How Hollywood manipulates history through costume

Condon, Suzanne (2007) How Hollywood manipulates history through costume. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Abstract

    The inspiration for this dissertation came from an Edward Maeder (1987, pp.43-51) essay that discussed how costume in period film is subjective to the era in which the film was made. Maeder highlighted three twentieth century Hollywood film versions of Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt's life. The essay was brief and I decided it could be expanded on. It contained little grounding in historical fact and so I decided this was an area that could be developed. Furthermore I wondered if remakes of historical films would be influenced by the earlier versions. Firstly it is necessary for me to research the costumes that Cleopatra would have worn. This is done through studying literature on the history of costume, art and sculpture from ancient Egypt and other existing artefacts such as coins. To get a complete image of Cleopatra some background information of her life is needed. This I draw from historical texts but also from the early artistic interpretations of her life such as that of the fourteenth century Italian poet Boccacio. This information sets the basis for my assessment of the Hollywood interpretations. I conduct my own textual analysis of the films in question but also research the production history and the lives of women who played Cleopatra. This latter part reveals why the authenticity may have been compromised. It was also essential to establish the dynamics of the society that brought about the remake and how it may have affected the end film. How the films interact with each other becomes clear in the study of the costume design. My personal take on what I have learned has led me to the conclusion that in Hollywood's historical costuming, analysing how a costume is wrong naturally progresses to the question of why a costume is wrong. The costume design is driven by spectacle and the appeal of the leading star. The narrative of the film is manipulated to fit the star rather than the reverse. Hollywood is an industry and it plays to its consumers who obsess over their favourite stars.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries > School of Media and Performing Arts
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2011 12:47
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:13
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/298

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