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The Hollywood History of the World: From One Million Years B.C. to Apocalypse Now Hardcover – September, 1988


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Where history is concerned, Hollywood has often altered facts to suit filmmaking purposes, but filmmakers have sometimes been faithful to history as well. Examining seven admittedly idiosyncratic "ages," the author here juxtaposes what "actually happened" with illustrated examples of the Hollywood treatment. Looking at the Ancient World, he examines One Million Years BC , The Ten Commandments , Cleopatra and Quo Vadis , among others. For the chapter titled "Knights and Barbarians" he extols The Vikings , which "ought to be shown regularly to schoolchildren as a fine image of the distant past" and in "Tudors and Sea Dogs" praises Captain Blood for its truthful attention to the ethics of buccaneering. In "Romance and Royalty" Fraser laments the fact that Charles II, who led a perfectly filmic life, has never been adequately treated on celluloid. In the chapter on the British Empire he pays a backhanded compliment to Charge of the Light Brigade : "the script, holding nothing sacred, has plundered Indian Mutiny history at one pointand got it right." The Pilgrims, the Civil War, the old West, the roaring '20s, WW I and II and Vietnam are also examined in this arbitrary and opinionated, irreverent and immensely enjoyable study. Fraser is also the author of the Flashman series of (accurate) historical novels. Photos.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Writing in a witty and entertaining style, the authora novelist and screenwriterhere assumes the role of apologist for the historical film. He believes that this film genre has been unfairly maligned, and contends that ". . . nothing has been more influential in shaping our visions of the past than the commercial cinema." Fraser divides history into seven ages and compares films with the actual events upon which they are based, discussing the merits as well as the weaknesses of these films. Enhanced by numerous photos and laced with historical facts, movie trivia, and personal insights into filmmaking, this is lively and interesting. Robert Logsdon, Indiana St. Lib., Indianapolis
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Beech Tree Books (September 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688075207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688075200
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #872,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
Surprisingly, Hollywood did a pretty good job of it, most of the time.
H. S. Wedekind
These small criticisms aside, this is certainly a great idea for a book and it is executed very well and well illustrated and well written.
Dr. James Gardner
If you're a film fan and a history buff, like I am, you'll definitely enjoy this book.
TLR

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
Any book which undertakes to argue the author's choice of the best or worst of anything has a good shot at being a lot of fun -- and an even better shot when the author is a very knowledgeable, highly opinionated, and notably talented wordsmith. Fraser is best known for his "Flashman" comic-historical novels -- highly regarded for their detailed accuracy -- but he was also an experienced and professional playwright and screenplay writer. And in this volume he considers how history has been treated in the (mostly) English-language films of Hollywood and Britain. You would expect such a book to automatically start arguments -- but because it is now nearly a quarter-century old, and because Fraser tends to concentrate on the films of his own youth, it seems likely that most readers under forty will not have seen many of the movies under discussion and won't even have heard of many of the actors. (Robert Morley? Norma Shearer? George Sanders? Paulette Goddard? Not to mention Lionel Atwill or Felix Aylmer.)

Fraser is careful to note that his concern is less with the quality of the drama than with the fidelity to history -- or at least to its spirit, since art has its own requirements. The original MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, for instance, with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, was, he thinks, marvelous drama -- and terrible history. The second remake, with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson, was quite good history -- but very limp drama. (The first remake, with Trevor Howard and Marlon Brando, is best forgotten from any standpoint, a judgment with which I entirely agree.) The author sometimes ignores his own strictures, however, in promoting his personal favorites. He believes, for example, that QUO VADIS? "may be one of the cinema's most splendid views of the grandeur that was Rome." Really?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dana Carpender on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
I bought this book when it first came out in the '80s, and it has gained that most honored spot for a book -- the bookcase right next to my bed. It's an old friend; I've read it over and over. It's hugely entertaining, and remarkably informative as well. I joined Netflix largely to get access to many of the wonderful old movies I'd read about in Fraser's book, and I've learned all sorts of tidbits of history.

Also fascinating are the many illustrations showing contemporary portraits of the historical characters portrayed and the actors who played them. Much of the casting and costuming has been remarkably good -- in particular, in The Private Life of Henry VIII, Merle Oberon's costume as Anne Boleyn is a dead-on copy of the clothes Anne wore in a portrait. Read this book and you'll have a new respect for how much history Hollywood has gotten right.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By H. S. Wedekind VINE VOICE on November 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a very entertaining and unstuffy book to read comparing actual history and historical figures with Hollywood's interpretation of them. Surprisingly, Hollywood did a pretty good job of it, most of the time. It also contains over 200 pictorial comparisons of paintings of historical figures with photos of their Hollywood look-a-likes (or not), e.g. Charlton Heston as Cardinal Richelieu; Charles Boyer as Napoleon; Henry Fonda as a young Abraham Lincoln; and a truly remarkable photo of Ben Kingsley as Ghandi. (On the other hand, cute and perky Doris Day looked nothing like the coarse, drunken, manish Martha Jane Canarray - aka "Calamity Jane.") the author, George MacDonald Fraser, best known for his series of comic novels about the misadventures of the Victorian era rogue Harry Flashman, writes in his usual, easy going and humorous style that is guaranteed to keep the reader's interest high. This is a difficult book to put down. I recommend it to movie and history buffs alike.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael on February 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
In "The Hollywood History of the World", George MacDonald Fraser provides an enjoyable survey of Hollywood's treatment of historical subjects. This is no scholarly dissertation, enumerating all of the factual errors in each film and grading them on accuracy. Indeed, there's very little scholarship at all. Although there is some judgement on historical matters, most of Mr. MacDonald Fraser's commentary is made up observations about actors, sets, dialogue and drama. This book is really the reminiscences of a movie lover who happens to be a history buff. The author adeptly conveys the wonder one must have felt watching movies during Hollywood's Golden Age, and makes one realize how incredible it is that we are able to actually see history resurrected before our eyes, while all previous generations before the early 20th century had to resort to dusty manuscripts and pictures. The movies are the closest process we have to time travel and George MacDonald Fraser concludes that Hollywood has done a pretty job of it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daryl on May 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Loved the book and recommend to anyone who enjoys comparing history to movies. Since it ends early in the 80's, I hope someday Mr.Fraser or anyone brings the subject closer up-to-date. However, this book was highly recommended (my father - my best source ever) and deservedly so. Not to mention being very entertaining and funny as well.
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