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.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 65 – World War II: The Eastern Front

Image

My main reasons why I have Roman Polanski’s 2002 picture The Pianist as a picture for the Eastern Front during World War II is that it manages to bring both the action of the war and the Holocaust in the same film as well as to such a personal level as Adrien Brody’s well deserved Oscar-winning portrayal of survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman. Szpilman may have survived both of these events through the kindness of strangers and sheer dumb luck but he lost practically everything in the process. Still, the Second World War brought the conflict much closer to home than any other war has before or since and The Pianist greatly embodies the experience of those on the Eastern Front whether they be soldiers, civilians, or targets of genocide.

If there was any place during World War II you didn’t want to be in (with the possible exception of Nazi Germany), then Eastern Europe would probably take the cake. The Eastern Front was perhaps the one of the bloodiest theaters of the war with a death toll mounting to over 25 million alone, making the war in the Eastern Europe perhaps one of the worst wars in history by itself. It was also wracked with lots of genocide if you know what I mean. Hollywood usually doesn’t cover this part mostly because you can’t have have an English speaking protagonist in these movies. Yet, there are plenty of these movies covering the Eastern Front that were made in Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union. Another reason why it’s not very much represented in Hollywood is due to the Cold War and the fact that much of the war in this region was conducted under Soviet forces led by Josef Stalin who was among the Allies. And if it weren’t for Soviet Russia being on the Allies side, then they would’ve lost the war.This isn’t an easy fact to swallow but it’s rather important despite how uncomfortable Americans were about Communism and how bad Stalin was, Russia was the primary Allied power in this region. This doesn’t really fit well with the whole idea of World War II being fought to make the world “safe for democracy” while the US and Britain joined forces with a leader who had absolutely no interest in it and also committed many crimes against humanity like genocide. Still, another event taking place on the Eastern Front that many would be more familiar with is the Holocaust since most of Hitler’s death camps would be built in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland. Millions would be killed in these camps particularly Jews who were one of the Nazis’ primary targets. Many would be killed in massacres as well. Still, many movies pertaining to World War II in this region have their share of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

The Holocaust:

Almost every European Jew knew he or she was, lived among Jews, and practiced Judaism. (Actually many European Jews had assimilated into mainstream European culture, many didn’t practice Judaism, some even married non-Jews, and some even didn’t know that they were Jewish at all nor identified as Jews either.)

The local populace outside the concentration camps didn’t know that the Holocaust was happening even if there was a death camp in their neighborhood. (Of course, there were people who said that they had no idea that the Holocaust was happening in their towns but I’d just call these people being in flagrant denial. Besides, there’s no way that anyone nearby the death camps wouldn’t be ignorant of the Holocaust. I mean you can’t deny something terrible was going on after seeing the sight of black smoke and the stench of burning flesh afterwards. You can’t shelter a kid from that.)

Most Jews knew about the gas chambers at concentration camps during the Holocaust. (Most of them didn’t know anything about the gas chambers at the concentration camp until they were either in one {which was too late to tell anyone about them} or after the war during the Allied concentration camp liberation.)

The Nazis only went after Jews. (They also went after other people as well including people who were married and friends with Jews, gypsies, gays, social radicals, scientists, Soviet POWs, and later rich Poles.)

European Jewish people would never betray each other even if they had to pay with their lives. (Schindler’s List and The Pianist correct this with the Jewish Police.)

Concentration camp prisoners were always well fed, visibly clean, trimmed, and hairless. (Of course, no one could make a historically accurate Nazi concentration camp scene without starving the actors. Besides, the real images from concentration camp of naked and starved prisoners full of lice would’ve been particularly horrifying.)

It wasn’t unusual for German boys to strike up a chat with concentration camp inmates through a fence. (This is a premise for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. However, there would absolutely be no way for a German boy to stroll up to the fence for chats with camp inmates because he would’ve been shot on site the first time he tried son of an SS officer or not. Also, unlike what the film implies, even an 8 year-old German boy would certainly know who Adolf Hitler was.)

The public knew that the Nazis were capable of staging a mass genocide. (Actually while anti-Semitism had been pervasive in Europe for a millennium up to World War II, most people at the time would’ve thought the idea of a Jewish genocide as monstrous and unthinkable. Unfortunately, this is why the Nazis came so close to succeeding because nobody thought they’d do, despite evidence and even survivors until Allied troops saw the death camps for themselves.)

King Christian of Denmark publicly wore a yellow Star of David in defiance of a Nazi order that all Danish Jews do so. (This is a myth for Danish Jews were never ordered to wear a yellow star in the first place.)

Anne Frank:

Anne Frank received her diary after her family went into hiding. (She received it on her 13th birthday a few days before the family went into hiding. The makers of the 1959 film about her probably just wanted to save money because most of her diary takes place in the Secret Annex anyway. Also, when her diary was published some of the names were changed to preserve anonymity.)

Wladyslaw Szpilman:

Wladyslaw Szpilman stumbled away from the Treblinka train as the Jewish police officer said “Don’t Run!” (Contrary to The Pianist, this didn’t happen exactly as Szpilman recounted it though he was saved by a Jewish policeman while his whole family was gassed. However, some of that train scene consisted of some material Roman Polanski supplanted from his own Holocaust experience. Oh, and Szpilman had other friends who helped him besides the couple of entertainers featured. Still, Adrien Brody is almost a dead ringer for the real thing.)

