History of the World According to the Movies: Part 67 – World War II: The Mediterranean

Image

1961’s The Guns of Navarone is about a crack squad of International Forces sent to destroy those large guns off an island in Greece. Or as star Gregory Peck put it: “David Niven really loves Anthony Quayle and Gregory Peck loves Anthony Quinn. Tony Quayle breaks a leg and is sent off to hospital. Tony Quinn falls in love with Irene Papas, and Niven and Peck catch each other on the rebound and live happily ever after.” Still, it’s a movie that pertains to the trials and tribulations of international cooperation during the war in which people from different countries had to work together to a common goal.

For a good chunk of World War II, the Allies spent considerable time in the Mediterranean area whether it be in North Africa or Italy. Initially, the conflict in this area was originally against the Italy. However, Italy started getting its ass beaten which leads to the Germans coming to aid. Then the Italians get fed up with Mussolini that Il Duce is deposed by the Italian government and joins the Allies (Mussolini would later get rescued by German forces before being killed by his own people in 1945 in a very nasty way). Actually Italy’s switch had been a long time coming since Mussolini declared war on France, in fact. Of course, this leads to Germany overrunning Italy {and Italian civil war between fascist and Allied factions of the populace} which leads to the Allies having to liberate it, a process that took at least two years. Still, it’s this part of the war where you see the arrival of American forces, desert tank warfare, Mediterranean scenery (which may or may not be blown to bits) as well as personalities like Erwin Rommel, George S. Patton, and Bernard Montgomery. Famous battles include Tobruk, El Alamein, Monte Cassino, the Allied invasion of Sicily, and the Allied invasion of Italy. Also, a key setting of a lot of war romance movies most famously Casablanca. Still, unlike the Pacific, at least the war effort in this area isn’t 100% credited to the Americans. Nevertheless, there are some historical errors in movies pertaining to this theater, which I shall point out.

General George S. Patton:

General George S. Patton was an impressive orator with a deep gravelly voice. (Sure George C. Scott was totally awesome as Patton and won a well-deserved Oscar for it. However, the real Patton actually had a high pitched squeaky voice {which would’ve made Patton an unintentional comedy} yet he did manage to steal the spotlight while speaking. Yet, it wasn’t without practicing his posture, poses, and expressions for hours. He also purposefully cultivated his badass image with his immaculate uniform, dual holster pistols, etc. mostly to compensate for his weak and uninspiring voice. Still, the real Patton would’ve approved of his George C. Scott portrayal.)

During the conflict in North Africa, Patton said, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!” (Hate to let you down, but he probably never said it. Also, he never actually came against Rommel in combat, but the 1970 film addresses this during the North Africa campaign and Patton is pissed.)

General George S. Patton didn’t swear a lot. (Uh, the 1970 Patton had to actually tone down his swearing and he was a well known potty mouth. For instance, he’d never actually say “fornication” when “fuck” would do just fine.)

Before facing Erwin Rommel, Patton read his book on tank warfare. (Patton would’ve never read Rommel’s book on tank warfare because Rommel never completed it. However, he did write a book on infantry warfare. Still, the guy who actually wrote the book on German tank warfare was General Hans Guderian which is still available today {Though “Guderian, you magnificent bastard” doesn’t have the same ring to it}. Yet, Patton probably read this guy’s book though. Nevertheless, Patton was just as much a pioneer in tank warfare as Rommel was perhaps as far back as World War I and before. Patton’s pioneering and success in tank warfare was one of the reasons why he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel as well as commander of the US Tank Corps by the end of World War I. In that time, he was celebrated by the press as “Hero of Tanks.” Before his assignment in North Africa, he ran a special army training center for its armored divisions which lead him to develop tank tactics as well as prepared himself for combat.)

When General Patton stood in a middle of a street during an air raid, he took potshots at the fighters to defy him by hitting him right in the nose and didn’t even flinch when one of them nearly succeeded strafing him. (Didn’t happen in real life, but that scene from the 1970 film is typical Patton.)

General George S. Patton slapped one shell shocked soldier during the Italian campaign. (He actually slapped hospitalized soldiers on two separate occasions. The soldier he slapped in the movie actually had malaria, not battle fatigue.)

General George S. Patton gave out a grudging apology in front of his divisions and medical personnel after he slapped a hospitalized soldier. (Actually he was genuinely remorseful and he actually slapped two hospitalized seemingly shell-shocked soldiers.)

General George S. Patton referred to himself as a Lieutenant General before the confirmation of his promotion became official. (He actually didn’t until he signed his official commission paperwork.)

General George S. Patton and General Omar Bradley were close friends. (Contrary to Patton, what Bradley and Patton had was a “working relationship” at best. Sure they served together in war and Bradley was a consultant on the 1970 film but the extent of his participation is largely unknown. Bradley despised Patton both personally and professionally and gave his former superior scant praise in his memoirs. In fact, Bradley admitted that if he was Patton’s superior officer during the slapping incident in Sicily, he would’ve not only immediately fired him, but also “would have had nothing more to do with him.” As Bradley’s subordinate on the Western Front, the only reason why Patton stuck around was because Eisenhower wouldn’t let Bradley fire him. And Bradley had a habit of firing senior commanders who he felt were too independent, or whose command style didn’t agree with his own. Patton certainly would’ve qualified. By contrast, Patton was only known to fire just one for cause during the war and after he giving the guy two warnings.)

