"Helps us to understand how Hollywood films shaped public consciousness about the past by constructing a very specific, ideologically charged version of that past. . . . A fresh and important contribution to film history and cultural studies."--Daniel Czitrom, Mount Holyoke College
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.Utilizing a carefully selected sample of over 100 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 difference sources. His analysis of the roles played by star personae, legal considerations, censorship practices, and the producers' own ideologies brings the world of biopic alive, even into the age of the made-for-TV movie.