Oskar Schindler:

Oskar Schindler didn’t start helping Jews until he saw an old one armed man killed by Nazis in his factory. (Actually he tried to save as many Jews possible almost from the moment the Final Solution was implemented. Nevertheless, it was Itzhak Stern who discovered a way to use the channel of forced labor to Schindler to help his fellow Jews. He even traveled to Budapest, Hungary where he met with representatives of Jewish organizations to tell them what was happening in Poland as early as 1942. Not to mention, he also worked as an agent for the Abwehr during the 1930s before arriving to Krakow which was headed by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris who was covertly working against the Nazi regime. And it was his Abwehr connections that helped him protect his Jewish workers from deportation and death in Nazi concentration camps. Of course, Spielberg kind of exaggerated Schindler’s journey from greedy jerk to hero in Schindler’s List.)

Oskar Schindler was German. (He was born in the present day Czech Republic and so was his wife. They were ethnic Germans though but not technically German citizens. Still, Schindler was never as good looking as Liam Neeson.)

Oskar Schindler’s factory hired Jews all through the Second World War. (Actually most of his original employees in his enamelware factory in Krakow were Poles and he switched to hiring Jews because they were cheaper and after he hired Itzhak Stern.)

Oskar Schindler named Jewish workers at his Krakow factory to be taken to what is now the Czech Republic in 1944. (At this time, some claim that Schindler was in jail for bribing the brutal SS commander Captain Amon Goeth during the latter’s investigation of corruption by the SS. As for Stern, well, he wasn’t even working for Schindler then. Also, there’s evidence that the names of the factory workers were compiled in 9 lists, the first 4 of them by a corrupt Jewish security police named Marcel Goldberg, who was a loathsome figure who accepted bribes to get people on the list which resulted in some Jews being removed. The Jews who worked for Schindler didn’t have fond memories of him and would’ve made a poor character in Schindler’s List. Schindler may not have written a lot of the list but he’s said to be primarily responsible for the fact there was one.)

Emilie Schindler did nothing to aid the Jews under her husband’s care except stoically support her philandering husband. (Emilie was also involved in her husband’s efforts though she was a forgiving wife. She cooked for the workers and cared for the sick at her husband’s second plant in the present day Czech Republic as well as assisted in her husband’s heroic efforts that she was honored as a Righteous Gentile as well. Her husband meanwhile he provided for his workers well beyond giving them the security of employment. He spent his own money providing them food, clothes, and medical care. He’s even said to provide weapons for them, too. He encouraged them to practices their religious rituals including Jewish burial rites. He accepted a shipment of 2 boxcars of literally frozen Jews and personally aided them in their recovery.)

Oskar Schindler was named a Righteous Gentile in 1958. (He was actually named in 1993 nearly 20 years after his death and during the time when Schindler’s List was filmed. His wife was also named a Righteous Gentile after her death as well.)

Invasion of Poland:

Plumbing fixtures were untouched during the bombings of Warsaw. (Contrary to The Pianist where water was still in the bathtubs after the bombings, you wouldn’t be able to get a bath if you tried since there was no running water. Maybe Wladyslaw Szpilman lived near a river or something. Then again, maybe the water had been in the bathtubs for a very long time.)

The Soviet Front:

Russia fought for the Allies in early 1941. (Contrary to Pearl Harbor, in early 1941, Russia was still an ally to Nazi Germany. The Russians wouldn’t switch sides until June of that year once the Germans invade the Soviet Union. And even then, Russia wouldn’t be considered one of the Allies until January of 1942.)

Female Soviet soldiers were hopeless, uncommitted fighters, and sexual predators. (No wonder Cross of Iron was said to be misogynist. Then again, since it’s a film by Sam Peckinpah, no one should be surprised. Still, Soviet women were allowed a more active role in combat than women in any other nation during World War II. Many Soviet women served as highly decorated fighters, pilots, and snipers.)

Whistles were used in the Soviet Army as signals for attack. (They weren’t.)

Soviet soldiers never attached bayonets on their rifles. (Soviet soldiers always went into battles with bayonets on their rifles.)

Snipers could duel each other over the vast expanses over the empty ruins of Stalingrad without collateral casualties. (Except that during the Battle of Stalingrad, these ruins weren’t empty but had hundreds of thousands if not millions of soldiers crammed into an area that was only a few square miles.)

15-year-old Sacha Fillipov was hung by  Major Konig. (Contrary to Enemy at the Gates, the boy was hung with several other children by the Germans on Christmas Eve 1942. He was a spy for the Russians though and did exist. However, it’s likely Konig didn’t.)

The “Zagradotryad” wore regular Red Army uniforms. (They were an NKVD {secret police} unit that was responsible for shooting retreating troops. Thus, they’d wear NKVD issued uniforms.)

Mass attacks were utilized at Stalingrad. (Those attacks you see in Enemy at the Gates were never utilized in Stalingrad because open squares were few and far between. Actual fighting took place in street-to-street and entire battles could take place in a single building. But what World War II would be without tanks? Still, The Pianist does have a scene where a battle takes place in an entire building even though the movie takes place in Warsaw.)

“Oy Kozaro” was a Russian fighting song. (It’s a Yugoslav fighting song. Russians wouldn’t know this.)

The Red Army never had enough rifles or ammunition to arm their soldiers. (They actually were swimming in guns following the German invasion. Still, some units at Stalingrad did suffer from rifle shortages mostly due to logistics problems. Yet, there’s no evidence that Soviet soldiers were sent to attack the Germans with one weapon for every two men. Nor is there any record of any Soviet soldier being sent into combat unarmed.)

