This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book considers memory as a specific framework for the study of popular film, intervening in growing debates about the status and function of memory in cultural life and discourse. It examines the relationship between official and popular history and the constitution of memory narratives in and around the production and consumption of American cinema. The book explores the political stakes of cinematic discourse in its production of national memory. It also examines the discursive and institutional apparatus that has come to support the memory of Classic Hollywood in British cultural life. The book also considers both the presence of music and colour in nostalgia films of the 1990s and the impact of digital and video technologies on the representational determinants of mediated memory.
Writing in 1991, Michael Kammen stated that, 'For more than a decade, the connection between collective memory and national identity has been a matter of intense and widespread interest'. In 1923 the Yale University Press undertook production of a series of educational feature films, the Chronicles of America, intended to instruct the nation's populace in their country's glorious history. The Chronicles' way of making better citizens was to persuade them of the virtues of Englishness and whiteness. This chapter looks in detail at the Chronicles' representation of Native Americans, briefly delineating the contemporary political situation that may have motivated the negativity and contrasting it with Hollywood's more positive or at the very least ambivalent portrayal. The Puritans details the hardships encountered by some of the country's first white inhabitants: 'Privation and sorrow are the common lot during these early days in Massachusetts', declares an intertitle.