History of the World According to the Movies: Part 75 – The Post-War World

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Nowhere Boy is a 2009 film that tells the story of John Lennon’s early life in Liverpool from his broken childhood, his relationships with his mother and aunt, and his friendships with Paul McCartney and George Harrison who’d later help form the Beatles in the 1960s. Sure it does have its share of artistic license but it does ring true.

While Post-WWII America is covered a lot in movies, there are a lot of other things that happened in the world as well. Of course, you have the Cold War with Josef Stalin setting up his Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe (but I’ll get to it later) as well as the spread of Communism to China and parts of Asia like Vietnam. Since World War II basically cost a lot for countries like Britain and France and other colonial nations, they started granting their colonies independence such as India, Iceland, Indonesia, Burma, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, and The Philippines. Let’s just say the Post-War Era would see surge in geographical media since the political boundaries were changing. Some countries would part on more peaceful terms than others with British willing to grant independence to India and Pakistan with barely any fuss while Algeria and Vietnam basically had to fight France. You have the rebuilding of war zones under the Marshall Plan but Hollywood doesn’t pay attention to that since many Europeans don’t remember the late 1940s fondly since it involved being occupied, having to return to rubble or other hardships. In the early 1950s, you have the Korean War in which North Korea under Kim Il Sung launched an invasion on South Korea. With the help of UN forces, South Korea managed to retain independence while other countries were able to get out with an armistice in 1953, neither side really won. Nevertheless, while there are some movies made in this time, they do have their share of errors which I shall list.

Great Britain:

The Quarrymen:

John Lennon was taller than Paul McCartney when they were teenagers. (Actually they were about the same height. Yet, the real Paul McCartney didn’t like his portrayal in Nowhere Boy since the actor playing him was substantially shorter than the one playing John Lennon telling the Telegraph “Put John in a trench! Or put me in platforms!” However, the kid did look a bit younger, which is okay since Paul was about two years younger than John and it would’ve been very difficult to find a taller actor to pass for 14 {which was how old Paul was when he met John}. George Harrison was a year younger than Paul.)

John Lennon’s Uncle George died in front of him. (Contrary to Nowhere Boy, John’s uncle died when he was away.)

John Lennon and his Aunt Mimi didn’t get along. (While Nowhere Boy depicts John Lennon’s aunt as a total bitch, Mimi was a kind woman and obviously loved John. Heck, she raised him and gave him a stable home but Mimi never cut John’s contact with his mom. He’d also try to call her every day for the rest of their lives. Then again, John was said by many people who knew him as a rude and difficult person.)

Paul McCartney was right handed. (He was left-handed for he played guitars upside down during his teenage years {especially if they weren’t his}. Nowhere Boy doesn’t contain such scene.)

“In Spite of All The Danger” was recorded after John Lennon’s mother died. (Contrary to Nowhere Boy, it was recorded three days before.)

John Lennon received his first guitar from his Aunt Mimi. (He received it from his mother for his birthday I think.)

John Lennon punched Paul McCartney in the face at his mother’s funeral. (Paul McCartney claims this didn’t happen, though it’s depicted in Nowhere Boy. Yet, John was devastated of his mother’s death like that.)

John Lennon had blue eyes. (He had brown but the actor playing him in Nowhere Boy does. The only Beatles member not to have brown eyes was Ringo.)

Paul McCartney first saw John Lennon, when the latter played “Maggie Mae.” (The song was “Come and Go with Me.”)

Colin Clark:

Colin Clark was starstruck when he saw Marilyn Monroe for the first time during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. (Actually, Clark wrote upon first seeing her as “Nasty complexion, a lot of facial hair, shapeless figure and, when the glasses came off, a very vague look in her eye.” As for The Prince and the Showgirl, it’s actually a pretty good movie. Still, Clark probably wasn’t the kind of gentleman as seen in My Week with Marilyn.)

Colin Clark enjoyed a week long fling with Marilyn Monroe. (Well, according to his diary he did as depicted in My Week with Marilyn. Yet, his account could’ve just been a self-serving fantasy, since a lot of it can’t be verified. Either way, his story about Marilyn Monroe is kind of creepy, not romantic.)

Sylvia Plath:

Sylvia Plath’s sister Aurelia didn’t meet Ted Hughes until after Plath married him. (Contrary to Sylvia, she attended their wedding.)