If the West had overcome its anti-Soviet prejudice, then World War II wouldn’t have happened. (According to Mission to Moscow that is. Seriously, this is the most fucked up shit I’ve ever heard. Still, according to historian Robert Osborne, “At the time this movie was made it had one of the largest casts ever assembled … When it was shown in Moscow, despite all the good will, people who saw it considered it a comedy—its portrayal of average, everyday life in the Soviet Union apparently way off the mark for 1943.” However, it is based on what US ambassador Joseph E. Davies thought about the Soviet Union, propaganda or not. Nevertheless, he’s usually derided as a political naïf and “useful idiot” for the Stalin regime and for good reason.)

Leon Trotsky and his followers were spies for Germany and Japan during World War II. (Trotsky was in Mexico at this time trying to stay alive. Stalin would eventually catch up to him though. As for Trotsky’s followers, do you think they’d give a shit about Germany and Japan? No. Besides, wasn’t it Stalin who signed the non-aggression pact with Hitler? Yeah, and little did Stalin realize that Hitler would break the pact with Operation Barbarossa in June of 1941 by invading Soviet territories. Oh, and there’s evidence that Soviet intelligence had full knowledge about Operation Barbarossa but Stalin refused to accept it until it was too late.)

Josef Stalin:

Josef Stalin’s purges were a justified investigation against pro-Nazi spies. (Oh, for fucking God’s sake! Doesn’t anyone behind Mission to Moscow ever understand that Stalin staged his purges in the 1920s and 1930s which wiped out up to 30 million of his own people? His purges during this time would significantly weaken Russia before the German invasion in 1941. Not only that, but his killing off of experienced officers would also hinder Russia’s defense capabilities for a time as well, which is why the Germans were able to go as far as they did. Still, if you want to make a movie about tolerance for other countries and cultures, don’t have it take place in Stalinist Russia {at least one that features Stalin as a good guy} or any place that has a leader known for committing crimes against humanity.)

Nikita Khruschev:

During World War II, Commissar Nikita Khruschev (yes, that one) feasted and resided in luxury while his soldiers languished in a damp basement. (Khruschev wouldn’t be happy with his portrayal in Enemy at the Gates. This is a man who considered a flush toilet as an unnecessary luxury and at his meals on oak plywood. Russian officers didn’t lead decadent lifestyles at all.)

Nikita Khruschev led the Red Army during the Battle of Stalingrad. (The real leaders were Vasilevsky, Chuikov and Zhukov. Good luck finding them in Enemy at the Gates, because they’re nowhere to be seen. Zhukov’s efforts in World War II led him to be such a popular war hero that Stalin couldn’t kill or imprison him despite his jealousy of Russia’s most famous war hero.)

Vassili Zaitsev:

Soviet sniper Vassili Zaitsev engaged in a sniper duel with a German Major Erwin Konig. (No sniper named Konig has ever been identified in the German records, though Zaitsev claimed this. Yet, unlike Enemy at the Gates, the sniper duel is said to have lasted for 3 days until Konig was killed if it happened. Zaitsev also said that he was the head of the Berlin sniper school but there’s no information to verify that. Actually other than Zaitsev’s memoirs, there’s no documentary evidence to prove that Konig actually existed, or that the duel ever took place. It’s pretty likely that Zaitsev either made the whole thing up or just didn’t know who the guy was.)

Vasili Zaitsev carried a romance with Tania Chernova who was also involved with Commissar Danilov. (He never claimed to have any relationship with anyone during the war, let alone be in a love triangle involving his boss. However, it’s said that Zaitsev and Tania were involved {despite being no love triangle since Tania could never have met Danilov for his contact with Zaitsev was limited} but they later separated and were each wounded in landmines. Both thought the other person was dead though Tania later found out that Zaitsev ended up marrying another woman and became devastated. She never married because of her love for Zaitsev. Zaitsev, on the other hand, he might’ve went to the grave thinking that Tania never survived the war. Actually the love story in Enemy at the Gates has more basis in historic fact than the sniper duel despite loud protests from critics who thought it as an unnecessary Hollywood addition to the gritty sniper duel action. Also, the rank of commissar was eliminated in October 1942, well before the end of the Battle of Stalingrad.)

Vaisili Zaitsev was a peasant pressed into military service in the Soviet Union’s darkest hour. (He was actually an experienced hunter with some education as well as had been a technical clerk in the Soviet Navy in the Pacific fleet. Also, he was a senior sergeant during the Battle of Stalingrad. In Enemy at the Gates, he’s a naïve shepherd boy who’s especially good at killing.)

Vaisili Zaitsev was an ace sniper. (He wasn’t said to be the best. Also, there were more than a million men fighting on both sides in Stalingrad.)

Tania Chernova:

Tania Chernova was an innocent sniper girl. (Except that she’s said to have a tough military background as an expert sniper with a long roster of kills. Oh, and while her and Zaitsev were involved in real life, her relationship took a back seat to her assassination missions. Also, Tania was said to be from the US and wouldn’t be speaking English in a British accent.)

Tania Chernova was wounded during an evacuation from Stalingrad. (She was wounded during an attempt to find and assassinate German General Frederich von Paulus, commander of the 6th Army, when a female sniper ahead of her stepped on a mine. Severely wounded, Zaitsev carried her back and they never saw each other again. But in Enemy at the Gates, she and Zaitsev are reunited at her hospital bed and live happily ever after.)

The Bielski Brothers:

Tuvia and Zus Bielski were the oldest brothers. (Actually out of the four Bielski brothers in Defiance the birth order is as follows: Tuvia, Asael, Zus, and Aron. They also had six other brothers and two sisters.)

