Saturday, November 08, 2014

Let George Do It

Nothing like old movies to make you see how basic assumptions have changed.   To pick one out of countless examples, I recently watched the 1929 film Disraeli, a highly-regarded film in its day from Warner Brothers.  It won lead George Arliss the Oscar.

It was based on a hit play seen on Broadway in 1911, starring Arliss.  He toured in it for years and then made a silent version in 1921. The plot centers on British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, in particular his attempts to purchase the Suez Canal.

In general, Disraeli is a fighter for the British Empire who has to take on opponents like William Gladstone.  By the end, however, Disraeli has triumphed and the Canal is Britain's, meaning they can now control India. Hooray!

The funny thing is today while no one would think of making an explicitly pro-empire movie, millions love Downton Abbey.  Sure, Lord Grantham is often shown to be behind the times, but viewers can't get enough of the era when everyone knew their place--the vast majority with lives of unending drudgery so a lucky few could dress for dinner.


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