Dame Olivia De Havilland's Suit Tossed

Ahhh fuck.

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Isn’t this how fake news starts…embellishing the historical record? Where does creative license begin and end? Discuss.

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Given how many people who thought the otherwise-delightful Shakespeare in Love was an accurate depiction of historical events, not much.

I feel like getting t-shirts made saying “I Believe Olivia”.

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I’ll say one thing: Her legacy will go on and on; but that Ryan Wutzhiznutz? Don’t think so.

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But to turn that on it’s head, where does the responsibility of the director/writer of a film to accurately portray history come in? On some level, this question of accuracy in films cuts both ways, regarding how we understand history. Of course, many people get their history from movies, but does that make it the film makers responsibility to maintain accuracy in a drama like this as opposed to an actual documentary, which is (supposed to be) about actual history/current events?

I don’t know…

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My personal Ockham’s Razor for this is the answer to the question: are all the real people portrayed in the film dead? If so, I am much more comfortable with any fabrications than if they are not. And if they are not, it’s fair they should be consulted.

Case in point: The King’s Speech. In that case, the Queen Mother was approached with the script, seeing as she was the only person left alive who was significantly involved and an adult when the events portrayed happened. Her response was that while on a scene by scene basis it wasn’t accurate, overall it told the story in a way she was comfortable with. Even so, she asked that the film not be made until after she had passed away, because it brought up too many painful memories. The film-makers agreed, and they made a wonderful film that they knew wouldn’t annoy any royalists – a win-win from a marketing and PR perspective.

In this case, the whole thing started because the film-makers didn’t give a shit that de Havilland was still alive.

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Exactly, and extremely well-put. It would’ve taken me forever to put that into my words. I like your words!

Gee, you think it’s because they’re…men? Or just thoughtless? Or a little of both? And I wouldn’t be surprised if they hadn’t known in the first place.

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We have to remember that Hollywood has a long tradition of presenting simplified, or downright fictional, stories as biographies.

A few examples:

I could go on.

I’m not saying this is right or good, but it can only be sadly expected.

But I feel bad Miss De Haviland lost her suit.

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I’m sort of the mind that films depicting events are basically at the beck and call of the most interesting thing on screen regardless of merit, and that the further it strays from accuracy the better - but that the “based on a true story” type bullshit they pull shouldn’t exist. I also think how much we rely on films for historical accuracy is also an indication how little accuracy we tend to require from our documentaries.

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Let’s see…many of these folks were alive at the time these films were conceived, as well as consulted. George M. Cohan was fine with Cagney’s dancing, but had trouble with other parts; Cole Porter LOVED being portrayed by Cary Grant. I’m not sure about the Keaton flick; and most certainly, Valentino, Caligula and Mozart couldn’t be asked for their opinions, much less their approval. But yeah, NFK.

I’m with Gadge on this one. (is it okay, @gadgetgirl, if I call you that, LOL?)

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And even documentaries can be shaded, depending on who’s making it. Isn’t there a Christian one about Jesus and dinosaurs? (I’m kidding, really. But it wouldn’t be too surprising if it existed.)

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Totally! I’ve never had a nickname before.

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Hmmmm…

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Is that Elia Kazan? I didn’t wanna mention him, but I did, in a way…he caved in during the Hollywood blacklistings.

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Yup, that’s him.

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Whoa - 16 hours ago! One-hundred-and-two years old, and yes richrichrich, but she could’ve just sat back and said “Oh well”.

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My mother-in-law had to deal with this very question when the Trumbo movie was being made.

Since she and her sister Nikola were both still alive and remembered their family’s blacklist experience quite vividly, screenwriter John McNamara and director Jay Roach sought their input on the script. I think Niki was a little starstruck by the whole thing, and particularly flattered that she was going to be portrayed by Elle Fanning and made into a pretty important character.

But Mitzi, my MIL and Niki’s kid sister, felt it was important to see that her father’s story was told accurately. A great many changes were made to the script based upon her notes, but most of them were pretty minor. What Mitzi found particularly galling were those moments that were pretty well historically documented that McNamara fictionalized unnecessarily. Like the House testimony of the Hollywood Ten. Everything that was said was recorded in the Congressional record, and the Ten (particularly Trumbo) were very eloquent men. Why would McNamara feel the urge to rewrite them rather than just edit them?

Being Trumbo’s daughter and having grown up in Hollywood, Mitzi knows very well the challenges of adapting the realities and unrealities and surrealities of life into a dramatic biopic. She knows the score. Some scenes (like those between Louis B. Mayer and Hedda Hopper) would need to be invented from whole cloth, since the characters in those scenes are long dead. Some have to be extrapolated, some edited, some embroidered. What annoyed Mitzi was just how much of Trumbo was unnecessarily altered from historical truth, when the truth was, if anything, both more powerful and more dramatically interesting. And that’s with a genuinely sympathetic (if not quite hagiographic) movie about her father, made by a near-worshipful writer and director.

All that said, she loved Bryan Cranston’s performance as Trumbo.

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This, to me, is the biggest problem with biopics, most especially if someone involved - and I don’t care if it was a star or a script girl - is still alive to say either, “Yes, that’s how it happened” or “No, it didn’t happen like that.” When will the makers of these films realize that some things don’t have to be dramatized to be interesting to even the lowest brow?

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Very true. And on this particular project, Roach and McNamara really wanted (they claimed) to get it right, and offered payment to Mitzi and Niki for their help and input. To her very great credit, Mitzi refused any payment from the outset, knowing that accepting any would be tantamount to endorsing the movie, like it was an “official” biography endorsed by the Trumbo family. When it became clear that several of her objections were being ignored (albeit extremely politely and gratefully), she was doubly glad she hadn’t taken anything. She and her sister were both interviewed extensively at the red carpet premiere, and she was quite gracious (she had nothing against Cranston or really even Roach, and didn’t want to really hurt the movie as such), but careful to say how though she appreciated the filmmakers’ reverence for her father, she wished they could have stuck a bit more to historical accuracy, since it wouldn’t have adversely or substantively altered the movie’s dramatic message at all.

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