Tuvia Bielski was emotionally conflicted over killing a policeman responsible for his parents’ arrest. (Yes, he killed the guy but he had no emotional qualms over it. Actually the Bielski brothers were fearsome fighters who targeted many Nazi collaborators, often executing entire families. They wanted to send a message loud and clear such as, “if you target Jews, there’s going to be hell to pay from us.”)

The Bielski group found the Soviet partisans greatly unhelpful. (Their alliance with the Soviet partisans wasn’t the most comfortable. The Soviets were fairly anti-Semitic while the Bielskis weren’t so fond on Communism. However, Tuvia knew how to deal with the leaders by downplaying the group’s Jewish identity and exaggerating their pro-Communist sentiments. That and proving his group’s worth with frequent acts of sabotage against the Nazis. The Bielskis alliance with the Soviets was an uneasy one but they managed to work fairly closely together, though Defiance implies otherwise.)

Asael Bielski was in his twenties during his time with the Bielski partisans. (He was 33 and was 4 years older than his brother Zus as well as 2 years younger than Tuvia contrary to Defiance.)

Tuvia Bielski met his wife Lilka in the forest in Nazi occupied Belarus during his time in the war. (Maybe but she was his step-niece of his second wife. She was also half-his age and perhaps would’ve been a teenager at the time contrary to Defiance. His second wife would’ve made a more suitable love interest. Still, Tuvia looked more like Eli Thompson from Boardwalk Empire with darker hair than Daniel Craig.)

Zus Bielski left his brothers to join the Soviet partisans. (The Bielskis stayed together until the last few months of the war when Moscow took direct control of the partisan fighters ordering Zus and Asael into separate units.)

The heroism of the Bielski brothers lay primarily in their willingness to wreck revenge on the Nazis. (Actually they weren’t the only group wreaking revenge as other Jewish and Eastern European groups did the same. Their real heroism lay primarily with their work in rescuing and protecting other Jews including those too weak or old to fight from almost certain death. This resulted in the rescue and survival of over a thousand Jews under their watch.)

The Bielski group had an egalitarian society within their ranks. (According to one book about women in the Holocaust, some of the Bielski brigade members said that the brothers ate better and the fighters had first pick among the women as sexual partners. “There is no equality in any place and there was no equality in the forest either,” according to one survivor.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 64 – World War II: Nazi Germany

Image

Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator is a not so thinly veiled satire on Nazi Germany filmed while war was raging in Europe. Here Chaplin plays Adolf Hitler expy Adenoid Hynkel of Tomainia who’s a power hungry totalitarian despot with dreams of world domination. Chaplin hated the Nazis and made this movie specifically to reduce Hitler and his regime down to size. He also played on any similarities he had with Hitler such as the mustache as well as did thorough research for this comedy. For instance, Hitler actually did have a globe in his office and his public speech sequence looks like it was a parodied scene from Triumph of the Will. Though it was banned in Nazi Germany, it’s said that Hitler actually saw it twice. Chaplin would’ve given anything to know what Hitler thought of it. Still, this is truly one of the greats.

World War II is a common topic in a lot of historical films, wait a minute, more like a whole film genre. Not to mention, it’s such a popular history topic that most of what you saw on The History Channel consisted of World War II stuff during its Hitler Channel days, which will be sorely missed. Of course, it is one of those times in history that people most fondly remember. Many of us know and/or related to people who served in it and there are plenty of veterans still alive today though they’re dying off as we speak. Still, unless you live in Germany or Japan it’s a war many people remember fondly since it’s a time when we were fighting countries who either attacked us or that one of our enemies was a truly evil dictator known for committing great crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, many World War II movies usually have themes that pertain to love of country, courage, camaraderie, and all the things of how war can bring the best in us. They also show  awesome weaponry.

Of course, you couldn’t talk about World War II with Nazi Germany which lasted from 1933 to 1945. During this time Germany was ruled by a totalitarian dictator and the closest thing to the Anti-Christ Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party best known for being so fanatically racist that they’d commit genocide for it as well as having ambitions for world domination. Since they started things like World War II and the Holocaust, there could be not doubt that they were the bad guys and have been portrayed as convenient enemies in fiction. They are also known for their stylish uniforms, advanced weaponry, and other things. Yet, much of the bad things that happened in Nazi Germany at the time continue to haunt the German people to this day. Nevertheless, many WWII movies tend to have some misconceptions of Nazi Germany which I shall list accordingly.

Adolf Hitler:

Hitler had very good vision. (He was extremely far sighted that he couldn’t read without his glasses unless the text was very large. Yet, in most movies, he’s not wearing any when he’s in his headquarters.)

Hitler wore civilian clothes during World War II. (He actually didn’t wear civilian clothes during the war unless you count his pajamas. Also, it would’ve been unthinkable for him to receive an officer or approve a military plan while not in uniform.)

Adolf Hitler was an evil genius. (He was kind of an asshole who was kind of shitty at everything yet somehow unbelievably successful kind of like his Charlie Chaplin expy in The Great Dictator or if Forrest Gump was used as a Bond villain. Not to mention, he receives too much credit made by people around him and a lot of his own contributions to the German war effort {besides starting it} were failures. In short, he was an evil bastard with more luck than brains.)

Nazi Party:

All Germans were Nazis. (There were plenty of German civilians and soldiers who didn’t agree with Hitler and his policies, especially if they were Jewish or knew someone who was like Oskar Schindler. Most of the kids in the Hitler Youth had little choice of whether to join or not and much of the military consisted of conscripts as well.)