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery:

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was an overrated preening twit. (Well, Patton indeed portrays Montgomery like this and he did have a bad habit of overstating his own achievements and his proximity to Winston Churchill to play for his best advantage. However, we can’t forget that he was the guy who defeated Rommel both times at El Alamein as well as played a critical role in the invasion of Normandy with getting Operation Overlord off the ground, which was the largest amphibious landing in history yet he’s received no credit in history for that despite it being his most successful act during the war, at least by Americans. Though many say that there were fairly few other generals who could’ve put Operation Overlord off. Still, he was arrogant and reluctant to cooperate with others which made him increasingly unpopular, particularly with Americans. He may have saved Americans in the Battle of the Bulge but his assertion greatly offended them. He also had an extreme racist streak even by World War II Allied standards. Nevertheless, though he may have been a twit, he was a damn good general. Also, despite their rivalry, Montgomery actually admired Patton for his ability to command troops on the field while many of his British colleagues didn’t hold the colorful American general in high regard.)

Count Lazlo Almasy:

Count Lazlo Almasy was a dashing Hungarian explorer t whose sacrifices to save the woman he loved spelled his doom. (This sums up The English Patient who actually wasn’t English though the actor was. However, there was a real Lazlo Almasy was a real explorer who was part of Zezura club. Yet, he actually fought in the German Luftwaffe during World War II and died of amoebic dysentery in 1951. Also, unlike the Ralph Fiennes portrayal in The English Patient, recent discoveries heavily imply that the real Almasy was gay. As for the Claytons {the inspirations for the Cliftons}, they both died in the early 1930s, yet the woman did die in a flying accident.)

North Africa:

General Lloyd Fredenhall left Le Kouif after General George S. Patton’s arrival. (He actually left hours before Patton arrived. And he left in a Buick, not in a Jeep.)

Tobruk:

The Australian 9th Division was known as “The Desert Rats.” (It was a nickname for the British 7th Armored Division. The Australian 9th Division was known as “The Rats of Tobruk” after Nazi propaganda denigrated them as being “caught like rats in a trap.” They started calling themselves “The Rats of Tobruk” with pride ever since.)

The Australian 9th division was commanded by a British captain. (Actually no British officer was ever placed in command of an Australian battalion at Tobruk. Also, The Desert Rats ignored the contribution of British, Polish, and Indian soldiers during the Tobruk siege from April to November of 1941. But at least there are no American soldiers in it.)

During the siege of Tobruk, there was a raid on an ammunition dump. (Contrary to The Desert Rats, this didn’t happen.)

El Alamein:

The British held the Germans at El Alamein right after the fall of Tobruk. (Actually Tobruk fell on in June 21, 1942. The first battle of El Alamein lasted from July 1st to 27th of that year. The group of soldiers in Sahara couldn’t be in the desert that long.)

The Italian Pavia division was stationed at Naqb Rala during the Battles of El Alamein. (Contrary to El Alamein: The Line of Fire, it was actually stationed by Folgore paratroopers. The Pavia division was further north from the line of the Qattara Depression.)

Italy:

US enlisted personnel in the First Special Service Force in Italy were criminals and the unwanted of other units. (Contrary to The Devil’s Brigade, they actually were recruited from volunteers with “outdoors” backgrounds.)

The Anzio Operation took place in 1945. (The Anzio Operation was over by May 12, 1944 while the war in Europe ended in May 8, 1945.)

Italian women would rather hook up with a white American GI protagonist than a fellow countryman regardless whether the whole affair was a one night stand and the GI is married. (Cue to The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit in which Gregory Peck knocks up an Italian woman thinking it would be the last tail he’ll ever get before being transferred to the Pacific. And then he comes home to his wife played by Jennifer Jones, has three kids with her, and doesn’t tell her about the war time tryst when he finds out he has a 10 year old son in Italy. All in a movie that was released in the 1950s.)

Members of the First Special Service Force wore red berets. (They actually didn’t. According to Imdb: “All members of the Force eventually wore U.S. Army dress uniforms with U.S. paratrooper boots and distinctive red, white, and blue braided shoulder loops, overseas cap piping, and parachute wing backings.”)

The assault on the Monte La Defensa took place in the early daylight hours. (It took place at night in the dark.)

US soldiers wore a coverall type fatigue uniform during the invasion of Salerno. (The Army had deemed these type of uniforms unfit for field use in 1942. The Allied invasion of Italy took place in September 1943 so no US soldier would were them during that time.)

Soldiers participating in the Allied invasion of Italy wore no markings on their uniform whatsoever other than rank insignia. (Contrary to A Walk in the Sun, Imdb says: “It was standard practice to mark soldiers’ helmets with chalk numbers so that they would know which landing craft they were assigned to board for the invasion. It was also standard practice to wear insignia to denote the soldiers’ units for identification purposes, although sometimes the shoulder sleeve insignia were removed to impede enemy intelligence gathering.” But chalk and unit insignias wouldn’t look cool, right?)

Rome:
The Police Battalion Bozen was a Waffen-SS unit. (It was actually a German police unit contrary to Massacre in Rome. They wore regular police uniforms and its members weren’t considered members of the Waffen-SS.

