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Old 04-23-2010, 11:15 AM
 
Location: Chicago, IL
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Default Hollywood vs. Civil War

I want to know was the Civil War (1861-1865) and other battles of the 19th century similar to Hollywood versions that portrayed in movies and television shows. I have been reading that more Civil War soldiers died from disease than battle wounds.
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Old 04-23-2010, 12:40 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Ask jtur, he's the only one here old enough to have seen the war and seen the films.
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Old 04-23-2010, 01:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grasshopper_60619 View Post
I want to know was the Civil War (1861-1865) and other battles of the 19th century similar to Hollywood versions that portrayed in movies and television shows. I have been reading that more Civil War soldiers died from disease than battle wounds.
More soldiers did indeed die from disease that battlefield wounds. As to Hollywood's treatment of the Civil War, that's another story.
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Old 04-23-2010, 01:31 PM
 
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Hollywood is about entertainment not history. Few of the scriptwriters actually know, or care about the history. There have been few films about battles in the civil war, although occassionally battles figure briefly into movies. The documentary (formally a film) of Gettysburg was accurate if terribly boring.
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Old 04-27-2010, 07:55 PM
 
Location: Austin, Texas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noetsi View Post
Hollywood is about entertainment not history. Few of the scriptwriters actually know, or care about the history. There have been few films about battles in the civil war, although occassionally battles figure briefly into movies. The documentary (formally a film) of Gettysburg was accurate if terribly boring.
"Glory" was also a damn good Civil War flick that was steeped in facts. Most of it was based on actual letters from Colonel Robert Shaw, who was the Commanding Officer of the Massachusetts 154th--the 1st company to utilize black soldrs for combat. He was played brilliantly in the movie by Matthew Broderick.
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:14 PM
 
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Glory was a very unusual movie, however. Most are very different. I don't think incidently that Shaw had to (or could have) blackmailed the Union army to send the 154th into battle.
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Old 04-28-2010, 06:41 AM
 
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The battle scenes have been getting more realistic in recent days as technology improves the special effects. They have the gist of it down. But Hollywood still has to give in to dramatic license. For example:
1.) Up to 100,000 or more combatants would be involved in a larger battle. Those were spread over dozens of square miles but still Hollywood has trouble capturing the grandeur of those many troops closed together without elaborate CGI effects. And thus most of the battle scenses are purposely tight shots. Look for the early 70's film "Waterloo" for a film that got it right, using literally tens of thousands of russian extras. "Gettysburg" tried, but see #2.
2.) People, soldiers in particular, of those times were smaller and thinner. Now films like "Gettysburg" used thousands of extras from the ranks of the hobbiest reanactors. Thus you got thousands of middle aged pot-bellied soldiers. In reality, the average confederate soldier was about 5'5" and about 130 pounds. The union only slightly heavier.
3.) Hollywood loves the dramatic bayonet charges. In reality the bayonet was rarely used. Charges occured, but usually one side would give before they got into hand to hand range.
4.) Smoke - smoke from muskets, smoke from cannon. Obviously Hollywood can't cover the drama of battle with all this smoke, so you never see as much smoke as occured in real battles. In reality, unless there was a good wind, smoke was so thick that you couldn't see a person 20 feet from you.
5.) I have yet to see cannon fire accurately represented. "Glory" showed a head taken off by solid shot, that was pretty accurate. Usually Hollywood shows one of those special effect pots blow up in the ground and a few people bounce away. Not accurate at all. I would like to see the carnage of cannister shot portrayed, which obviously would require some elaborate and gory special effects, and also instantly classify a movie as "R" for gore.
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Old 04-28-2010, 09:38 AM
 
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The point is that Hollywood wants to make movies people want to see, not history. So cannons blowing people's head off, boring films that are accurate, and the like won't be in their films. And they will distort reality, as with bayonet charges to make them more interesting.

Its about bringing people into the theater not making history. Gettysburg is a good example of a film that tried to be accurate and was so boring I have a hard time watching it. And most are going to be less interested in history than I (or posters on this forum of course).
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Old 04-29-2010, 03:15 PM
 
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PS- It isn't like Hollywood has made a lot of Civil War movies, damned few in my opinion.
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Old 04-29-2010, 04:52 PM
 
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It has made a fair number in which the Civil War played a role. Many of these were made in the fifties and forgotten. One theme included Westerns. For example "Rebellion at Fort Laramie" over the impact of the Civil War on a Western garrison, or the film Cooper made in which he pretends to be a union traitor to find confederates seeking to steal union Mustang herds. Another film traces a group of Texans who join the Confederates till shortly after Shiloh (it does the near impossible in making Bragg appear human). I have forgotten both titles.

Many revolving around Jesse James or other outlaws (like the Outlaw Josie Wells) have the civil war central to their character's motivation. How the West Was Won also featured it as key if subsidary element. The Good the Bad and the Ugly is built into the Civil War and has a Union prison camp and a (fictional) Western battle as important features.

Some other examples:

Cold Mountain
Dances with Wolves
Dark Command
Gone with the Wind
The Horse Soldiers
Major Dundee
The Red Badge of Courage
Shenandoah
They Died with their Boots on
Two Flags West
The Undefeated

I have seen a variety of others but don't remember the titles.
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