German aristocrats supported the Nazis. (Some did but a lot of them didn’t. Sure there were German noblemen who supported the Nazis like Herman Goering and there were sympathizers outside the country {like Charles Lindbergh before the war}. Many aristocrats in Germany weren’t too keen on the Nazi equality approach and sometimes saw the Nazis as a bunch of lower-class hicks since Nazism was a populist grassroots movement despite being anti-democratic and racist. Many aristocrats were also officers in the German army and Hitler hated officers. Also, some German nobles were sent to concentration camps themselves, many were involved in Hitler’s assassination plot, and some noble families were even notable for their Nazi opposition like the Hapsburgs. Still, you think noblemen would make ideal Nazi supporters but it really wasn’t the case. In fact, Anti-Nazi noblemen were disproportionately more common than the arrogant Nazi aristocrat you see in films.)

The SS and Gestapo were utterly evil.

The swastika has always been a symbol of racial and ethnic superiority. (This is only because the Nazis made the swastika their logo. It’s actually an ancient symbol from India and has a very different meaning. In Japan, a swastika is used to denote a Buddhist temple.)

Most Nazis had blond hair and blue eyes.

The Nazis had rediscovered the lost city of Tanis in 1936. (It was never lost in the first place and there have been numerous archaeological digs before the Nazis ever took power. Also, it was under British control.)

Nazi Germany had an efficiently run government and had a decent economy. (Actually the Nazi government was as inefficient as you’d expect most governments to be as well as full of internal corruption and egotistical rivalries. Also, prior to the war, the German economy was on the verge of collapse and might have been the reason why the Nazi Germany took Austria and Czechoslovakia before military conquest was the only thing to prevent economic meltdown because there weren’t free targets left to exploit.)

The Knights Cross was a Nazi decoration for actions in the Spanish Civil War. (It’s a World War II decoration.)

Popularity of the Nazi party was driven by racial superiority and the idea of a strong military. (Actually most of the core of the Nazi political machinery was the urban lower class consisting of impoverished skilled workers, intellectuals, and nationalistic military men. Your typical Nazi supporter would’ve been a recent lower class arrival particularly someone who was used to being relatively well-off and respected but had fallen on hard times as a result of the Depression. Mostly these people were angry for being “robbed of their rightful place” in the high status parts of society and wanted to get back up there to form a new ruling elite. Popularity of the Nazi party was driven more or less by envy, resentment, and fears of inferiority. You can see why the Nazis weren’t well liked by the Prussian aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and the intellectuals of the Weimar Republic.

On the day of the July 20 plot, Otto Remer arrived at Josef Goebbels place unannounced. Goebbels placed a cyanide capsule in this mouth and handed the phone to Remer hoping he’d speak to Hitler to confirm that his Fuhrer was still alive. (Contrary to Valkyrie, the scene with Remer and Goebbels didn’t happen that way. From Imdb: “Remer issued the orders to secure Berlin as per the implementation of Operation Valkyrie but realized that something was wrong. Remer immediately telephoned Goebbels and discussed the matter with him. He was then invited to visit Goebbels whereupon Goebbels arranged telephone contact with the Wolfs Lair and Remer was allowed to confirm that Hitler was still alive.”)

The Wehrmacht:

The German Wehrmacht was capable of taking over most of Europe despite being rubbish shots.

German soldiers greeted each other by using the Hitler salute. (Actually the Wehrmacht only used the Hitler salute when they were greeted by Der Fuhrer himself. Yet, you see German officers Heil Hitlering each other in World War II movies all the time regardless of whether they’re in the Wehrmacht or the SS.)

The Wehrmacht was a much nobler than the SS. (Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean it was clean because it wasn’t. The rank and file of the German military was just as susceptible of Hitler’s race-hating propaganda as the rest of Germany. It also ran brutal POW camps for Soviet prisoners, enforced illegal Commissar and Commando Orders {instructions to enforce Soviet commissars and British special operations troops out of hand}, and helped the understaffed SS Einsatzgruppen transport and massacre Jews. By 1939, despite that their personnel weren’t technically Nazis {party membership was banned in the German military} the Wehrmacht was basically like any other branch of government in Nazi Germany, highly politicized, and constantly competing for Hitler’s attention and patronage. Besides, the Wehrmacht’s increasing politicization came at the expense of its military professionalism. By 1941, its operational plans had become seriously divorced from the reality as they based more of their planning upon racist assumptions about their enemies, which they didn’t attempt to redress. Still, the deeply perception of a “clean Wehrmacht” was promoted by the self-serving memoirs of the German brass who escaped execution after the war. The truth is that while the Wehrmacht wasn’t as evil as the SS, they still had a deep commitment to Nazism as well as a depressing litany of war crimes.)

The German officers who tried to kill Hitler were liberals who actually cared about the Jewish people as well as wished to close the concentration camps holding them. (While Valkyrie portrays the conspirators as democrats who believed in equality, most of the plotters were aristocrats who were primarily monarchist and extremely conservative with anti-Semitic and classist views. Their objections ranged from Hitler being too murderous toward the “gutter races,” to empowering the lower and middle classes or because he was simply losing the war. Many of them also had every intention of fighting on against the Soviet Union as well. Still, it would’ve been difficult for an audience to get behind protagonists who only disagreed with 40% of Hitler’s ideals.)

The Germans lost the Battle of the Bulge because they were running out of fuel. (They were running out of other supplies. Also, Eisenhower denounced this in a press conference.)

