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Peter C. Rollins. _Hollywood as Historian: American Film in a Cultural
Context_.
    Revised Edition 1998. The University Press of Kentucky.
    288 pages; Index. $18.00 paper.  ISBN 0-8131-0951-5


Truths and Distortions: Hollywood as Historian?

    First published in 1983, Peter C. Rollins' motion picture
study,_Hollywood as
Historian_, an innovative, essay collection that, in one way or another,
cited the film industry's role as media persuader-quickly became an
established reference work
in cinema criticism.  Why wouldn't it?  Containing twelve articles that
examined the
myriad roles American movies, with all their truths and distortions, have
played
depicting national history, this book took a hard look at the tricky world of
screenplay perception, seeking answers to an ongoing question: does Hollywood
influence
society or is it the other way around?

    With such discrete topics as the controversy of D. W. Griffith's The
Birth of a
Nation (1915), the pro-League of Nation propaganda stance in Darryl Zanuck's
World War II entry, Wilson (1944), the underlying political tones of three
New Deal
tracts, The River (1937), The March of Time (1935-1951), and Native Land
(1942),
 and the quiet irony in Stuart Heisler's  wartime contribution, The Negro
Soldier, this anthology offered many explanations to this timely problem.
Another chapter
 discussed Chaplin's City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), and The Great
Dictator (1940) emphasizing the role of the tramp while other essays
dissected
the social criticism found in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Anatole
Litvak's
 The Snake Pit and Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954).  Still other
articles
scrutinized the anticommunism paranoia of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove
(1964),
the censorship problems associated with Mike Nichols' Who's Afraid of
Virginia Woolf? (1966), and the moral perspective of Francis Ford Coppola's
Apocalypse Now (1979).  Lastly, another chapter traced William Fox's
entrepreneurial career, the mogul,
 who-after many trials and errors-implemented a practical sound system, a
technology that, overnight, ended the silent film industry.

    Now available in a revised edition, Hollywood as Historian includes an
elaborate film, television and American studies bibliography essay, a section
that examines most of the current general and scholarly articles plus a
thorough listing
 of academic journals and associations.  With information about finding film
reviews, locating photoplay titles, using dictionaries and companions, plus
selecting pertinent internet sources, this chapter, as Dr. Rollins suggests,
provides the necessary information for anyone ready to launch a research
project.  (More information can
be found at the _Film & History_ web site: http://h-net.msu.edu/~filmhis.)

    All in all, _Hollywood as Historian_ has provided scholars, media
specialists, and students with important information these past seventeen
years and this new edition
 will only continue to serve the academic community and generate further
discussion.  What, then, is the current debate regarding film and history?
Can motion pictures
change attitudes of social and political relevance?  Does Hollywood seek to
imbrue
 their own interpretations or merely blend in with the mores of the times?
How much pressure do governmental, corporate, or legal organizations exert on
a film's content?  These questions, and many others, are answered, argued,
dissected, and even countermanded in _Hollywood as Historian_. A
comprehensive index by personal
name, themes, and film titles is an extremely useful tool for users of this
important anthology.

Kean University                      Robert Fyne     [log in to unmask]

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