Major Hellmuth Dobbrick was at the Via Rasella as commander of the 11th SS-Police Company. (Contrary to Massacre in Rome, he was commander of the 3rd Battalion which comprised of 3 police companies. He also wasn’t present at Via Rasella. As for the 11th company, its commander was Lieutenant Wolfgasth who’s absent from the film.)

Miscellaneous:

The HMS Barham was sunk by coastal artillery in the Mediterranean. (Contrary to The Guns of Navarone, it was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat.)

The British frogmen attacked the Italian ship the Otera in the Gibraltar harbor in 1941. (Contrary to The Silent Enemy, there was no attack on the Otera nor was there an underwater hand-to-hand combat between the British and Italian frogmen.)

Italian frogmen were easy to be seen during the Raid at Alexandria in 1941 since bubbles came from their breathing apparatuses. (Actually contrary to the 1962 film The Valiant, according to Imdb: “the Italian frogmen used pure oxygen ‘pendulum’ breathing sets, in which exhaled gas is returned to the tank via a carbon dioxide filter, rather than the compressed-air apparatus used in peacetime – precisely in order to avoid the problem of a tell-tale string of bubbles. “)

Crete was a safe haven for Allied forces. (By 1943, it had been occupied by Germany for the past two years.)

Advertisements

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 27 – The British Scramble for Africa

Image

The 1964 movie Zulu which pertains to the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in which the exhausted British forces manage to defeat a large Zulu force. Also, this was a big movie for Sir Michael Caine pictured here as Lt. Bromhead. Nevertheless, this features British soldiers fighting in their dress uniforms and severely lacking the Chester A. Arthur whiskers characteristic of 1879. Not to mention, it even slanders a Victoria’s Cross recipient. Oh, and the battle was fought from late afternoon until dawn.

When it comes to movies based in the British Empire, Africa is always one of the more popular locations for some reason. Be it maybe that it’s continent of hostile tribes and creatures, a place of many famous wars, or what have you. Yet, for some reason whenever you see movies on the Scramble for Africa, they will usually feature the British Empire as the entity the white male protagonist is working for (unless he’s an archaeologist). Nevertheless, you have the explorations with men like Sir Richard Burton, Dr. David Livingstone, and others braving hostile natives, Arabs, and jungle to find the source of the Nile. You have the Anglo-Zulu Wars in Southern Africa with British forces going against hostile African tribes wielding spears. Then you have The River War in which the British faced a Islamic fundamentalist leader named the Mahdi who may have saw himself as an Islamic Messiah or Tecumseh. General “Chinese” Charles Gordon is featured in this war as well since he tried to protect Khartoum from falling into Mahdist hands only to die and be immortalized for the British public for generations. Then you have the Boer Wars where the British were fighting against the Dutch settlers in South Africa. Still, when you watch movies relating to the British Scramble for Africa, you may find yourself cheering for the British Imperialists even though they weren’t necessarily the good guys. Also, expect the white man’s burden and other unfortunate implications to turn up as well. Nevertheless, I shall list the historical inaccuracies many of these British Empire movies in Africa tend to make.

Exploration:

Sir Richard Burton published a translation of The Perfumed Garden in the mid-1850s. (It wasn’t published until 1886.)

By the 1850s, Sir Richard Burton spoke 23 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese. (He spoke fewer languages in the 1850s but he definitely spoke Arabic at that point since he was really into Islamic culture. However, he never mastered Chinese and learned Hebrew much later in life.)

Larry Oliphant was gay. (He was straight. The filmmakers in The Mountains of the Moon were trying to make Speke’s betrayal of Burton more dramatic after all they’ve been through. Still, Oliphant was on Burton’s side the whole time and while he did manipulate Speke to gain publishing rights on his claim, he eventually realized his errors. And Speke didn’t really betray him inasmuch as “bruised his ego.” Burton didn’t like being upstaged and tried to make Speke’s discovery of Lake Victoria much less notable than it really was as well as attacked his character. Also, Burton had a habit of making enemies in high places since he was a Victorian non-conformist.)

Henry Stanley was English since he was born at St. Asaph. (St. Asaph is in Wales. Also, he was born John Rowlands.)

Dr. David Livingstone was an honorable man to the very end. (His private diaries tell a very different story. Also, he probably wasn’t altogether there when he met Henry Stanley. Also, Stanley wasn’t what you’d call a Boy Scout.)

John Speke was gay and in love with Sir Richard Burton. (There’s no evidence he was one way or the other or even in love with Burton. Speke is said to harbor a deep resentment toward Burton and was willing to hide it until they returned to London. There, he beat Burton to the report of the Royal Geographic Society and claim success as his own.)

John Speke had light hair and was clean shaven. (Photographs depict him with dark hair and a beard.)

John Hanning Speke committed suicide. (An inquest into his death concluded he died in a hunting accident and he had a fatal wound just below the armpit. Nevertheless, even a Victorian gentleman like Speke who had so many years of meticulous gun handling could die of a an accidental gunshot wound. Gun owners know that accidental discharges happen all the time.)