German weaponry was rather high tech. (Most German soldiers were armed with a Mauser bolt-action rifle, the Karabiner 98 Kurz which was a slight modernization of a weapon their grandfathers would’ve been familiar with, later they used any gun they could find. However, the Nazis did create a lot of military technology many armed forces still use today, particularly in the machine gun category. Still, their greatest wartime innovation actually isn’t a weapon at all but a “jerry can” that could be opened and closed without tools, was self-sealing without additional parts, included a spout rather than required a funnel, couldn’t be overfilled as a fail-safe against heat and vapor expansion, and was still cheap to manufacture despite being much more sturdy. It’s been used by both military and civilians to this day {so you’ve probably seen one or even own one} but you wouldn’t see it as part of the best in Nazi military technology. Sure a “jerry can” is just a container you may use to carry gas for your mower but it would something your Allied soldiers would’ve loved to get their hands on.)

German soldiers dropped leaflets to African Free French soldiers that they’d be treated well if they surrendered. (German soldiers may have stuck to the Geneva Convention when they captured British and French soldiers, but they’d occasionally massacre African prisoners of war.)

Germany conquered Turkey and Switzerland by 1942. (Does the person who made Enemy at the Gates know that these countries remained neutral and independent during World War II? Also, if Switzerland was already conquered by Germany at this point in the war, then why would Allied prisoners desperately want to escape there? )

German soldiers were allowed to wear beards. (German regulations prohibited the wearing of beards except in the front lines and in other situations shaving was impossible. Having German soldiers wearing beards in Stalingrad would make sense. Yet, a desk sergeant in Berlin wouldn’t have one.)

German vehicles were emblazoned with Nazi Party swastikas. (They were emblazoned with the Balkenkreuz a straight armed cross which was the emblem of the Wehrmacht.)

All German soldiers had buzz-cuts. (Most Wehrmacht haircuts were about 1-2 inches long.)

The Heer (German Army):

German panzer tanks closely resembled Sherman tanks with the exception of Nazi decoration.

The MP-40 sub-machine gun was a common weapon for the German military. (You see this German gun a lot in movies but it really wasn’t a very common weapon in real life and was only really useful in short range fire fights like in Stalingrad. It was issued to paratroopers, tank crews as well as platoon and squad leaders.)

Halftracks were the primary transport vehicles for the German Army. (Actually these vehicles you usually see in World War II movies only moved the heaviest German artillery pieces. Most German supplies including the majority of light and medium artillery was pulled by horse drawn limbers. Many suggest that the Germans didn’t resort to chemical warfare during World War II was due to their reliance on horse powered transport to support their mobile style of maneuver warfare. Still, if anyone saw a WWII movie in which most of the German Army’s supplies was moved by horses, they would probably complain that the filmmakers didn’t do their research {except maybe WWII veterans}. And yet, the German Army actually did rely on horse transport that many would consider obsolete by the 1940s.)

The Heer was composed mostly of panzer units. (Actually it was mostly composed of infantry units. In the German Army, pure infantry divisions outnumbered panzer divisions by at least 5 to 1.)

Most German Army units had mechanized equipment. (Actually the vast majority of mechanized equipment went to the panzer divisions while infantry divisions marched everywhere on foot relying almost exclusively on horses for logistical support. WWII Heer infantry divisions were almost identical to those in WWI in this respect. Still, even at the height of German motorization, it’s said that only 20% of German Army divisions were fully motorized. Rommel’s Army in North Africa was one of them yet only it was impossible to rely on horses in the desert. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from watching World War II films.)

Panzer tanks were reliable weapons. (I know that German tanks are seen as a marvel in military technology but Nazi tank technology wasn’t very good. Not to mention, German manufacturing wasn’t cranking out as many tanks as the US and Russia were. Until partway to the German campaign in Russia, the Germans were building fast and relatively light tanks, which were good against people but terrible against other tanks. Even Rommel could admit this. A single Russian KV-2 tank held up the elements of the 6th Panzer division for over a day. And in the ambush at Krasnogvardeysk, 5 KV-1 tanks destroyed 43 German tanks with no losses whatsoever. Their most reliable tank was the medium Panzer IV which had an equal armament and armor as a Sherman tank and the Russian T-34, which would soon outnumber the German tanks significantly. Besides, it was an infantry tank designed not to engage in armor but it was easy to accessorize. Then you have the late war heavy Tiger and Panther tanks which were fearsome opponents on paper but they also suffered from rushed development and were never as reliable in service as their American and Russian counterparts. They also couldn’t stay out in the open very long since they made easy targets for Allied planes. So much for German tank technology.)

The Panzerfaust was a rocket launcher. (It was a anti-tank weapon with a huge gun but it didn’t shoot up rockets.)

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt:

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt was a good friend to Erwin Rommel and supported the July 20 plot. (Unlike what The Desert Fox implies, Runstedt wasn’t the genial old man the movie makes him to be. In fact, Runstedt and Rommel had a contentious relationship at best. His disagreements with Hitler were purely tactical and he had no sympathy at all for the July 20 plotters in which he called their efforts, “base, bare-faced treachery.”)

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel:

Erwin Rommel was disgusted by Adolf Hitler’s command of the war. (He eventually did but not at first. He disagreed with Hitler’s tactics and brutality but he did fight for Hitler whether you like it or not. Yet, he was never a Nazi and there’s very little evidence he ever personally held any anti-Semitic beliefs. Still, while The Desert Fox doesn’t show it, Rommel sincerely admired Hitler and remained on good terms with him personally at least until the Second Battle of El Alamein when Hitler ordered “victory or death,” after Rommel requested permission to retreat and resupply. It was an order he’d promptly ignore with his faith in Der Fuhrer broken. As for looks, he bores a much closer resemblance to Daniel Craig than James Mason.)

When ordered to commit suicide, Erwin Rommel couldn’t bear to tell his fifteen-year-old son that he was being taken away to die. (Moving scene in The Desert Fox but it’s wrong. As his son Manfred remembers, Rommel just promptly told him, “I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour.”)

