The Historical Film in the Era of New Hollywood, 1967-1980.
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This thesis is the first sustained analysis of historical films made in the New Hollywood era (1967-80). It explores the mediation of the era’s social, cultural and ideological concerns in feature films that represent key periods in American history. The terms New Hollywood and the historical film are utilised with revisionist aims. As well as considering the new wave of ‘auteur’ cinema synonymous with the New Hollywood, the thesis demonstrates the diverse range of films produced in this era. Similarly, it rejects the boundary drawing practiced by many studies of history and film, and submits that any film set in the past can be used to explore the values, assumptions and ideological conflicts of the present. Furthermore, the thesis contends that analysis of historical films allows us to understand how audiences of a given period engage with the past in emotional, moral and aesthetic terms. The method and approach of this research is robust and wide reaching, providing evidence based analysis of each film’s production and reception, as well as close readings of individual texts. The primary sources utilised include production files, draft screenplays, film reviews, press interviews and other forms of publicity. The vast majority of new Hollywood historical films are set in the recent past, and the six case studies undertaken in this thesis include a broad section of the era’s significant historical films: The Day of the Locust (1975), a drama centred on 1930s Hollywood; Sounder (1972), a story of Depression-era African American sharecroppers in the deep South; The Dirty Dozen (1967), a Second World War combat drama; The Way We Were (1973), a romantic film bridging the radical 1930s and the McCarthy ‘witchhunts’ of the 1950s; and American Graffiti (1973) and Grease (1978), which look back on the early rock and roll era of the late 1950s and early 1960s with nostalgia.
- Theses