Sir Richard Francis Burton was a believer in racial equality.  (Burton was no less racist than his contemporaries and enjoyed living and studying with other cultures as well as wrote numerous travel books. He also knew 29 languages, some of which he mastered so well to pass as native. Speke, on the other hand, thought living among Africans was repugnant and referred to them as creatures and savages.)

John Speke met Sir Richard Burton in Zanzibar. (They met at Aden in Yemen.)

Sir Richard Burton went into Harrar with John Speke. (Speke wasn’t with him in Harrar.)

Anglo-Zulu War:

Color Sergeant Bourne was a towering middle-aged man. (He was a slight build and 24 years old as well as the youngest Color Sergeant in the British Empire. His nickname was “The Kid.” At least he had some decent Victorian whiskers in Zulu.)

The Battle at Rorke’s Drift was fought in broad daylight. (It began in the afternoon and went throughout the night.)

Most of the 24th Regiment of Foot B Company were clean shaven. (From the Guardian: “photographs of the real veterans of Rorke’s Drift look like candidates for Britain’s Best Walrus Impersonator 1879. (Winner: Lieutenant Chard; Mr Congeniality: Lieutenant Bromhead.)” Yeah, but I don’t think Michael Caine would look good in a pair of mutton chops. Besides, the walrus mustaches may have made it very less likely to take Zulu seriously.)

Private Henry Hook was a shambling boozehound, dirty coward, and a trouble until his moment in battle when he had a sudden burst of courage that he was bayoneting and shooting Zulu warriors all over the place. (He was a churchgoing teetotaler with an exemplary record who earned a Victoria’s Cross for saving a at least a dozen patients in a hospital. Hook’s daughter was so offended by her father’s portrayal in the film that she walked out of Zulu’s premiere. Also, he received a distinctive scar due to his encounter with a Zulu assegai knocking off his pith helmet while he was defending a hospital. And he doesn’t wear a pith helmet in the movie.)

The last shot at the battle at Rorke’s Drift was fired at first light with another wave of Zulu turning up. (The last shot of the battle was fired at 4 a.m.)

The 24th Regiment of Foot consisted of Welshmen in 1879 and their song was “Men of Harlech.” (It would become affiliated with Wales in 1881. The 1879 24th Regiment was affiliated with Warwickshire and most of the men at Rorke’s Drift were English, Welsh, and Irish. Oh, and their song was “The Warwickshire Lads.”)

Gonville Bromhead and John Chard received their commissions in 1872. (They had already received them by that year. Chard had held his commission three years and three months longer than Bromhead.)

Bromhead was a fresh young lieutenant. (Both him and Chard were old for their rank who’ve been repeatedly passed over for a promotion as unlikely to amount to much. He’s also said to either be partially deaf or suffering from PTSD. However, Bromhead would later end his career as a major while Chard’s would end up a colonel.)

Zulu chief Cetshwayo sent his impi to attack Rorke’s Drift. (He actually ordered his impi to leave the installation alone for good reason. However, it was his half-brother Dabulamanzi who ordered the attack thinking he would get a quick victory that would impress the king. He also commanded the uThulwana and led the Zulu forces in the attack. Of course, you can figure out where that was headed.)

Gonville Bromhead was a sharp steely soldier. (One of his fellow officers described him as, “a capital fellow at everything except soldiering.” He’s said not to be very bright and may have been assigned to Rorke’s Drift because of his supposed partial deafness {which might’ve been a misinterpretation of PTSD} was thought to limit his ability to command {with his superiors thinking he wouldn’t see any action}. He probably wasn’t a pansy aristocrat turned hardened soldier after his first battle like the Michael Caine portrayal but he was very well-liked.)

John Chard was the epitome of British manhood. (He was widely considered lazy and useless.)

Reverend Otto Witt instigated the Natal soldiers to desert their post by warning them of the Zulu approach. (The native Natal soldiers did desert their post {leaving at their own accord} but not at the Witts’ instigation. He didn’t warn them of the Zulu approach either but he was one of the lookouts who initially saw them arrive. However, the Natal Native Contingent deserters were fired at as they left and one of their NCOs was killed. Their captain would later be convicted at a court-martial for desertion and dismissed from the British Army.)

Soldiers of the Natal Native Contingent were issued European style uniforms. (They weren’t.)

Reverent Otto Witt was a pacifist old missionary with a daughter. (He was a much younger and married man with two kids. Also, he wasn’t a pacifist since he helped the British at Rorke’s Drift in any way he could as well as defended the interests of white colonists. However, he did leave before the battle but only because he wanted to protect his family.)

Zulu warriors saluted the British officers at the hill after the battle. (They did appear on the hill the following morning but just observed in silence for some time before leaving again since they were just as exhausted as the Brits, hungry, and low on ammunition. Oh, and there were British reinforcements coming so they didn’t have time to salute any British soldiers. Still, any remaining Zulu who were wounded and left behind were rounded up and executed. )

Private Hitch was shot through the thigh by a Zulu sniper. (He was shot through the shoulder in which the bullet shattered his shoulder blade. There’s even a photo of him with his arm in a sling and there are paintings of the 1879 battle depicted in Zulu in which he has his arm held still by a belt. He would later become a London cab driver.)

C Company was stationed at Rorke’s Drift. (It was B Company of the 24th Regiment of Foot.)

