Film, Media and Music

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I've Got a Testimony

James Baldwin and the Broken Silences of Black Queer Men

McKinley E Melton

James Baldwin writes within and against the testimonial tradition emerging from the Black Church, challenging the institution’s refusal to acknowledge the voices and experiences of black queer men. Baldwin’s autobiographical novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, creates a space for Baldwin’s testimony to be expressed, and also lays the foundation for a tradition of black queer artists to follow. In the contemporary moment, poet Danez Smith inhabits Baldwin’s legacy, offering continuing critiques of the rigidity of conservative Christian ideologies, while publishing and performing poetry that gives voice to their own experiences, and those of the black queer community at large. These testimonies ultimately function as a means of rhetorical resistance, which not only articulates black queer lives and identities, but affirms them.  

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When words fail

The King’s Speech as melodrama

Nicola Rehling

The King's Speech is paradigmatic of the contemporary trend of representing the British monarchy through melodrama, a mode the traditionally sides with the powerless. ' Bertie' (George VI) is a melodramatic figure whose integrity is underscored, in Linda Williams' phrase, by 'the literal suffering of an agonized body'. His speech impediment literalizes the psychic wounds caused by both the demands of royalty and his austere father in this Oedipal melodrama. Like his familiar nickname, his stammering renders him identifiable, despite his selfconfessed ignorance ofhis common subj ects. Melodrama, in Peter Brooks' influential formulation, offers moral legibility in a post-sacred era, but only in individualized terms. Bertie's hysterical symptoms confirm his virtue and that of the monarchy as institution via a relentless focus on the private realm, with the spectre of class antagonisms and republican protests evoked only to be dismissed. Bertie's stammering speaks the burden of royalty, while also providing a vehicle for exploring the in the wake of the new mass media. His final broadcast unites the nation, reinvigorating the national body ailing from his brother's abdication, triumphantly readying it for war.

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James Downs

Anton Walbrook played Prince Albert in both Victoria the Great ( 1937) - which coincided with George VI's coronation and the centenary of Queen Victoria's accession - and its sequel, Sixty Glorious Years (1938). Austrianborn Walbrook came to Britain specifically for this role, following a successful continental career as Adolf Wohlbrück. His Gennan films included musical comedies such as Walzerkrieg (1933) in which Hanna Waag played Queen Victoria very differently from Anna Neagle. This chapter will examine portrayals of British royalty in his films, linking them with Walbrook's life and the wider historical context. It will be argued that these portrayals of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were influenced by Anglo-Gennan politics, and comparisons will be made to films by Walbrook's fonner colleagues, such as Ohm Kruger (1941) and Mary Queen of Scots, the Heart of a Queen (1940). The paper will draw attention to the waltz imagery that recurs in all three Victoria films, linking it to the actor's Viennese roots and showing how Prince Albert's journey from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor became intertwined with Wohlbrück's transfonnation into Walbrook.

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Basil Glynn

The Tudors (2007-2010) is a new type of heritage product - the internationally produced and consumed television costume drama- that has recently become an established global alternative to those of the BBC. Drawing on historical fact and previous cinematic and television portrayals of Henry VIII, it also owes its existence to non-British influences such as American and Canadian production companies. It features an international cast and was filmed in Ireland with an Irish actor as the English king. Unlike traditional British historical and heritage cinema, The Tudors does not represent the greatness of a national past through location shooting of castles and cathedrals. Instead, the world its characters occupy is often conjured from computer generated images, suggesting less the past depicted than the technology used to depict it. And rather than dealing in national concerns, its hybridized form and content lead it away from specific characteristics to international notions of British masculinity and nationhood. Via these means, Henry VIII, like Spartacus and the Borgias, joins the historical superheroes of the new multi-channel universe.

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Television’s royal family

Continuity and change

Erin Bell and Ann Gray

Focuses on the ways in which two British broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4, handled coverage of the monarchy during a particularly sensitive period for the Windsor family of ageing and generational change. These events culminated in the commemoration of Queen Elizabeth’s sixtieth year on the throne, the speculation surrounding Prince Charles as the oldest heir apparent in British history, the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton and the birth of their son, George, now third in line to the throne. What various examples of this television coverage reveal are the delicate negotiations necessary on the part of the broadcasters in dealing with the continuity of the monarchy, traditional symbol of the stability of the nation and the inevitability of change.

