The American War Film: History and Hollywood (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 2, 2003
- pp. 87-88
- Additional Information
Book Reviews | Regular Feature former novel's central question as follows: "what will happen if the intellectuals and captains ofindustry fail to subdue labor, and how can the necessary subduing be achieved?" (11). In actuality, the text addresses a rather different concern, namely the widening gulfbetween the ruling class and the workers , which Wells feared would lead to humanity's eventual degeneration . He called not for labor's subduing but rather for the reintegration of society's two diverging classes. Smith's understanding of The Island ofDr. Moreau has clearly been influenced by Leon Stover's highly problematic reading of the novel. This would be fine if Smith clearly signaled that the interpretation he had adopted was a contested one not widely embraced by scholars . However, he neither cites Stover nor mentions his critics, leaving a reader unfamiliar with the novel to assume that this idiosyncratic (to put it kindly) analysis represents a generally accepted view of the text. The book also suffers from a lack of careful proofreading. Most of the errors are mechanical, consisting of missing or misplaced punctuation or erroneous word choice (e.g., using "alludes" for "eludes," "pray" for "prey," "credulous" for "incredulous"). Smith mistakenly has Claude Rains alluding to President Truman in a pressbook interview for the 1933 version of The Invisible Man (67). There are also confusing mix-ups concerning names, both of characters (49) and real people (108). Somewhat more seriously, Smith contradicts himselfat times. For instance, he notes that people may assume the "panther woman" who appears in the films based on The Island ofDr. Moreau "was part of the original source. She was not" (28). Only twelve pages later he comments, "both the novel and the 1933 film adaptation had to have a panther woman" (40). Errors like these (found throughout the book) matter little in their own right. However, their cumulative effect is to call into question the reliability of other information Smith offers, such as the extensive production details, which represent one ofthe book's greatest strengths. The accuracy problem is exacerbated by the absence of citations for any of the quotes, interpretations, or facts mentioned in the book. Some of Smith's most interesting material comes from the films' pressbooks and other publicity, but his otherwise helpful annotated bibliography includes no references for these fascinating sources. Overall, Smith's book is a fine reference work that conveniently brings together information on all of the film adaptations of Wells' stories, with fascinating production notes and nice plot summaries. Scholars and students interested in Wells' profound influence on twentieth-century popular culture, the history of horror and science fiction films, or the strange route by which literary works make it to the screen will find it worth looking at. Elun Gabriel Saint Lawrence University email@example.com Frank McAdams. The American War Film: History and Hollywood. Praeger Publishers, 2002. 352 pages; $74.95. Thousands of Movies Frank McAdams, an adjunct professor in the USC Cinema/ TV Department and screenwriting instructor at UCLA, as well as an award-winning Hollywood screenwriter, also fancies himself an expert with regards to Hollywood's portrayal of war on film. The reader is immediately made aware of the magnitude of McAdams' lengthy labor ofhubris viathe frequent author/insider name dropping, idiosyncratic background factoids—the well known gory details of actress Carole Lombard's fatal air crash during a WWII bond selling tour, to name only one—and, most amazingly, the complete absence of any coherent definition of the genre that the author has chosen to engage. One cannot fault Mr. McAdams for attempting to write a work that encompasses the thousands of movies that represent theAmerican film industry's century long effort at portraying war on celluloid. So far, this reviewer is aware of only one individual who has come close to scaling this Pike's Peak in film history scholarship—Dr. Larry Suid—whose seminal Guts & Glory was first published in 1978 and whose revised and extensively expanded edition of his classic appeared in 2002 (University Press of Kentucky). Needless to say, assuming he was even aware of the original publication, Mr. McAdams did not deem Suids' book worthy of inclusion in his bibliography...