Erwin Rommel was involved with Claus von Stauffenberg’s plot to assassinate Hitler with a bomb planted in Der Fuhrer’s briefcase. (Well, it’s actually a bit complicated. Rommel did want peaceful negotiations with the Allies as well as Hitler removed and certainly knew about Stauffenberg’s plot as well as lent his support, but most historians doubt that he was involved with the July 20 plot. He just didn’t think assassinating him first was a good idea since he believed it would spark a civil war between Germany and Austria as well as make Hitler a martyr for a lasting cause. Instead, he wanted Hitler arrested and tried for his crimes, then executed like Saddam Hussein was. Still, evidence shows he couldn’t believe that Der Fuhrer was responsible for the Nazi regime’s crimes and ascribed the blame to various subordinates.)

Erwin Rommel had one child. (He actually had two. Aside from his son Manfred, he had a “niece” named Gertrud Stemmer he sired in an illicit affair with a local fruit seller named Wallburga {this happened before Rommel met his wife}. He continued to support her from the time she was 15 and they remained close for the rest of his life. He’d also wear a plaid scarf his daughter made for him during his African campaign. Gertrud was 30 when her “uncle” committed suicide.)

Erwin Rommel was in perfect health during the Normandy breakout. (He had his staff car shot up by R. A. F. fighter bombers over a week before Operation Cobra started that left him badly wounded. At the time of the Normandy breakout, he was in a French hospital.)

Erwin Rommel was a Field Marshal during the North Africa campaign. (He wouldn’t be promoted to Field Marshal until the war shifted to Western Europe. In North Africa, he was still a Lieutenant General.)

Colonel Count von Stauffenberg:

Count von Stauffenberg lost his right eye in North Africa. (He actually lost his left eye as well as his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand. He’d later joke that he never really knew what to do with so many fingers when he still had all of them.  He also had been treated for his wounds without morphine or any other anesthetic. Still, Stauffenberg did look a little bit like Tom Cruise, except that he was almost a head taller than the actor who portrayed him in Valkyrie.)

Count von Stauffenberg approached Erwin Rommel when the Allied armies were sweeping across the Rhine. (The Germans were still containing the Allies at Normandy at this time. The Allies wouldn’t break out until after the assassination attempt.)

Count von Stauffenberg was a fan of Richard Wagner. (He hated Wagner.)

Count von Stauffenberg was a decorated World War I veteran. (He would’ve been too young fight in that war.)

Count von Stauffenberg placed the briefcase bomb on a peg table leg during the July 20 plot. (Contrary to Valkyrie, Stauffenberg placed the bomb on a block table leg, which proved crucial in saving Hitler’s life. This is because a guy named Colonel Brandt moved the briefcase bomb to the other side of the block away from Hitler because he was trying to get a better view of the map. The blast blew away from Hitler and towards Brandt, ironically killing the latter.)

Captain Wilm Hosenfield:

Wilm Hosenfield was a high ranking senior combat officer in the German Army. (Contrary to The Pianist, He was only a captain and served as a “sports and culture officer” {activities director} in Warsaw.)

Wilm Hosenfield rescued Wladyslaw Szpilman on a personal whim. (Though suggested in The Pianist, Szpilman wasn’t the only one he rescued nor was his kindness towards him not on a whim {though the movie was told in his point of view so Hosenfield’s kindness would seem this way}. Hosenfield had used his position to save numerous Jews and Poles from death as far back as September of 1939. He even worshiped in the local Catholic churches as well as made an effort to learn Polish so he could talk to those he befriended. Unfortunately, he’d later die in a Soviet prison camp in 1952.)

General Henning von Tresckow:

During the attempt to blow up Hitler’s plane, General Henning von Tresckow delivered the bomb to Colonel Brandt at the aircraft and later retrieved it from Berlin. (Contrary to Valkyrie, Tresckow’s deputy Fabian von Schlabrendorff did both in real life in March of 1943 before Count von Stauffenberg was crippled in the P-40 attack that April. Oh, and he was still a Colonel at the time and wouldn’t be promoted until June 1944.)

General Karl Matzer:

General Karl Matzer was an impulsive and hardcore Nazi. (Contrary to Massacre in Rome, he was a reserved officer who was cautious in implementing harsh policies.)

General Ludwig Beck:

Ludwig Beck was in his civilian clothes during the July 20 plot and managed to commit suicide afterwards. (The day of the Hitler death attempt with the suitcase bomb was the first time Beck wore his military uniform in 6 years contrary to Valkyrie. Also, he failed to kill himself twice that another officer ended up finishing him off.)

The Kriegsmarine (German Navy):

German U-boats usually shot defenseless young sailors who were stranded from sunken enemy fleets. (Actually, though Hitler ordered them to do so, most German U-boat crews usually assisted the survivors of ships they sunk usually because the captain could be interrogated, used as a bargaining chip, or convinced to switch sides. Some stories have German U-boat crews giving survivors navigation aids and supplies. Most German U-boat captains were also afraid of how their crew would be treated in the event of captured so many conveniently ignored Hitler’s orders. The Allies, on the other hand, would attack German U-boats on sight regardless of whether or not there were rescued merchant men inside.)

