In 1958 Michael Redgrave was appearing for the third and last time at Stratford-upon-Avon. The parts he played that year were Hamlet and Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing. The Mountebank's Tale was published by Heinemann, but is now a rarity, a collector's item. It is a tale of two actors, or rather an actor and his double. Joseph Charles is a supremely gifted, cultivated, classical actor in the Austrian theatre. Joseph Charles is preparing a light comedy whose plot relies on the presence of a pair of identical twins. This chapter focuses on three best films of 1950s: The Dam Busters, The Quiet American and The Browning Version. The film The Dam Busters was directed by Michael Anderson. The film The Quiet American was directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.
This chapter argues that the selectiveness and historical contingency of this remembered, memorialised past is increasingly dependent upon, and recycled within, audiovisual representations such as those found in popular film. It considers how 1990s Hollywood cinema has activated a selective, revised sense of the past, and how memory approaches to film history are able to analyse this. The chapter explores how popular cultural memory is drawn upon as an aesthetic and commercial strategy of Hollywood; that is, how the styles of the past provide a powerful means through which a film can be branded and marketed to audiences. It focuses on the use of music as a significant means through which memories of the past may be evoked in the present. Music is able to index popular memory and nostalgia in ways that are specific to the medium, and quite unlike visual forms.
Historical facts as we retrieve and interpret them are only one facet of the movie-made Movement. This chapter assesses what films made after the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s express about the failure of the Movement to sustain and be sustained in its challenges to inequality and racist injustice. It argues that popular cultural currency relies on invoking images present in the sedimented layers of civil rights preoccupations but that in the 1980s and 1990s movies also tap into 'structures of feeling'. Movie memories circulate among producers, directors, and audiences; an archival memory-store of civil rights iconography, or an 'arcade' of motifs, to borrow Walter Benjamin's terminology, finds space in the popular cultural imaginary that is contemporary cinema. Mississippi Burning was the first Hollywood blockbuster to focus on the Movement.
White Corridors, a hospital drama first shown in June 1951, belongs to the small class of fictional films that deny themselves a musical score. Even the brief passages that top and tail the film, heard over the initial credits and the final image, were added against the wish of its director, Pat Jackson. Jackson's first wartime assignment was a short film released in November 1940, Health in War, an early example of the type of documentary that takes the enforced changes of the time as the foundation for a better future. The achievement of White Corridors is to find both an appropriate topical subject in the National Health Service (NHS) and an absorbing way of dramatising it as a commercial project. White Corridors can be seen as an unofficial sequel both to Health in War and to the unrealised Beveridge film.
At the very end of Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg presents us with a screen-filling view of the Stars and Stripes. Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's wonderful inauguration of a small cinematic epoch of war films is, of course, A Matter of Life and Death. The war films of the 1950s together constitute the assented-to record of the emotions and moral judgments called upon to set in order those disorderly events. The 1950s films, with remarkable grace and celerity, dramatised and taught the same lessons within the family frame of the English at war. From the vantage point not only of the victors but of human emancipation at large, the retelling of the defeat of fascism makes for stories with plot, point, moral grip and a powerful ending. Its constituents are to be found in the English war films of the 1950s.
This chapter focuses on the agonistic dimension of contemporary technological changes as manifested in cinema. While its new technical and stylistic possibilities suggested an early potential to contribute to political or aesthetic innovation, cinema actually carried the burden of memory in modernity. The collapse of the cinematic into its postcinematic other symptomised by Oliver Stone's film parallels a more widely perceived decline of perspective and critical authority in postmodernity. The postcinematic effort to manage memory through denaturalised representation aims to ameliorate the traumas of subjective, familial and social life. The palpable dysfunctions of technologised memory in Atom Egoyan's work encourage suspicion in viewers towards the images and actions before them. Egoyan continuously contrasts an acculturated, technologised metropole with the residual attractions of an organic cultural identity.
The ethics and politics of memory in an age of mass culture
This chapter argues that the effects of capitalist commodification and mass culture are not exclusively privatising and therefore conservative; these forces have also opened up the potential for a progressive, even radical politics of memory: such a politics instrumentalises called 'prosthetic memory'. 'Prosthetic memories' are 'personal' memories, as they derive from engaged and experientially oriented encounters with the mass media's various technologies of memory. Perhaps more than in any other realm, the political potential of prosthetic memory has been explored in science fiction film. John Singleton's 1996 film Rosewood raises the question of whether white Children, and by extension, a white audience, can take on memories of racial oppression and in the process develop empathy for African Americans. Singleton uses cinematic identification to create the conditions under which audience members can take on prosthetic memories.
Film festivals and the revival of Classic Hollywood
This chapter explores the circulation of old Hollywood movies, especially, those produced between 1910 and 1960, at the London Film Festival during the years 1981-2001. In 1981, the London Film Festival's parent organisation, the British Film Institute, published Water Under the Bridge, a dossier on the history of the festival's first twenty-five years, from its founding in 1957 to that date. The chapter provides a means of revisiting and updating some of the information contained in that dossier. The Thames Silent Classics series established a useful baseline for examining the revival of classic Hollywood cinema at the London festival. In 1999, the festival screening of How Green Was My Valley was advertised as a 'chance to see another of the impeccable restorations of classic American films to come out of the Academy Film Archive in Beverly Hills'.
Raymond Durgnat's A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence, which deals extensively with British films of the 1950s, was written in the mid-1960s and was published in 1970. Durgnat is much less time-bound and his analysis of British cinema has proved remarkably prescient. A Mirror for England deals with topics such as national identity and the decline of empire, realism and romanticism, politics, class, masculinity, sexuality and social problems. Durgnat emerges, despite his enthusiasm for Terence Fisher's gothic horror films and the artistically extravagant work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, as a rationalist rather than a romantic. In the early 1960s auteurism provided a battering ram to shatter the hallowed portals of the critical establishment and Durgnat was intent on attacking the British Film Institute and its house journal Sight and Sound.
Ralph Thomas's A Tale of Two Cities of 1958 occupies a secure if modest place among that bunch of 1950s British releases based on novels by Charles Dickens, including Brian Desmond Hurst's Scrooge and Noel Langley's The Pickwick Papers. Ralph Thomas's film of A Tale of Two Cities was released in the tense atmosphere of the Cold War. The influence of A Tale of Two Cities on film-makers was clear and is very marked in D.W. Griffith's Orphans of the Storm of 1921. A Tale of Two Cities certainly has its weaknesses, including the notorious Dickensian melodrama, sentimentality and theatricality of dialogue. A Tale of Two Cities was filmed several times, in silent and talkie versions, and frequently serialised on BBC radio and television. Arthur Benjamin's opera A Tale of Two Cities was premièred in 1950 and broadcast by BBC television in 1958.