Corporal Schiess was a member of the Mounted Police. (He was a member of the Natal Native Contingent. Also, he was 22 years old.)

The 17th Lancers were stationed in South Africa during the Battle of Isandlwana. (They were only sent after the battle with the 1st Dragoons.)

Surgeon John Henry Reynolds was a “Surgeon-Major, Army Hospital Corps” during the battle of Rorke’s Drift. (He was promoted to this rank after the battle.)

The detachment of cavalry from “Durnford’s Horse” consisted of white settler farmers who rode up to the mission station to their deaths in the Battle of Isandlwana.(They actually survived the battle and consisted of black riders sent to Rorke’s Drift to warn the garrison there. They were present in the opening action with the Zulus but rode off due to lack of ammunition. Also, they weren’t lead by Captain Stephenson who was head of the infantry Natal Native Contingent.)

Corporal William Allen was a model soldier. (He had been recently demoted from sergeant following the battle of Rorke’s Drift. Oh, and he was 35 years old at the time.)

Gonville Bromhead was blond. (His 1872 picture makes him a dark haired Chester A. Arthur look-alike. However, he’s played by Michael Caine who has a significantly lighter hair color.)

The Mahdist War:

General Charles George Gordon was a fallen hero to British presence and a great military leader against the Mahdi in Khartoum. (Yes, he was a great general, but he was also an Evangelical Christian who had some whacked out views about cosmology but set up a boys camp as well as visited the sick and the old, was a robust 5’ 5” feet all, and never married. Other than that, most of what is said about his character is speculative. Also, though he and the Mahdi corresponded, they never met {though the Mahdi’s grandson really thought they should’ve so it was left in Khartoum}.)

General George Gordon and the Mahdi were killed around the same time. (Yes, Gordon was killed in battle. However the Mahdi died several months later probably attributed to typhus.)

The battle at Abu Klea was a British defeat. (It was a British victory.)

The Mahdi’s spectacular jihad was just out of plain religious fanaticism. (Not really. Actually it was related to the Egyptian penetration into the Sudan in the 1820s, the Suez Canal, modernization, and other factors associated with imperialism. It’s a long complicated history, but imperialism was more or less was what the Mahdi was rebelling against.)

The Mahdi presented Colonel Stewart’s hand to General Gordon. (This didn’t happen because they never personally met in real life. Also, though the Mahdi’s men did murder Colonel Stewart and Frank Power, but the Mahdi only received the former’s head as a trophy. Also, he only told Gordon to get out of Sudan so further bloodshed would be avoided by writing a polite letter to him. Of course, you couldn’t have a polite letter exchange in Khartoum.)

General Charles Gordon came out facing the Mahdists storming Khartoum calmly and with dignity before getting killed with a spear. After that, his head is brought back on a stick for the Mahdi who was displeased. (He actually came out shooting and ran out of ammo on the staircase {like in a Tarantino movie if you get my drift}. Also, he was killed by a gunshot to the chest, not a spear. And he was killed for being mistaken as a Turk out of all things. Oh, and the Mahdi specifically ordered that General Gordon shouldn’t be killed.)

The famous charge of the 21st Lancers during the Battle of Omdurman happened the day after the main battle. (Both main battle and charge occurred around the same day.)

British soldiers in the Omdurman campaign of 1898 wore scarlet jackets. (They wore khaki uniforms while the cavalry wore blue jackets.)

The Royal Suffolk Regiment served and Egypt and was a relief force to rescue General Gordon. (There was never a Royal Suffolk Regiment. Yet, there was a Suffolk Regiment but they took part in neither. Actually during this period, the First Battalion was posted in India and the Second Battalion was in various locations.)

The two-day relief force for General Gordon managed to recapture Khartoum in 1885. (They discovered that the city was already taken and the Mahdist forces were strong so they were forced to retreat, leaving Sudan to the Mahdi. The British would recapture Khartoum 13 years later in 1898.)

Other:

The Tsavo maneating lions killed for sport. (No predator does this except humans. Also, Lieutenant Colonel Patterson doesn’t mention this and he killed the two lions over a nonhuman bait. He even says their killing pattern was consistent with normal lion hunting patterns.Still, Patterson states that he had a leopard kill 30 of his sheep and goats in one night. Still, for the Tsavo lions to kill and eat people, they must have been in a desperate situation {one was said to have a severe dental disease which would’ve made him a poor hunter} since most big cats usually kill to survive.)

The lions at Tsavo, Kenya killed 135 people. (They more likely ate 35, but we’re not sure how many were killed and not eaten. Still, there were 135 African and Indian workers employed at the construction of the Ugandan railway.)

Both maneating lions at Tsavo had large manes. (The maneating lions at Tsavo were male but they didn’t have manes {they’re actually taxidermied and put on display and at the Field Museum of Natural History at Chicago}. Also, male Tsavo lions either have minimal manes or none at all and Tsavo lions generally are far more aggressive and unpredictable than lions you normally see. Not to mention, animal handlers hate the idea of shaving a lion’s mane. Still, I don’t understand why the makers of The Ghost and the Darkness didn’t consider using lionesses as Tsavo lion stand-ins. I mean they had a male dog play Lassie for God’s sake.)

Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson killed the lions with the aid of an American ex-Confederate soldier Charles Remington. (Charles Remington never existed and there was no professional hunter ever present at Tsavo or anyone like the Michael Douglas character {who was in there because they didn’t want it to look like a pure ego project on Val Kilmer’s part. Also, Douglas helped produce the film}. Nevertheless, Patterson had to kill the maneating lions all on his own but he was a lot more badass than his Val Kilmer portrayal.)

One of the Tsavo lions escaped a trap surrounded by three Indian railroad guards firing that failed to kill him. (This happened except it involved ten guys firing it {which included Mombasa police} and the one bullet that came close to the target broke the cage’s lock, letting the lion escape.)

The Tsavo Bridge was a truss. (It was a plate girder type.)

Karen Blixen caught syphilis from her philandering husband Bror. (Yes, Bror cheated on her but there’s some doubt he might’ve been the cause. Oh, and she hadn’t miraculously recovered when she took up with Denys Finch-Hatton as seen in Out of Africa.)

Sir Henry “Jock” Delves Broughton shot himself dead in the Happy Valley region of Kenya via shotgun shortly after he acquitted for killing his wife’s lover in 1941 while Alice de Janze died of an overdose. (He died a year later in England of a morphine overdose which he had been taking for a back injury, it was ruled a suicide. Still, he was no longer accepted among the Happy Valley society and it’s very likely he killed his wife’s lover {though the case remains unsolved}. Alice de Janze shot herself that September {who’s also suspected}. Interestingly, Kenya’s Happy Valley consisted of a group of colonial ex-patriate British and Anglo-Irish aristocrats during inter-war period in the Wanjohi Valley, notorious for their decadent, hedonistic, eccentric, and scandalous lifestyles which seem straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. )

Karen Blixen thought it was baseless prejudice when she was asked whether she sided with the Germans during World War I. (Well, she may have thought this but she was an old friend of legendary German General Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck {who’s not in Out of Africa unfortunately} as well as offered to send horses for his cavalry and carried his signed photo with her. So I don’t think Karen’s friend was being biased here when she asked her whether she was rooting for the Kaiser.)

Karen Blixen once fought attacking lions with a bull whip while on the Savannah. (Most of her biographers believe she just made this up.)

When Karen Blixen lost her land, she plead with the British governor on her knees at a garden party for the rights of the Kikuyu people to live on her farm. (British governor Sir Joseph Byrne probably did grant territory to the Kikuyu people as a favor to Karen but there’s no record that she begged him on her knees at a garden party.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 16 – Africa

Image

Sure this is a movie about something that happened during the 1990s as well as centers on a real guy who’s still alive, yet Hotel Rwanda is a good movie to picture because it’s about an ordinary African man who saved so many lives at a great cost to himself. Of course, this takes place during the Rwandan genocide with AK-47s and machetes galore. Still, the reality of this event was much worse than depicted and Don Cheadle’s character paid a much bigger price for his efforts.

Africa: the cradle of humanity. For its thousands years of history, it has been home to great tribes, cultures, kingdoms, and civilizations. Not only has it been the home of Ancient Egypt but also of Carthage, Nubia in the ancient world. In the European Middle Ages, it was home to great empires and kingdoms like Mali, Aksum, Songhai, Great Zimbabwe, Asante, and so many others all a unique culture of riches, rituals, and innovations. However, if you should ever dare making a movie pertaining to this history of Africa, then a Hollywood producer will probably tell you to get a job for National Geographic. After all, Hollywood is simply not interested in the African history that doesn’t contain violence, oppression, poverty, human rights violations, disease, crazy dictators, poaching on endangered species, or Europeans (or biblical figures in that matter). I mean the only reason why Hollywood would ever do something on African history is to present people being subject to unimaginable horrors as well as make themselves look good. Of course, depictions of African history tend to be either racist, violent, or both. Nevertheless, while Africa is a continental hellhole it’s seen on film, there’s more to African history than that, much more. We also know it’s a home to a lot exotic animals, but we know everyone likes to see them on nature documentaries. Nevertheless, out of movies on African we do have, filmmakers can make a lot of use of artistic license, and here are the inaccuracies, I’ll show here.

Ethiopia:

Ethiopia has always been a heavily pagan and juju spirit believing culture. (It is also has some of the oldest churches and synagogues in Africa as well as a sizeable Muslim population. Orthodox Christianity was introduced in the 4th century and Judaism even earlier and was said to be the home of the Queen of Sheba from the King Solomon stories.)

King Solomon got together with the Queen of Sheba. (There’s no record of this, not even in the Bible.)

Zimbabwe:

Great Zimbabwe was built by a lost white race. (This is about as true as saying that Great Zimbabwe was built by aliens. This notion was debunked in 1905.)

The DRC:

The DRC was always the DRC. (It had been called Zaire for a while and had its named changed back to the DRC in 1997.)

Sierra Leone:

The De Beers company secretly hired Executive Outcome to make a fortune out of diamond mining during a civil war in Sierra Leone. Also, Executive Outcome was also a mining company and received diamond mining concessions as payment. (They were actually solely a military contract company like Blackwater hired by the government of Sierra Leone. Their main job was to retake the rebel-controlled diamond field used to raise funds {but they didn’t mine or take diamonds from the fields}, which they did. De Beers had no links to EO during the 1999 civil war in Sierra Leone.)

