Released six years after Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture Oscar, Stage Beauty (Eyre, 2004) portrays Shakespearean performance history at the point in the Restoration when female impersonators were replaced by actresses on the English stage. Given the similarities between the two films, it comes as no surprise to find that the press response to Stage Beauty made frequent comparisons, describing it as: ‘bitchy half-sister to Shakespeare in Love’; ‘Shakespeare in Love II’; and ‘Shakespeare in Love for transvestites’. Those involved in making Stage Beauty were keen to differentiate its cinematic qualities. The film was adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from his stage play Compleat Female Stage Beauty, and directed by Richard Eyre, a former artistic director of the National Theatre. This chapter examines the textual features that mark this film out as a serious-minded depiction of theatrical heritage and gender play, along with the reception discourses that the film stimulated. It also considers possible barriers to cultural engagement with Shakespeare as manifested in ‘art cinema’ with reference to audience research.
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.