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Sixty Years a Queen (1913)

A lost epic of the reign of Victoria

Jude Cowan Montague

Before the First World War, two pioneers of the British film industry, WG Barker (Ealing Studios) and GB Samuelson, injected an unprecedented level of investment into a feature length docudrama on the life and times of Queen Victoria. Apart from a small fragment the film is lost, but a luxury souvenir book containing production stills survives. Sixty Years a Queen was released at the end of 1913 and toured the UK in the early part of 1914, to tremendous box office success. A majestic piece of national cinema, it was perfect for the point in the British market when the new purpose built picture palaces were opening all around the UK. Yet its legacy has dwindled to a footnote in histories of the feature film. Using production stills and information from trade magazines to recreate its construction, this chapter looks at tableaux from the film and discusses its debt to Victorian media, particularly the illustrated news. It will reveal Sixty Years a Queen as the most lavish example of a British film on a national theme before the First World War, the creation of an optimistic, forward thinking industry and an emotionally memorable experience for those in its audience.

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Renewing imperial ties

The Queen in Australia

Jane Landman

Hailed on its reception as an ' indication to the world of the unity of the peoples of the Commonwealth,' The Queen in Australia (1954) conjoined documentary film and Cold War politics with the Queen herself to represent the 1953-54 Royal Tour of the Pacific. Reports of the time exhausted superlatives to convey the tour's magnificence and the cheering crowds' celebration as they assembled in remarkable numbers across the seventy days of Australia's 'royal summer'. Its producer Stanley Hawes, a veteran of the British Documentary Movement, celebrated the renewal of bonds of imperial loyalty, stitching disparate territories of the Commonwealth into the fabric of a unified 'free world '. The film put public communication patterns of influence and alliance to the complex task of 'rebranding' and repositioning imperial relations after World War Two, a period when white racism was exposed to some measure of global scrutiny. Drawing on the extensive archive of correspondence between key Movement figures, this chapter examines the film's reordering of Australian racial relations and explores some of the costs of the Queen's managed encounters with Aboriginal peoples, Torres Strait Islanders and delegations brought from Papua and New Guinea.

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The regal catwalk

Royal weddings and the media promotion of British fashion

Jo Stephenson

On the March 9, 2012 lTV morning television show Daybreak, British fashion expert Caryn Franklin said of the Duchess of Cambridge: 'she certainly does generate an enormous amount of money for the fashion industry. Anything she wears sells out instantly and certainly some of her favourite high street designers have posted record profits.' This chapter will look at the British screen media's promotion of the nation's fashion industry at home and abroad through its coverage of royal weddings. The 2011 marriage of Catherine Middleton and Prince William is its central subject, as a significant platform for the global promotion of British designers, both in the live BBC coverage of the event and the souvenir DVD highlights presenting an edited version with retrospective commentary. This will be compared to archive footage of British royal weddings across the 20111 century in Pathe newsreels, with references to other texts such as magazine articles and souvenir programmes, as well as the screen media coverage of other royal events.

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Queens and queenliness

Quentin Crisp as Orlando’s Elizabeth I

Glyn Davis

In 1992, Quentin Crisp appeared on cinema screens as Elizabeth I in Sally Potter's Orlando; the following year, he provided the 'Alternative Queen's Message' on Channel 4 television on Christmas Day, going head-to-head with Elizabeth II. This chapter will revisit this cultural moment, examining the significance of Crisp's perfonnances of 'queenliness'. The late 1980s/early 1990s heralded a shift away from the lesbian and gay politics of the 1970s and '80s towards a more confrontational queer activism. Orlando can be seen as an example of early queer cinema, given its play with gender and sexuality, and Potter's casting of Tilda Swinton (a regular collaborator of Derek Jannan). Other queer films of the time also unsettle and complicate particular moments in history, and equally employ a pointedly artificial mise-en-scene (Jannan's Edward II, Julien's Looking for Langston, Kalin's Swoon). How does Crisp's appearance - as an embodiment of the flaming, camp homosexual - complicate the film's politics of sexuality? Does it articulate a political ' clearing of the ground', with an older gay culture (Elizabeth) giving way to a fresh queer one (Orlando)? This chapter will consider the film as a provocative transition between particular forms of cultural production - bound up with changing attitudes towards the monarchy itself.

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The Queen on the big screen(s)

Outdoor screens and public congregations

Ruth Adams

Although the 1953 Coronation is remembered as a watershed in British television, 3,000 people paid to watch it on a cinema screen at the Royal Festival Hall. At that time cinema was still the dominant news medium, many people did not have access to television, and screens were small and picture quality indifferent. However, even in the current era of media fidelity, diversity and ubiquity, the viewing of royal events on big screens adjacent to the ' real' action has not lost its appeal - quite the contrary. An estimated one million people watched the Golden Jubilee concert on screens in the Mall, 90,000 watched the wedding ofWi11iam and Kate in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square, while many of the millions who lined the River Thames for the Diamond Jubilee Pageant watched the event on the 50 screens along the route. What motivates people to travel to view the action on screens rather than at home? How should we understand such events and the experiences they produce? Are they mediated, or auratic? Are they a means, as Scott Mcquire suggests, of compensating for the fragmentation of community and audience? Are royal events on public screens qualitatively different to sporting or political events transmitted in a similar fashion? Does the content determine the nature of this spectatorship?