For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Motion Picture Biographies
The Hollywood Spin on Historical Figures
  • John Cones
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Motion Picture Biographies. The Hollywood Spin on Historical Figures
Sound Bite
Hollywood movies are famous for promoting negative stereotypes of all kinds, especially against minorities, women, Southerners, and Christians. To what extent are the biographical films selected for production according to certain biases, conscious or unconscious, among the Hollywood elite?

About the Author

John W. Cones is a practicing securities/ entertainment attorney, an active lecturer on film finance and related topics, and author of seven other books about the film industry.

Mr. Cones’ film-finance consulting encompasses the choice of film finance method as well as investment vehicles for raising investor funds, the advantages and disadvantages of securities versus non-securities offerings (passive investor versus active investor), federal and state securities law compliance, proper marketing of the offering, use of the Internet and expanding the pool of prospective investors for private placement offerings.

His experience extends as well to live stage plays, infomercials, television pilots, music projects and other business start-up and project financing needs. His producer client film finance offerings have successfully raised the investor financing to produce some 52 feature and documentary films.

Mr. Cones was based in Los Angeles for 23 years and is now in Austin.

About the Book
Moviegoers and history lovers know what a tremendous educational resource is being wasted (1) by the over-commercialization of the modern-day motion picture, and (2) by the continued control of this important communications medium in the hands of...
Moviegoers and history lovers know what a tremendous educational resource is being wasted (1) by the over-commercialization of the modern-day motion picture, and (2) by the continued control of this important communications medium in the hands of a narrow interest group who frequently use the film medium as their own private propaganda machine. Here, an attorney (author of seven other books about the film industry) gives example after example of the patterns of bias made evident in which films are produced and how certain types of people are consistently - and unfairly - portrayed.

One body of films that provides an excellent opportunity to explore the question of whether Hollywood movies exhibit certain patterns of bias is that entire body of work referred to as "biopics," (i.e., motion picture biographies). The Hollywood biopics are particularly suited for such a study, because there can be little pre-selection by a film industry observer as to which films are to be included in the research sample (i.e., the studio executives and filmmakers themselves have already decided which subjects they deemed worthy of a film biography). Thus, once these films are isolated, they can be examined to determine if there seems to be a Hollywood preference for certain types of people, (e.g., political liberals as opposed to conservatives, Europeans as opposed to people from other parts of the globe, recent immigrants to the U.S. versus those whose families have been in the U.S. for longer periods of time, people with a Jewish heritage as opposed to those who do not have a Jewish heritage, and so forth).


Introduction
Is Hollywood selectively portraying reality? Do the films that make it to our screen truly reflect the real world, and are the studios s imply making the movies that audiences want to see?

This work grew out of the observed frustration of film industry experts who have chosen to criticize specific Hollywood movies over the years, only to be...

Is Hollywood selectively portraying reality? Do the films that make it to our screen truly reflect the real world, and are the studios s imply making the movies that audiences want to see?

This work grew out of the observed frustration of film industry experts who have chosen to criticize specific Hollywood movies over the years, only to be rebuffed by the overly simplistic studio-executive arguments that moviegoers significantly influence the choices relating to which movies are made "by voting with their pocket books" at the theatre box office.

After all, if it can be shown that consistent patterns of bias exist in the choices Hollywood studio executives make with respect to the movies they produce and release, as well as in the specific content of those movies, and if that same bias is not reflected in our general population, the answer becomes obvious.

Mr. Cones demonstrates convincingly that moviegoers only have limited options among all of the possibilities that could be portrayed on the silver screen. The moviegoers themselves could not possibly have a meaningful impact on these executive-level motion picture choices, since they have never been given the freedom to choose from a comprehensive slate of possibilities.

. . .

This book builds upon the earlier work of George F. Custen, who in 1992 published a study of Hollywood biopics under the title Bio/Pics—How Hollywood Constructed Public History. Custen’s book clearly illustrated that a Hollywood slant on history is apparent from viewing that particular body of films. Custen’s study reviewed “291 biopics produced by the major studios and independent production companies during the period 1927–1960.” This work is a follow-up to the Custen study. It attempts to extend the time period covered by the study of motion picture biographies, to include more recent biopics (through the early ’90s) and to raise additional important questions not pursued (i.e., avoided) by Custen. This current study includes synopses or reviews for 443 such films released during the period from 1912 through 1994. As Custen points out, some "characteristics of the films . . . are available without a close viewing of the particular film." Of course, the flip side of that statement is that some characteristics of the biopics cannot be determined without viewing the films. Thus, since neither Custen's nor this study of Hollywood biopics can claim to have viewed each of the films in the study, these reports should not be considered the final word on this subject (i.e., there is room for more work to be done in this area). Specifically, it is not always clear as to whether a particular portrayal is positive or negative when merely reading reviews or synopses of films, although in most instances, that editorial slant can be ascertained. As noted above, brief synopses of Hollywood biopics produced and/or released during the years covered from 1912 through 1994, provide the basis for the discussion and analysis contained in this book. The more limited conclusions drawn by Custen and those based on the extended study are set forth, along with some comparative analysis of both.

Ultimately, the questions raised come down to: does this entire body of work (the biopics) show a Hollywood bias toward certain kinds of people in terms of the number of portrayals, who is portrayed and how?



Pages 202
Year: 2015
BISAC: ART / Film & Video
BISAC: POLITICAL SCIENCE / Propaganda
BISAC: PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / History & Criticism
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ISBN: 978-1-62894-114-2
Price: USD 21.95
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ISBN: 978-1-62894-115-9
Price: USD 31.95
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