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Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History (Studies) [Paperback]

George F. Custen


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Book Description

30 Nov 1992 Studies
Bio/Pics is the first comprehensive study of a once important film genre, the biographical film. Using previously unavailable archival materials from Twentieth Century-Fox, Warner Bros., MGM, and RKO studios, as well as censorship files from the Production Code Administration, George Custen argues that, through these films, Hollywood manufactured a nearly monochromatic view of history that was systematically distorted in regard to race, gender, nationality, and profession. Employing a carefully selected sample of over one hundred films produced during the studio era (1927-1960), Custen maintains that the biopic constructed a Hollywood code of history out of a tightly controlled reference system, glamorizing the producers' own personal visions of what constituted a great life. Custen's examination of production practices reveals that the machinery of public history operating through these films was fueled by different textual and intertextual sources; Hollywood's model of history was derived from recycled plots played out on its back lots and sound stages, and not from the world outside the studio walls. His analysis of the roles played by star personae, legal considerations, censorship practices, and the producers' own ideologies brings the world of the biopic alive, even into the age of the made-for-TV movie.


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About the Author

George F. Custen is associate professor of communications in the department of performing and creative arts at the City University of New York, The College of Staten Island.

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