This is not the only point in which Wilson makes reference to the film he is writing. While Wilson’s notes are often simple descriptions of the themes in Lawrence’s life, at some times Wilson tries to figure out how best to make these themes work in a film. In the final ‘section’ of the article, Wilson comments in depth on the character S.A., who was very important to Lawrence, both as a friend and confidant, but whose identity remains a mystery. Wilson wrestles with this character’s imagined personality and how he should fit S.A. into the script, eventually decided that, “if it can be said that S.A. stands at Lawrence’s left hand, then our story requires a British character who stands at his right.” In this imaginary British character, we get an amazing look at the way in which Hollywood rewrites history in order to sell a film. Wilson notes, “Our British officer will inevitably be a composite character, with perhaps certain attributes not found in any of the actual men (Young, Newcombe, Joyce, etc.).” This character that Wilson wants to create is not a historical figure and is written in to serve as a foil for Lawrence. Wilson doesn’t describe why exactly he needs a British man to sit at Lawrence’s side, since he already has (an Arab) one in S.A., but perhaps Wilson has an assumption concerning the audience’s reaction to having an Arab as Lawrence’s sole confidant. Wilson further imagines the character to be “a man who (like our audience, we hope) would be baffled and intrigued by his mercurial companion-in-arms and through him we would try to fathom the enigma.” Wilson creates this imaginary, composite character is order to give the audience someone to relate to, subtly insinuating that the audience will not be able to relate to the Arab S.A. He may be correct in his assumption (we are dealing with early 1960’s America after all), but the film itself has no such character, so we will never know how audiences would have reacted.
Hodson dedicates much of the chapter on the film adaptation of T.E. Lawrence’s life, Chapter 7, to describing the effect of the blacklist on the film. Sam Spiegel, the producer, originally chose Michael Wilson, a blacklisted writer, to write a film adaptation of the life of T.E. Lawrence. Spiegel had won an Oscar for On the Waterfront, a pro-blacklist film, while Wilson, although living in exile in France, had managed to keep writing films, even though he was blacklisted. In hindsight, it is ludicrously ironic that Spiegel, who made a film shunning ‘unfriendly witnesses,’ like Michael Wilson, would hire him and actively try to convince Hollywood executives to let Wilson write the script. Wilson wrote a few versions of the screenplay, but director David Lean, a Brit, believed Wilson’s script to be “”too American,” and failed to capture the complex character of Lawrence.” Lean found another writer, Robert Bolt, to write the screenplay, which eventually became Lawrence of Arabia. As it turns out, Bolt borrowed a lot from Wilson’s screenplay is crafting his screenplay, even though he denied it. Despite the fact that Bolt’s screenplay was basically co-written by Wilson, “his name was not listed in the screen credits for Lawrence of Arabia, presumably because he refused to sign a statement recanting his radical past.” The blacklist has an interesting relationship to the film, but Lawrence’s own history proved to be the most dubious element in the film’s production.
Hodson recounts the battle between Spiegel and Lawrence’s brother, A.W. Lawrence, over the film’s representation of T.E. Lawrence, which adds a new dimension to the film’s rewriting of history. Even though the film was based on T.E. Lawrence’s own autobiography, his brother still wanted to rewrite history and make Lawrence even more of a hero. Another problem with the film’s historical value comes from the information that was available. As Hodson describes, “England had not yet lifted an embargo on various government records pertaining to [T.E. Lawrence].” Lawrence’s story was altered, not only, by Hollywood, but by his own brother and the British government, so there was really no way that the film was going to have much historical accuracy.
Hodson further chronicles the film’s “license with history,” as well as its reception, but my favorite part of Hodson’s book is his description of the film’s manifestations in pop culture. The parallels this book shows, between 1960s America and today’s America, are uncanny, especially when it comes to the film’s marketing. As Hodson explains, “Fashion was another angle Columbia Pictures and American retailers worked in promoting “Lawrence mania” in the United States.” Product tie-ins are something I think of in relation to today’s idea of corporate synergy, but apparently the idea was alive in the 1960’s as well.
Lawrence’s life, as Crowdus explains, is still the subject of debate, so much of the ‘history,’ that the film is based on, may in fact be falsehood. Crowdus’s explanation for this is that, “Lawrence […] provided conflicting, ambiguous, or half-truthful accounts of the same incidents to biographers and friends.” As a result of this, Robert Bolt, who wrote the second (and final) screenplay for Lawrence of Arabia, “base[d] his screenplay solely on Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” Lawrence’s autobiography, “despite being convinced that the book contained considerable exaggeration and not a few outright lies.” This revelation serves to remove much of the blame for the film’s rewriting of history on Bolt, because Lawrence himself rewrote it.