Somalia:

Muse had his hand sliced open in the trap of broken glass. (The trap of broken glass didn’t happen though Muse did get his hand sliced open when he was captured by the crew and he went below deck with a crew member unarmed.)

Captain Philips was held hostage by Somali pirates for a day and half. (It was actually for five days.)

The Americans were working alone in Somalia to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid in the battle of Mogadishu. (Actually they had help from the Malaysians and the Pakistanis. Also, it was a Malaysian general who was at the command at Mogadishu. Apparently, the Malaysians’ beef with Black Hawk Down is perhaps justified.)

Captain Philips offered his life and let himself be a hostage in exchange for the pirates leaving the ship when his 2nd mate was going to be shot. (According to TTI: “In reality, Phillips never offered his life and was more the subject of a botched hostage exchange than letting himself become one, which he himself admits in interviews. Additionally, some of Phillips’ former crew feel he was responsible for the hijacking because he ignored suggestions to steer the ship farther from the coast, but Phillips countered that they would have been just as unsafe 600 miles away as they were at 300.”)

South Africa:

White South Africans were rich and racist and were either Afrikaans or Rooineks. (Actually there are plenty of white South Africans who aren’t of Dutch or British descent as well as plenty who live in the middle class alongside blacks since South Africa is the most middle class African country. And I’m sure there are some white South Africans who aren’t racist {like Alan Paton and F. W. deClerk}. There’s also a sizable Asian population, too.)

The Springboks rugby team’s winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup brought everlasting racial unity in South Africa. (Contrary to Invictus, the feeling of apparent racial unity lasted about a month. The winning team was later plagued by racism with Matt Damon’s character organizing a standoff with the South African Rugby Union and offered the other players sweet deals to sign with the World Rugby Corporation, except the token black player who got less than the others despite being one of the most popular on the team.  Another player Geo Cronje refused to share rooms or shower with his black teammates as recently as 2003. They also had a bad succession of coaches after their World Cup-winning coach had to step down due to leukemia.)

Black South African women had limited roles in the Anti-Apartheid Movement. (There was a 1956 Anti-pass march co-organized by the Federation of South African Women. So women were pretty active in the movement.)

Nelson Mandela’s political views didn’t change while he was in prison. (Except for not wanting apartheid, many of them did. For instance, he started out as a radical who favored nationalizing key industries. And he wasn’t initially in favor of adopting a multi-racial view of South Africa. Oh, and he was also a communist, which has been a South African open secret for years.)

Winnie Mandela was an irrational Lady Macbeth type woman who was the cause of the black-on-black violence in the 1980s and early 1990s South Africa. (She wasn’t. The violence was actually between the African National Congress and state-funded proxy organizations.)

Nelson Mandela was the major figure in the anti-apartheid movement. (Mandela was chosen by a committee in the ANC as the international face of the movement. Also, he was in prison much of the time. Still, the ANC’s work on social justice relied on collective and collaborative leadership. Of course, films about Mandela tend to ignore guys like Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo and Oliver Tambo working behind the scenes. Ever heard of them? Neither did I.)

The African National Congress was a peaceful political organization. (It initially started out as a paramilitary group, which bombed public buildings in order to destabilize the South African government. In some ways, they started out no differently than some Mideast terrorist organizations.)

Prison guard James Gregory had a close relationship with Nelson Mandela while the latter was in prison. (Nelson Mandela only mentions him twice in his autobiography and they barely spoke to each other. Also, his friends were furious that the guy wrote a book about it which was later turned into a movie.)

Nelson Mandela spent his whole nearly 30 year prison sentence on Robben Island. (He only spent 17.5 years of his sentence there. He actually initially imprisoned Johannesburg then Pretoria for a year and a half during his trial then sent to Robben Island. After spending his 17.5 years there, he was sent to Pollsmoor Prison for 6 years, then to Victor Verster Prison for 2 years until his release. So though he did spend almost 30 years in prison, he didn’t spend it all in one place.)

White South Africans referred to blacks by the “k-word” during apartheid. (Even under apartheid it was illegal to use this word.)

The first meeting between white reporter Donald Woods and Stephen Biko went rather swimmingly. (Actually Biko gave a more powerful and confrontational speech saying he was trying to discourage hatred of any sort as well as liberate black people not white liberals.)

Stephen Biko was chaste, humble, and non-violent. (He was known for speaking fierly, wittingly, and colloquially  with references of “hey, man!” in his speeches. Also, he was known to be a womanizer despite having a wife and long-term mistress.)

Uganda:

Bob Astles was a Scottish physician who was a loveable rouge who helped bring down the Idi Amin regime. (Astles wasn’t Scottish nor a doctor and wasn’t a nice guy {he was called the second most hated man there as well as nicknamed “The White Rat”}. Actually he was an adviser to the regime Amin overthrew and was tortured and imprisoned for 17 weeks after the despot took power until he gave Astes a job {though Astles had been living in Uganda for 30 years and was in his 50s unlike James McAvoy’s character in The Last King of Scotland who’s his expy}. Oh, and he never fooled around with one of Amin’s wives either {though there was a doctor who did but he was African}. And he tried to flee Uganda when Amin was overthrown in 1979 but brought back to face criminal charges and prison.)