C. S. Lewis:

C. S. Lewis had one stepson. (He had two but you wouldn’t know it from Shadowlands.)

C.S. Lewis knew how to drive. (He never learned how despite numerous attempts.)

C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham didn’t leave England after their wedding and went to the “Golden Valley” for their honeymoon. (They actually spent their honeymoon in Greece contrary to Shadowlands. However, aside from his WWI Army stint, Lewis had never left England before and was afraid Greece wouldn’t live up to what he had imagined and read Homer and Aristotle {in Greek} to build up a mental image. He wasn’t disappointed.)

During the 1950s, C. S. Lewis taught at Magdalen College at Oxford University. (Contrary to Shadowlands, in 1954, Lewis would accept a professorship of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University but he did so on the condition he’d be able to return to his home in Oxford for vacations and long weekends during the university term. Guess Cambridge was desperate.)

Joy Gresham:

Joy Gresham broke her leg while answering a call from C. S. Lewis in her London home. (Contrary to Shadowlands, she broke her leg while answering a call from a friend while she was in Oxford. Also, she was treated in an Oxford hospital for cancer.)

France:

The buildings in late 1940s Paris buildings were all in lovely and in tan sandstone. (Actually until the cleaning project of by Culture minister Andre Malreaux in the late 1960s, the buildings of Paris were black after centuries from pollution. Though this would’ve been what Julie Powell would’ve imagined 1949 Paris in Julie & Julia.)

Kon-Tiki Expedition:

During the Kon-Tiki expedition of 1947, the rafts’s parrot was eaten by a shark. (Contrary to the 2012 Norwegian film, it simply washed overboard by a large wave though it might’ve been eaten by a shark later.)

The Kon-Tiki’s crew got access to valuable US military equipment once they landed in Peru. (Thor Heyerdahl actually arranged for the equipment during a visit to the Pentagon before traveling to Peru.)

The Kon-Tiki’s crew was worried about the Galapagos Maelstrom. (The maelstrom was taken from an Edgar Allan Poe story which is in the 2012 film. However, Heyerdahl was actually more worried about strong ocean currents that could sweep the raft back towards Central America.)

Herman Watzinger was a pudgy, unathletic, and difficult man. (In Norway the portrayal of Thor Heyerdahl’s first mate was the source of controversy. The guy who played him admitted, “Watzinger was tall, dark, and Norwegian Youth Champion in the 100 meter. He was everything I’m not.”)

Herman Watzinger disobeyed Thor Heyerdahl’s direct order and threw a harpoon at a whale shark under the Kon-Tiki raft. (Actually Erik Hesselburg harpooned the whale shark with the rest of the crew cheering him on.)

Herman Watzinger and Thor Heyerdahl argued about the hemp ropes to hold the balsa logs together for the entire voyaged in which Watzinger begged Heyerdahl at sea to add steel cables he smuggled abroad. (According to Heyerdahl’s account and many of the crew’s relatives, this didn’t happen. The balsa wood was soft enough that the rope ate through the wood and it was eventually protected by the space that had been created around it. Also, there are a lot of made up scenarios in the 2012 Kon-Tiki film as critic Andrew Barker says, “It’s frustratingly ironic that Kon-Tiki’s most outrageously fantastical sequences are completely verifiable, and its most predictable, workaday conflicts are completely made up.”)

The crew of the Kon-Tiki waited for a 13th wave to carry them over the reef. (According to the documentary, they just waited for a wave big enough to do so.)

Thor Heyerdahl believed that Polynesia was populated by people from Peru. (Maybe but he also believed that the original Kon-Tiki voyage was undertaken by tall white redheaded men with beards. He also though that the Pre-Columbian American civilization like the Aztecs, Incas, or Mayas only arose with the help of advanced technical knowledge brought by early European voyagers and these white people were driven out of Peru and fled westward on rafts.)

The Korean War:

South Korea was ruled under the better government than North Korea. (Actually the South Korean government was almost just as authoritarian as the North Korean one minus the obsessive personality cult and the Communist political system. It was only after the Korean War that South Korea would gradually become more democratic {sort of} while North Korea would be ruled by three generations of dictators.)

Male US military personnel in the Korean War all had regular haircuts. (Actually you were bald or have been away for a long time from civilization, most guys in the armed forces could only get crewcuts for it was the only men’s hairstyle available for them {as well as for male military brats like my dad while my Grandpa C was stationed in New Mexico}. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from any adaptation of M*A*S*H.)

