Kevin and all;
Thanks for the responses so far. I saw the movie yesterday, it's great and often very moving. I would definitely recommend it to everyone on the LIST. It is great to have this version out there, and again, I cannot figure out why there have been so few quality theatrical releases like it? Frederick Douglass makes a couple brief appearances (I don't think he even has a line!); and I wonder: how can it be at this late date that there has never been a great film about this great American? Honestly I don't get it -- somebody should call Denzel or someone with clout to do it. I'm happy to do a screenplay, if so commissioned!
Anyway: go see Harriet.
Kevin's remark is a common caveat, especially from historian-types like the readers of this LIST. I get it, and often wonder in movies if a scene or incident narrated really happened, etc. Think of Selma: wonderful film, but the King people would not allow the speeches to be used (???). So the words in all speeches in Selma are written to sound like King; but are not King's words. Strange, but true...
I've also heard some strong, alternative responses from film people and screenwriters, who feel that what they are doing in historical big screen film making is somewhat less constrained by the "facts on the ground" than purely fictional writing. So I look at Harriet and I do wonder, are those black slave catchers based on real or imagined characters, or just types? Are the purported visions and prophetic insights of Harriet (which occur at least 6-7 times, so her spiritual connections with God become in fact a major motif of the movie) based on real dreams & visions she had? You know, Joel chapter 2 - type stuff? etc.
PS: one of the gold standards for the historically detailed approach was Spielberg's Lincoln. I heard a lecture once by the screenwriter Tony Kushner, about how painstaking Spielberg was about historical fact. Actually, obsessive: even things like accents, or the ticking of Lincoln's pocket watch. As a Lincoln aficianado, I actually once published a panel of Lincoln historians, in Cineaste magazine, talking about that movie's historical reality. All of these great Lincoln scholars agreed on how accurate it was: people like Mark Noll, Allen Guelzo, and Michael Burlingame.
Cineaste, “What Historians Think About Spielberg’s Lincoln,” 38.1, 13-19
Dr. Hal Bush
Professor of English &
Director of the Undergraduate Program
Saint Louis University
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author website: halbush.com
From: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Mac Donnell Rare Books <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, November 9, 2019 10:16 AM
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [External] Re: new film Harriet
Speaking only for myself, when a movie is based on a historical figure I
do so wish the movie-makers would stick to the historical facts as much
as possible. Hollywood is the home of myth, legend, and fantasy, and if
a director now and then inserts a historical figure into a
non-historical movie, well--no harm, no foul. But "enhancing" the drama
by inserting a fictional character into the middle of the action in a
film centered around a historical figure is misguided and insulting.
Even if the drama in the story is somehow enhanced, it is still a
disservice to historical truth. Most movie-goers will accept it as true,
or at least as truthy. The Adventures of Mark Twain comes to mind. Jack
Warner sent crews out to Hartford, Elmira, Hannibal, and other places,
where they took hundreds of photos documenting Twain's homes,
belongings, etc., but when it came time to film they pretty much ignored
their own research and presented a highly fictionalized version of his
life. For decades there was the fake version of The Mysterious Stranger
infecting the healthy tissue of Twain's writings. Bad enough that
historical evidence was rejected or ignored in favor of movie-maker
fictions, but some editors could not resist fictionalizing Twain's
fiction. Surely there is a ring in Hell for that.
Well, thank goodness the pages of Twain studies are not contaminated
with myths, legends, hoaxes, and non-historical blather!
Mac Donnell Rare Books
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Austin TX 78730
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------ Original Message ------
From: "Hal Bush" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: 11/9/2019 8:58:22 AM
Subject: new film Harriet
>folks, I believe some of you will be interested:
>Perhaps this is predictable (it's really, really hard to depict these histories to everyone's satisfaction at the current moment): but the controversy over the new film Harriet is for real (even though it has a full 99% audience-like rating on rotten tomatoes).
>& ps: I have encouraged my own students to see it (they all read Uncle Tom's Cabin & Douglass' Narrative this semester): I'd love hearing anyone's thoughts about the film, as either a teaching device or just an aesthetic/historical account.
>Dr. Hal Bush
>Professor of English &
>Director of the Undergraduate Program
>Saint Louis University
>[log in to unmask]
>author website: https://urldefense.com/v3/__http://halbush.com__;!euKmGKuCglU!f6j9JLEBTADMMXqHhT-tZ-KhgadCZ5TXw87MPgVfsfSLUvdY5zOdZFkr0G3RlwQ$