Idi Amin killed his wife for getting knocked up by doctor. (Her lover accidently killed her while giving her a botched abortion and later killed himself. Of course, Idi was probably the reason why she’d seek abortion in the first place and would’ve killed her anyway if he ever found out.)

Only one hostage was killed during the rescue operation at the Entebbe Airport. (Three were and a fourth would be killed later at a hospital by Ugandan Army officers.)

Rwanda:

The Rwandan Tutsis were victims of a savage Hutu driven genocide in Rwanda solely because they always hated each other. (The Tutsis and Hutus had been at odds with each other since Belgian rule since Belgium often appointed Tutsis as their colonial retainers in the region. Before the Belgian intrusion, they managed to at least coexist peacefully since the Tutsis were herders and the Hutus were farmers. Not to mention, Tutsi and Hutu relations in Rwanda had been strained for years and there have been incidences of anti-Tutsi violence in the country since the 1960s.)

Paul Rusesabagina was a Hutu. (Yes, but only on his father’s side. His mother was a Tutsi.)

Tatiana Rusesabagina never understood why he had to stand behind to protect people sheltering in his hotel. (She actually did if reluctantly for good reason.)

Tatiana Rusesabagina was angry about Paul putting her and their kids on a truck to escape the Hôtel des Mille Collines, which was a last minute decision on his part. (She was actually sad but nevertheless accepted the decision due to the circumstances. Also, he discussed the matter with her and the kids the night before the attempted evacuation.)

Paul Rusesabagina’s extended family managed to survive the Rwandan genocide in one piece. (Actually though Paul and his wife and kids managed to survive, many of his relatives weren’t so lucky. During the genocide though Paul did everything in his power, Tatiana lost her mother, father {who had to pay soldiers to shoot him instead of lopping off his limbs one at a time}, brother, sister-in-law, and four nieces and nephews. Paul lost four brothers. Furthermore, his actions earned him so many death threats after the genocide that he and his family had to move to Belgium. So the ending to real Hotel Rwanda wasn’t nearly as happy as it was depicted in the film {it still isn’t}. And the genocide depicted is depicted less violent in Hotel Rwanda than it really was.)

The United Nations helped save some of the Rwanadans from slaughtering each other. (Sure the UN did help some, but they never called what was happening in Rwanda a “genocide”  until years after it happened, despite evidence that the Tutsi population was being massacred. Many affected by it are still not being helped by the UN.)

Libya:

Libyan rebel leader Omar Mukhtar was brought down when his horse was shot and thrown aside. (He’s actually said to be pinned under it but the scene plays out like this in Lion of the Desert probably because being under a horse would’ve been unsafe for Anthony Quinn.)

Benito Mussolini sent Rodolfo Graziani to take over as governor of Libya in 1929. (He sent him the next year and only as vice-governor unlike what Lion of the Desert would tell you. Nevertheless, he took over a disastrous military campaign against the Libyan rebels that had been going on since 1923.)

Rodolfo Graziani graciously returned Omar Mukhtar’s glasses to him after they had been stolen from a previous battle. This happened during the rebel leader’s show trial in Benghazi. (Transcripts reveal that Mukhtar had to ask Graziani for his glasses back, which his interrogators considered outrageous.)

Miscellaneous:

African civilization has mostly been tribal and rather primitive. (Lo, they forget that Egypt is an African country and the African Kingdoms of Mali, Songhai, Nubia, Zimbabwe, and others. Of course, there are still African tribes as always but there were African kingdoms, too.)

African slavery didn’t exist until the European slave trade. (Yes, it did but not as you know it. Africans had been slaving each other for centuries, but they treated their slaves as servants or even members of the family.)

No African tribe profited from the slave trade. (Europeans befriended paid certain African tribes to get captives from their rivals. Many West African tribes made a lot of money on this.)

Africa has always been a continent full of black people with the exception of Egypt. (Even though the people in North Africa tend to be considered Arabs than black. Also, the fact that there is a sizable white population in South Africa and that the continent is home to Indians and Asians as well. Gandhi was even there once.)

All black Africans tended to resemble those from West Africa. (The reason why movies depict Africans as if they are from West and Central Africa is because it’s where many ancestors of African Americans came from. Yet, not all Africans in Africa look like that.)

Black Africans were primitive, childlike, superstitious, believed in witchcraft and voodoo, lived in huts, defended themselves with spears and shields, could be easily scared by modern technology, or be easily ripped off being sold worthless junk. (Superstitious, yes, believed in witchcraft and voodoo yes, lived in huts, sort of, defended themselves with spears and shields, perhaps, could be easily ripped off, maybe, could be easily scared by modern technology, maybe. However, primitive and childlike, hell no.)

Blacks were enslaved by kidnapping. (They were usually enslaved through war but yeah, it’s kind of accurate.)

Most of Africa has been ruled by strongmen dictators who lived like kings. (Actually besides South Africa there have been African nations that have enjoyed stable democratic rule like Kenya at least most of the time.)

Much of Africa was independent by the 1950s. (Most African countries wouldn’t gain their independence until the 1960s.)

The Zulu had mass marriage ceremonies in front of the king. (I’m not sure about that.)