Only the US, North Korea, and South Korea were involved in the Korean War. (Actually, the Korean War could very well be considered a last world war. On the North Korean side, you had North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union. On the South Korean side, you had South Korea and the UN forces, mostly comprised of Americans but there were people from 16 other countries participating. Yet, it’s because of the TV M*A*S*H that anyone knows anything about it at all.)

General Douglas MacArthur:

General Douglas MacArthur’s tactics in the Korean War were working and was quite capable of winning the war if only President Harry S. Truman would only allow him to utilize the full military might of the United States. (While MacArthur implies this, it’s said that MacArthur wanted to nuke China and was willing to ignore Truman’s orders not to. Then again, he may have said this just to get Truman to fire his ass so he could leave the war with dignity intact, for they both knew that he wouldn’t be returning to head the UN Forces when they two met that fateful day. Besides, by that time, MacArthur was in his 70s and had been in the military longer than Eisenhower at this point. Actually, Eisenhower once worked for him for seven years as a young officer or “studied dramatics” as he called it.)

General Douglas MacArthur was upset that President Truman fired him. (Actually according to many historians, MacArthur might’ve been asking for Truman to do so for he accepted the president’s action without resistance and parted on amicable terms {though it did lead to Truman’s approval ratings taking a record nosedive, which led him to have one of the lowest of any sitting president before or since. Yet, this had much to do with MacArthur being a darling of the media and the American people at the time}. Because of the Korean War, Mac Arthur felt that he couldn’t resign and refused to be removed from command. Because MacArthur was a WWII hero, Truman felt he couldn’t ask MacArthur for his resignation but couldn’t allow him to resume his command. Firing MacArthur was his only option. Thus, Truman would conduct the war in a sane way as well as have MacArthur leave the war with his dignity intact.)

Miscellaneous:

The hotline telephone between Moscow and Washington DC was in use in 1953. (It wasn’t installed until 1963.)

No homes had television antennae in 1959. (Most of them did in developed countries because most people owned a TV.)

The UN existed in at the end of WWII. (It wasn’t formed until three months later in October of 1945.)

Stargazer lilies were around in 1953. (They weren’t created until 1974.)

Plastic bags existed in 1953. (They didn’t.)

Razor ribbon was used in prisons in the 1950s. (It wasn’t invented until the late 1960s.)

Ketchup and mustard were in plastic containers in the 1950s. (They were stored in glass bottles.)

Scented candles were around in 1958. (Unless they were DIY. Factory made ones, no.)

Movie theaters had one projector with reels being unchanged. (At this time, movie theaters always had two projectors that alternated and changed reels every 20 minutes.)

Dry cleaning was a new technology and business idea in 1949. (Dry cleaning had been around since the early 20th century and the process was discovered in the mid-19th century by a French inventor. Contrary to The Man Who Wasn’t There, a town like Santa Rosa, CA would’ve had at least 10 dry cleaners by 1949. So it wasn’t a new idea. Maybe John Polito’s character should’ve been a TV salesman instead of a dry cleaner.)

Bubble wrap envelopes existed at this time. (Bubble wrap didn’t exist until 1964 and bubble wrap envelopes wouldn’t appear until the late 1970s.)

3D movies were popular in 1957. (It was a passing fad of 1953-1954. No 3D movies were made after 1954 until the 2000s, well, at least when it came to showing movies in 3D.)

Teflon pans were available in 1949. (While Teflon was accidentally invented in 1938, Teflon pans weren’t sold until 1956. Before then, only Teflon pots were available.)

1949 beer bottles had screw tops. (They didn’t.)

Cubicles were around in 1955. (They were introduced in the mid-1960s.)

CPR was mouth to mouth in the 1950s. (It wasn’t mouth to mouth until the 1970s after a promotion by the Red Cross. CPR at the time involved the raising and lowering of the victim’s arms like you see in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.)

Etch-a-Sketch was available during this time period. (It wasn’t sold in the US until 1960.)

Women were allowed to apply for Rhodes scholarships in the 1950s. (Not until the 1970s.)

TVs came on immediately. (Actually TVs at the time used vacuum tubes that it took a couple of minutes for them to warm up once switched on. “Instant on” TVs didn’t come out until the late 1960s.)

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