U.S. History in Film

Prof. McClurken’s HIST 329 — Fall 2008

Archive for 2008hist329

In the End….

In the end, I decided to go ahead and post my project today.  I was leaving for the weekend and wont have much of a chance to work on this project after today.  I have spent many days writing up the history of the event and then coparing the movie to that history.  Every day I added something new and took away other stuff.  I’ve grown very tired and decided that enough is enough, I will go ahead and publish the project.  Besides, now Booger (my kitty) and I can take a snooze together. ;-)

I feel I put a lot of good hard work into the project, and even though I’m not all that creative I tried to spice it up to the best of my ability.  Hopefully I’m not in error in posting the project already, but I feel it is the best I will be able to do for now.

Its Been Fun and Stressful,

Ashley Wilkins

Best Years of Our Lives

I wanted to start my post on “Best Years” before the discussion, partially to have time to round out my thoughts and partly because I wanted to write my initial thoughts before hearing the thoughts of the class. Not that I think that my thoughts are really different than anyone else’s, it is just easier to identify mine at this point.

I have to say that I think the movie being made in the time of its subject was very effective. It is harder to judge it as representing ‘history’, as it wasn’t exactly considered history at the time. However, it seemed more realistically emotionally affecting and honest than a good deal of the movies that we’ve watched this semester. Of course, a lot of this could be the fact that we have grown up with many of the recurring faces in the movies that we’ve seen, whereas there is a further distance between us and the stars of this movie and even the subject matter of the movie itself.

Unfortunately, as representative as it seems of a general feeling of the time, it is restricted to a general white, relatively well-off feeling of the time. Its small town setting is not uncommon in movies from any period and is a handy way to represent the entire country by example (is it synecdoche? one of those fancy English major words describes this, I believe). However, it is also a handy way to leave out African-Americans, Japanese-Americans and Mexican-Americans. This, I believe, is where the movie and subject matter suffer the most from coming out of its own time period.

I’ll write more about this after class tomorrow.


I believe Glory has to fail as a “historical film”.  It is clear the movie sets out to become a historical drama, but it falls short and becomes a drama set in history instead.

The positive aspects of the Glory’s accuracy demonstrate the producer’s interest in making a historical film.  The subject initially seems more dedicated to the story of the 54th, rather than a story about men in the unit.  The film’s portrayal of daily life seems accurate.  Camp life as portrayed in the movie is very similar to that portrayed in our readings.  The film’s action sequences do a fair job of putting viewers in the war experience.  I have read that Glory’s battle of Antietam was the gold standard of its time for portraying a Civil War era battle, and deservingly so.

These things aside, Glory fails as a historical film because it falls into the trap of drama.  It is evident that the producers felt compelled to bend the truth for the sake of a story.  The movie’s own box description calls it “Loosely based on the letters of Col. Robert G. Shaw, this Academy Award-winning war film follows the first group of African-Americans to serve in cobat during the Civil War.”  We know the Massachussetts 54th was not the first African-American group formed, we know it was not the first to see combat.  It was simply the group most enamering to the press.  The film therefore, grabbed hold of a drama witha  certain degree of truth to it.  As I stated in the class wiki, it is also problematic that the film created Thomas’ character.  He was not needed to demonstrate the experience of an educated black man in the unit.  Real historical figures could have done that.  Thomas is simply there to create a character relationship between Shaw and one of his soldiers.  I strongly believe that this demonstrates the film producer’s dedication to entertainment over fact.

KKK subtlety

In response to Elle’s disappointment in her classmates:

As soon as you said that you didn’t get the KKK reference, I knew I was not alone with Jackie’s sister and wanted to make it known that I hadn’t picked up on it either. As soon as I had the chance to speak after you were done, I spoke up and said so.

I think the way some people were talking about the KKK subtle references made us all feel like it was something we really should have noticed. Props to you for speaking up!

To me as well it seemed like a southern white supremacy deal, and what was to say the men didn’t really have political meetings? I also got the impression while watching it that most of the carpetbaggers in the community were white, and therefore was not seeing it as a strike back against the blacks.

Historic Flag and Tarleton

I noticed that at one point, a patriotically painted drum in the Continental Army had a field of blue with 12 stars in a circle and 1 star in the center, so I looked up a flag timeline to see if or when a flag like that would have been used, since there were so many during the war. I went to http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagpics…. which was quite informative. That type of flag was first used in 1777 by the 3rd MD Regiment, and was used in the Battle of the Cowpens January 1781. I didn’t see this flag anywhere in the movie but on a drum, or any indication of individual regiments, but this seems another attempt at a historically accurate detail without confusing the public.

For an account of the Battle of Cowpens, see http://www.revolutionarywararchives.org/…

The actual battle account begins about halfway down the page, and at the end is “Tarleton, surprisingly enough, was not blamed by Cornwallis for the loss at Cowpens. He was captured with Cornwallis at Yorktown some nine months later. Upon returning to England, he was viewed as a gallant soldier and retired from the British Army as a full General.”

As Dr McClurken said, Tarleton survived, went back to England, and lived well. He obviously did not turn into the sort of “I’ll have a bad reputation because of my atrocities so I can’t go back” person he expressed concern about to Cornwallis in the film, asking for land in Ohio.

Last of the Mohicans Music

Well, I’m about a week too late, but here’s some of the music from Last of the Mohicans for those interested. One of the few good things about the movie…

Main Title

Garden Scene

The Kiss



Top of the World

Making sure that your film blog posts get noticed

If you include the following tag: “2008hist329” in the tags section when you create a post (it’s just below the box you compose your blog text in), then it will show up here in the course website. This is true for any UMWblogs.org site, even if you’re using that blog for other classes. Give it a try.


Film class test


This is the course blog for HIST 329 for Fall 2008.  Do you know which films the above images come from?