How the Entertainment Industry Distorts History
How the Entertainment Industry Distorts History

How the Entertainment Industry Distorts History

Larry Holzwarth - December 26, 2019

How the Entertainment Industry Distorts History
An Allentown, Pennsylvania advertisement for the film Mrs. Miniver. Wikimedia

24. Distortions of history are more likely to be encountered in films than historical facts

The film industry in the United States relies on a simple belief. History is a little-known discipline among their general audiences, and what is known is already largely incorrect. This allows liberties to be taken with historical characters. Thanks to the film Amadeus, Mozart became known as a vulgar and dissipated lout. The historical record says otherwise. U-571 depicted Americans capturing an Enigma machine during World War II. It never happened. The British broke the Enigma codes, using captured materials and information provided by Polish Intelligence.

Several educational sites recommend movies to be shown in high school history classes, even while noting that the films are often historically inaccurate. Among them are Mrs. Miniver, which was made as a piece of British war propaganda; A Man for All Seasons, which presents Thomas More in a wholly inaccurate manner; and Casablanca, which is completely fictional from beginning to end. Too often, distortions of history which began in the minds of filmmakers are reinforced in history classes, becoming the history which is known by the public.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Richard III” Charles Ross. 1981

“Parson Weems” Article, George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Online

“The Real Story of Revere’s Ride”. Article, The Paul Revere House. Online

“The Liberty Boys of ‘76”. Online Book Page, University of Pennsylvania. Online

“The Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book”. Randolph J. Cox. 2000

“The Great Train Robbery”. Article, AMC Filmsite. Online

“The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History”. Gary W. Gallagher, Alan T. Nolan. 2000

“The Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s”. Article, The American Experience. Online

“The final frontier”. Jonathan Jones, The Guardian. June 17, 2002

“Yes, Gone with the Wind is another Neo-Confederate Monument”. Ed Kilgore, New York Intelligencer. August 30, 2017

“Can Movies Teach History?” Richard Bernstein, The New York Times. November 26, 1989

“Television Westerns: Six Decades of Sagebrush Sheriffs, Scalawags, and Sidewinders. Alvin H. Marill. 2011

“Lincoln at the Movies”. Louis P. Masur, The Chronicle of Higher Education. November 26, 2012

“Greed, slavery, and Davy Crockett: The truth about Texas history”. Staff, Dallas Morning News. May 17, 2012

“Roots of the problem: the controversial history of Alex Haley’s book”. John Dugdale, The Guardian. February 9, 2017

“Blighs vs Christians, the 209-year feud”. Tim Minogue, The Independent. October 23, 2011

“Film can have a leading role in education”. Harriet Swain, The Guardian. November 19, 2013