather than inform their viewers, their interest in history should not be underestimated.  Often they approach historical subjects with genuine curiosity about the past.  They commit considerable energy to historical research in the production process and defend their interpretations when critics challenge their portrayals (Toplin ix).

[4]   We need to explore and understand the way each film documents American social history and captures the state of mind of the American people at the time the film was released for distribution, (see my issue essay)as well as the development of the American film industry in terms of its business organization, artistic values, and production techniques (O'Connor and Jackson xvi).

[5]  Issues such as cinema's distortion of historical reality or of the viewers' willingness to substitute glossy images for historical understanding and insight are ultimately secondary to the more pointed challenge that historical films convey: their challenge to the traditional myths of the nation-state (Burgoyne 6).

[6]  "Historical romance" films--big-budget productions in which costumes,  "authentic" sets and locations, and well-known actors take precedence over attempts at historical accuracy in the plot--lock both the filmmaker and the audience into a series of conventions whose demands (for love interest, physical action, personal confrontation, movement towards climax and denouement) are almost guaranteed to leave the historian of the period crying foul (Rosenstone 1178).

[7]  What is it about the Pilgrims that merits a detailed consideration?  What possible interest could the story of the Pilgrims have except for the marginalized class of persons who take pride in their descent from the Mayflower passengers?  Or native New Englanders of Puritan ancestry?  Both of these groups are diminished at a time when the history of the region is suspect, even politically incorrect (Seelye xii,xiv)

Print Resources

Burgoyne, Robert.  Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at History.  Minneapolis:U of Minnesota P, 1997.

O'Connor, John E., and Jackson, Martin A., eds.  American History/American Film:Interpreting the Hollywood Image.  New York:Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1979.

Pitts, Michael R.  Hollywood and American History: A Filmography of Over 250 Motion Pictures Depicting U.S. History.  London:Mcfarland & Company, Inc., 1984.

Rosenstone, Robert A.  "History in Images/History in Words:Reflections on the Possibility of Really Putting History into Film."  American Historial Review  93(1988):  1173-85.

Seelye, John.  Memory's Nation. The Place of Plymouth Rock.  Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1999.

Toplin, Robert Brent.  History by Hollywood: The Use and Abuse of the American Past.  Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1996.
 
 

Copyright © 2000 by Elsie W. Hamel, Graduate Student at Lehigh University

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