The Hollywood system takes its toll on historical fact, because, “Many […] incidents have […] been dramatically simplified to comply with the genre requirements of big screen spectacle.” Although it was T.E. Lawrence who began the rewriting of his own history, the restrictions imposed by Hollywood further erode the validity of much of the story. Crowdus also singles out the casting as another reason for the film’s historical ‘falseness,’ explaining that the casting of (the tall and handsome) Peter O’Toole “immediately eliminates a key motive for the overcompensatory physical efforts of a pocket Hercules like the real life Lawrence.” There are other problems that Crowdus has with the film’s representation of history, but he does have some good words for the film.
The film gets some things right in its depiction of Lawrence, such as Lawrence’s “sado-masochistic [sic] tendencies,” which Lawrence discusses in Seven Pillars of Wisdom. O’Toole’s performance, especially in the torture scene, captures this side of Lawrence. The inclusion of this darker side of Lawrence is noteworthy, because it shows that although Sam Spiegel, the film’s producer, was intent on making a Hollywood ‘blockbuster,’ the film did have uncomfortable elements that certainly would not have appealled to every moviegoer. By including some historical facts, the film not only keeps true to history, but it takes risks that are uncharacteristic of a major Hollywood film.
Crowdus ends his analysis of the film, by critiquing the film’s depiction of Arabs. He uses the scene of the meeting between the Bedouin leaders in Damascus, as a key example of the film’s racist undertones and its colonial implications. The film has strengths and flaws, as noted by Crowdus, but in the early, praiseful paragraphs of the article, we see Crowdus’s true views on the film. Although Crowdus has many problems with the film’s rewriting of history, there is still a reason that it is one of the most beloved and respected Hollywood films.
Truffaut introduces his compilation of a series of interview with Hitchcock with an anecdote in which he silences a critic of Rear Window who claimed he couldn't see Rear Window's flaws because he was not from New York City. Truffaut responded by saying "Rear Window is not about Greenwich Village, it is a film about cinema, and I do know cinema."
This anecdote applies to Lifeboat and author Steinbeck's dislike of the final material. He criticized the fallacy of things like one man rowing the whole lifeboat, failing to acknowledge the cinematic and symbolic implications this has for Willy's percieved control over the other suvivors.
In the interview, Hitchcock says Lifeboat was an effort to test his theory that psycological films contained mostly close-ups or two/three-shots. He saught to find an environment that would force a director to shoot mostly those shots. This close-up style was later adopted by television, mainly due to the smaller screen size and not the psycological implications.
Hitchcock also here discusses his version of the allegory. He confrims that it is soley about the war (contradicting statements made by the producer). Kovac represented the communist way of dealing with the Nazis. He was the most vocal opponent to the captain, much in the same way early American Anti-Nazi Leagues had strong communist ties. Rittenhouse symbolized the Facist who is eager to give up control of the ship in a tumultous time to a dictator, much in the same way certain parts of society were, including the wealthy, eager to keep the status quo, and saw a dictator Roosevelt as their best hope.
In this article, John Lippman discusses the risk of making movie based on an ongoing war. He lists a variety of successful war movies such as Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan and implies that these films owe at least part of their commercial success to the fact that the public supported their respective core political messages.
In general, films about a war still being bought are enormous risks. For one, if the director’s view differs from that of the general public, people will not see the movie. Moreover, if public sentiment changes about the war in the near future, the all-important DVD sales could be jeopardized.
Although making a movie about a transpiring war is certainly a gamble, the payoff can be tremendous. Take for example Michael Moore’s politically charged Fahrenheit 9/11, which earned 119 million dollars in U.S. box office receipts alone. This exception, however, might be attributed to the fact that while the war is ongoing, a large portion of the population agrees that America should not have declared war on Iraq. Therefore, perhaps the risk is not in making a film about an ongoing war, but rather in making a movie about a conflict in which there are not polarized views. The flow of information abetted by television and the Internet constantly updates Americans on the Iraq war, making almost every citizen informed enough to take a stance.
Made six years after the Vietnam War had ended, Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, a critique of America’s involvement in the war, was clearly aligned with the feelings of the public. While expert filmmaking and powerful acting contributed to the movie’s commercial success, its box office receipts were undoubtedly bolstered by the fact that Americans supported the movie’s underlying political commentary.
tagged apocalypse_now political_film war_film by briansg ...on 27-NOV-05