British landscapes in pre-Second World War film publicity
in British rural landscapes on film
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A romanticised concept of pastoral life was widely established in British culture by the start of the twentieth century, having been popularised by, amongst others, the pre-Raphaelites as an ‘idealised medieval vision’ (Lowenthal 1991) since the late 1800s, and used as shorthand for the essence of the British national character. This conflation of land and identity became integral to the message disseminated by the rapid increase in film publicity in the wake of the 1909 Cinematograph Films Act, as distributors had to convince a far larger audience than ever before of the connection it shared with the characters viewed on screen. Using sources ranging from the trade press through to fanzines and production company pressbooks, I show how this advertising presented rural landscapes as ‘authentic’, and how firstly, female characters of the 1920s embodied the homely, reassuring aspects of rural life, to be followed by a more rugged, untamed landscape that was embodied by male characters throughout the late 1930s. Ultimately, both representations would feed into the notion of ‘realism’ that would become a defining quality of British cinema, and these publicity materials were integral to the development of this myth.

Editor: Paul Newland

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