Film, Media and Music

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Ian Mackillop and Neil Sinyard

Far from being cinematically backward, 1950s British film had dashes of imagination that outdid more famous or prestigious examples from the cinematic canon. In his contribution to this book, Dave Rolinson, particularly in his recovery of the neglected The Horse's Mouth, aptly draws attention to a sharper edge to 1950s British film comedy than is always acknowledged. British film of this period is not often credited with that kind of audacity or comic cheek. The comedy is often characterised as postcard or parochial, with the likeable but limited registers of, say, Henry Cornelius's Genevieve or Basil Dearden's The Smallest Show on Earth being typical of the range. Again a classic image from 1950s British cinema would be Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea, the epitome of quiet English integrity.

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Edited by: Ian Mackillop and Neil Sinyard

This book offers a startling re-evaluation of what has until now been seen as the most critically lacklustre period of the British film history. It includes fresh assessment of maverick directors; Pat Jackson, Robert Hamer and Joseph Losey, and even of a maverick critic Raymond Durgnat. The book features personal insights from those inidividually implicated in 1950s cinema; Corin Redgrave on Michael Redgrave, Isabel Quigly on film reviewing, and Bryony Dixon of the BFI on archiving and preservation. A classic image from 1950s British cinema would be Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea, the epitome of quiet English integrity. Raymond Durgnat's A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence, which deals extensively with British films of the 1950s, was written in the mid-1960s and was published in 1970. In a 1947 article called 'Angles of Approach' Lindsay Anderson delivered a fierce attack on contemporary British film culture, outlining a model for a devoted politics of creation, well in line with what we would later understand as auteurism and art cinema aesthetics . The war films of the 1950s together constitute the assented-to record of the emotions and moral judgments called upon to set in order those disorderly events. The book also talks about the Festival of Britain, White Corridors, and four Hamer's post-Ealing films: The Spider and the Fly, The Long Memory, Father Brown and The Scapegoat. A number of factors have contributed to the relative neglect of the 1950s as a decade in British cinema history.

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Boys, ballet and begonias

The Spanish Gardener and its analogues

Alison Platt

The Sixth Sense, an American film of 1999 from an Indian director, M. Night Shyamalan, with an all-American star, seems a very long way from British cinema of the 1950s. In The Sixth Sense there is an unashamed example of the sensitive relationship between males, adult and child, that figures as so strong a motif in British post-war cinema. This chapter focuses on Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol, Anthony Pélissier's The Rocking Horse Winner, Philip Leacock's The Spanish Gardener, Anthony Asquith's The Winslow Boy and The Browning Version, and Philip Leacock's The Kidnappers. The ancient sport of falconry and the primal experience of gardening feel like lessons in growth in that they contribute to a changing character, but in Billy Elliot ballet functions simply as entertainment for a toe-tapping audience.

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Isabel Quigly

Author's time in the film world spanned the crucial decade of change, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. A film critic would be expected to have years of experience, an education in the cinema, a knowledge far beyond the author had in those early days of ignorant enthusiasm. There was real excitement and pleasure over the best films, the surprises, the breakthroughs, the arrival of films from abroad, new trends, new expectations. With flagging attendances, cinemas closed all over the country; small towns no longer had them, so film going became more deliberate, more metropolitan, a treat. Film watching was no longer a communal experience, but something more intimate, whatever the original large subject. The American cinema continued to send us its daily diet, which, for all the developments in life and film-making, seemed more familiar than any other and still gave the screens a high percentage of their protein.

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The articulation of memory and desire

From Vietnam to the war in the Persian Gulf


John Storey

This chapter explores, within a context of culture and power, the complex relations between memory and desire. It links 1980s Hollywood representations of America's war in Vietnam with George Bush's campaign, in late 1990 and early 1991 to win support for US involvement in what became the Gulf War. The chapter argues that Hollywood produced a particular 'regime of truth' about America's war in Vietnam and that this body of 'knowledge' was 'articulated' by George Bush as an enabling 'memory' in the build up to the Gulf War. When, in the build up to the Gulf War, Bush had asked Americans to remember the Vietnam War, the memories recalled by many Americans would have been of a war they had lived cinematically; a war of bravery and betrayal. Hollywood's Vietnam had provided the materials to rehearse, elaborate, interpret and retell an increasingly dominant memory of America's war in Vietnam.

