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Visions of the Maid

Joan of Arc in American Film and Culture

Robin Blaetz

Publication Year: 2001

Representations of Joan of Arc have been used in the United States for the past two hundred years, appearing in advertising, cartoons, popular song, art, criticism, and propaganda. The presence of the fifteenth-century French heroine in the cinema is particularly intriguing in relation to the role of women during wartime. Robin Blaetz argues that a mythic Joan of Arc was used during the First World War to cast a medieval glow over an unpopular war, but that she only appeared after the Second World War to encourage women to abandon their wartime jobs and return to the home.

In Visions of the Maid, Blaetz examines three pivotal films—Cecil B. DeMille's 1916 Joan the Woman, Victor Fleming's 1948 Joan of Arc, and Otto Preminger's 1957 Saint Joan—as well as addressing a broad array of popular culture references and every other film about the heroine made or distributed in the United States. Blaetz is particularly concerned with issues of gender and the ways in which Joan of Arc's androgyny, virginity, and sacrificial victimhood were evoked in relation to the evolving roles of women during war throughout the twentieth century.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Series: Cultural Frames, Framing Culture

Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-ix

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pp. xi-xvi

The story of Joan of Arc has fascinated writers and visual artists from the moment of the heroine’s death to this day. The medieval poet Christine de Pisan wrote her Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc in 1429, two years before Joan died, and 1999 saw two new English-language films about Joan, shown both in theaters...

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pp. xvii

The following people, archives, and institutions made the research for my work possible: Marie-Véronique Clin and the Centre Jeanne d’Arc in Orléans; the Boston Public Library; Matt Severson and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles; the Cinémathèque Suisse; the British Film...

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pp. 1-11

The crux of the story of Joan of Arc is embodied in her allegiance to her visions of Saints Catherine, Margaret, and Michael. Joan claimed that she visualized and communicated with her saints for five years before she persuaded the dauphin of France to give her control over his army in 1429. While Joan...

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1. Joan of Arc in America, 1911–1920

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pp. 13-46

In the earliest years of the twentieth century, the widespread tendency to find advantage by associating one’s agenda with Joan of Arc coincided with both the First World War and the birth of the mass-produced image. The years before and during the First World War were marked by the rise of consumerism, in which...

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2. “Joan of Arc Saved France, Women of America Save Your Country”: Cecil B. DeMille’s Joan the Woman, 1916

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pp. 47-64

The decade that began just before the First World War and ended with the events surrounding Joan’s canonization in 1920 was filled with images of Joan of Arc. Out of the numerous texts and images that appeared in the United States in particular, two essays in magazines that were popular in 1911 suggest...

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3. The Demise of Joan of Arc

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pp. 65-80

One of the more unusual Joan of Arc documents born of the First World War is a short, quirky book that was apparently self-published in 1926 by one William Paul Yancey titled The Soldier Virgin of France: A Message of World Peace by a Soldier of the A.E.F. Yancey’s conclusion that Joan of Arc’s highest accomplishment...

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4. Joan of Arc between the Wars

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pp. 81-94

The propaganda images of strong, competent women that had been used for recruitment during the First World War had largely disappeared by 1920. The freedom of the New Woman, embodied by Clara Bow, known as the “It” girl, who starred in Wings, or by Joan of Arc herself, had been more a media...

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5. The War Years: Between Us Girls, Joan of Paris, and Joan of Ozark

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pp. 95-117

The heightened technological sophistication and the larger scale of the Second World War guaranteed that a medieval icon such as Joan of Arc would have to undergo a major transformation in order to serve as a tool of propaganda. After the First World War, Americans had become comfortable with technology and come...

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6. The Return of the Maid: The Miracle of the Bells and Joan of Arc

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pp. 118-139

In 1948 the first major studio film about Joan of Arc was made in the United States since the release of Cecil B. DeMille’s Joan the Woman in 1916. When Victor Fleming started production on Joan of Arc for Sierra Pictures, he was in competition with the Joan of Arc projects that Variety reported to have been...

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7. Looking for Joan of Arc: Hedy Lamarr in The Story of Mankind and Jean Seberg in Saint Joan

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pp. 140-168

It is impossible to know whether images of Joan of Arc helped in any way to return women to their homes after the Second World War by making them feel heroic about sacrificing their independence. But it is clear that many women did quit their jobs. Historians, particularly those working with...

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8. Conclusions

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pp. 169-182

Otto Preminger’s Saint Joan of 1957 was the last feature film about Joan of Arc made in the United States in the twentieth century. In view of the part Joan of Arc has played in the discourse of women and war throughout the century, the question arises: How does she figure in the Vietnam War? The closest...

Appendix: Visions of the Maid, 1429–1895

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pp. 183-205


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pp. 207-229


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pp. 231-248


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pp. 249-261

Index of Films

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pp. 263-265

Index of Subjects and Names

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pp. 266-279

E-ISBN-13: 9780813921952
E-ISBN-10: 0813921953
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813920757
Print-ISBN-10: 0813920752

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 34 b&w illus. (34 redacted)
Publication Year: 2001

Series Title: Cultural Frames, Framing Culture

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Culture in motion pictures.
  • Joan, -- of Arc, Saint, 1412-1431 -- In motion pictures.
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