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Bryony Dixon

A number of factors have contributed to the relative neglect of the 1950s as a decade in British cinema history. A major reason for this neglect of the 1950s is that there has been no authoritative, dedicated history of the period of the Rachael Low type. The 1950s is a particularly fascinating decade for the film archivist. Technically speaking there was a lot going on: the end of the nitrate era, the development of wide-screen and novelty formats, the increasing use of colour, advances in sound recording technology, lighter more portable 16mm camera equipment and the coming of television. This chapter focuses on the holdings of the British Film Institute's National Film and TV Archive (NFTVA). The NFTVA has specialised on restoring Technicolor, including some classics of the 1950s: Gone to Earth, The Importance of Being Earnest, Oh, Rosalinda! and The Tales of Hoffman.

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Adaptable Terence Rattigan

Separate Tables, separate entities?

Dominic Shellard

This chapter explores the 'separate entities' that are Terence Rattigan's play and screenplay, by distinguishing the strength of the theatre Separate Tables, and by trying to locate the distinction and peculiarity of the film, which earned two Oscars in 1959. It shows how some interesting problems of censorship and homosexuality arose in Rattigan's time. The theatrical Separate Tables is a double-hander consisting of 'Table by the Window' and 'Table Number Seven'. 'Table Number Seven' is a play which represents a significant shift in Rattigan's dramaturgy. All Rattigan's success as writer in Separate Tables, the shift in the tectonic plates of British theatre after the Look Back in Anger watershed of 1956 swiftly cast him to the sidelines. The well-spring of Separate Tables is isolation from one's fellow human beings, and there are few plays that manage so effectively to convey the debilitating effects of loneliness.

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“Who’s the Nigger Now?”

Rhetoric and Identity in James Baldwin’s Revolution from Within

Davis W. Houck

Despite the proliferation of interest in James Baldwin across popular culture and the academy, few, if any, critical studies of his public oratory have been conducted. This is unfortunate and ironic—unfortunate because Baldwin was a marvelous orator, and ironic in that his preferred solution to what ailed whites and blacks as the Civil Rights movement unfolded was thoroughly rhetorical. That is, Baldwin’s racial rhetorical revolution involved a re-valuing of the historical evidence used to keep blacks enslaved both mentally and physically across countless generations. Moreover, for Baldwin the act of naming functions to chain both whites and blacks to a version of American history psychologically damaging to both. Three speeches that Baldwin delivered in 1963 amid the crucible of civil rights protest illustrate these claims.

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D.Quentin Miller

The acceleration of interest in Baldwin’s work and impact since 2010 shows no signs of diminishing. This resurgence has much to do with Baldwin—the richness and passionate intensity of his vision—and also something to do with the dedicated scholars who have pursued a variety of publication platforms to generate further interest in his work. The reach of Baldwin studies has grown outside the academy as well: Black Lives Matter demonstrations routinely feature quotations from Baldwin; Twitter includes a “Son of Baldwin” site; and Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, has received considerable critical and popular interest. The years 2010–13 were a key period in moving past the tired old formula—that praised his early career and denigrated the works he wrote after 1963—into the new formula—positing Baldwin as a misunderstood visionary, a wide-reaching artist, and a social critic whose value we are only now beginning to appreciate. I would highlight four additional prominent trends that emerged between 2010 and 2013: a consideration of Baldwin in the contexts of film, drama, and music; understandings of Baldwin globally; Baldwin’s criticism of American institutions; and analyses of Baldwin’s work in conversation with other authors.

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Dennis Ray Knight

If he is known for anything other than his writings, James Baldwin is best known for his work as a civil rights activist. What is often overlooked is Baldwin’s work toward uniting two under-represented and oppressed groups: African Americans and homosexuals. With his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Baldwin began a career of speaking about and for homosexuals and their relationship with the institutions of African-American communities. Through its focus on a sensitive, church-going teenager, Go Tell It on the Mountain dramatizes the strain imposed upon homosexual members of African-American communities within the Pentecostal Church through its religious beliefs.