In the spring of 1942, the U-571 was captured by an American submarine in which the crew went on board to steal its Enigma machine. (This is part of the plot to the movie U-571, which is seen as one of the most historically inaccurate movies of all time and for good reason. First, the real U-571 was never captured but was actually sunk by an Australian plane off the coast of Ireland in 1944. Second, by 1942 the Allies had several Enigma machines already many of them in England’s Bletchley Park. Not only that, but the Enigma had already been deciphered by this point, like 7 months before the US entered the war. Thus, such mission by an American submarine crew would’ve been an unnecessary waste of tax dollars by this point, just saying. Not to mention, Tony Blair actually condemned U-571 in Parliament as an insult to the Royal Navy {who basically captured the Enigma machines with no help from the US}. Even worse, the U-571’s director managed to dedicate the film to the real sailors who captured the Enigma machines whose memories he just desecrated in the most tasteless gesture a filmmaker could ever make. It would be as if the British made a movie about their soldiers defeating the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. Still, this movie was inspired by a real story of the U-110’s capture by the HMS Bulldog back in 1941. Yet, the Bulldog’s crew was just after the codebooks.)

Schnellboots were referred to as “E-boats” by the Germans. (The Germans referred to them as “S-boats.” “E-boat” is an Allied designation.)

Very few sailors on a German U-boat crew believed in Nazism. (The German Navy may have been the least political of the Wehrmacht services. Yet, the number of true believers among U-boat crews was among the highest at least later on in the war since U-boat crews experienced staggering casualties {30,000-40,000 U-boat sailors died in the war}. Not to mention, most military recruits by then would’ve come straight out of the Hitler Youth either heavily indoctrinated or more entrenched in Nazi ideology. Still, you wouldn’t know it from Das Boot which takes place early in the war.)

Admiral Lutjens was a fanatical Nazi supporter. (He’s depicted this way in Sink the Bismarck!, but his support was far from enthusiastic in real life. He greeted everyone up to and including Hitler himself with the traditional German naval salute instead of “Heil Hitler.” He’d also wear his Imperial navy dagger on his Kriegsmarine uniform. His crew weren’t diehard Nazis either.)

The Luftwaffe (German Air Force):

The Luftwaffe was a formidable foe against Allied planes in World War II. (Yes, they’re seen as a formidable foe in World War II but they mostly were committed to a tactical bombing role and their strength as a fighting force was significantly damaged by the Battle of Britain. Though Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to strategically bomb major cities, it wasn’t equipped to do this. Yet, it was the first Air Force to use paratroopers, which greatly impressed the Allies that they built their own airborne divisions for Normandy.)

Herman Goering was late to the conference with Hitler that took place before the July 20 assassination attempt. (Goering wasn’t at the conference at all that day.)

Messerschmitts had British engines. (They had German engines made by Daimler-Benz unlike in Valkyrie.)

German paratroopers descended with a kit bag attached by a line to one leg. (This is an an American and British technique, not used by the Germans.)

The SS:

The Waffen SS was an elite Special Forces organization. (The only extra training the SS received was purely ideological and functioned more like the Secret Service than the Green Berets and thought of as a little more than thugs, not front line soldiers, at least before they started to push their recruitment as front line units which was in 1943. Not to mention, it was said that some SS divisions received worse combat training and equipment as non-SS divisions. No Waffen-SS unit ever achieved a better kill ratio than the Heer’s best troops.)

The Waffen SS was the unit that massacred Jews during the Holocaust. (It was the Einsatzgruppen-SS that were death squads and they consisted of 15,000 members in 6 groups with 2 never seeing any action. Still, they were responsible for the death of more than 1.3 million people. Their most infamous was the massacre of 33, 771 near Babi Yar, a ditch near the capital of Ukraine.)

The Waffen SS consisted of only German members. (It was a mostly volunteer organization that consisted of many recruits across Europe ranging from Germans, Austrians, White Russians to French, Scandinavians to even Muslim Bosniaks and Indians. It was kind of like a Nazi French Foreign Legion that had around a million personnel at its height. The reason being that while the German Army could only recruit German citizens, the Waffen-SS didn’t have such restriction.)

The SS wore black uniforms. (A common mistake in many World War II movies. From Imdb: “The Black SS uniforms were discontinued at the start of the war in 1939 and replaced by the green/gray uniform. Only Waffen SS tank crews wore black uniforms in combat. This was not, however, the all-black uniform worn by the pre-war SS, but rather a short, black waist-cut coat similar in style to that worn by tank crews in the Wehrmacht. “)

Amon Goeth:

Amon Goeth was a recipient of the 2nd class Iron Cross, the Sudetenland Medal, and the Silesian Eagle. (He never actually won any of these. Also, his importance in the political machinery of the Holocaust is overplayed in Schindler’s List. He was never promoted above the rank of Captain and never had any sort of political or military power.)

Amon Goeth was a very sadistic Nazi commandant who loved murdering people during the Holocaust. (Some people criticized the Spielberg for including such a “blatantly evil” villain like Goeth in Schindler’s List, claiming Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of him was too pointlessly cruel to be believable. However, unbeknownst to many viewers, Spielberg actually toned down the kind of monster Goeth was. Goeth was a guy who regularly tortured people in a special dungeon built under his villa for this specific purpose, fed prisoners alive to his starved dogs, shot playing children with his sniper rifle. He’s also believed to have personally murdered 500 people {amounting for a quarter of deaths that occurred in his camp} and much more. His camp had the highest death rate by far that didn’t include a gas chamber. And, yes, there are tons of evidence and documentation as well as countless witnesses for all of it. Not only that, but in September of 1944, Goeth would be relieved of his position as commandant at Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp as well as charged by the SS for failure to provide adequate food for prisoners under his charge, violation of concentration camp regulations regarding the treatment and punishment of prisoners, and others. However, the SS would commit him to a mental institution but would later be found by Polish and Amercian soldiers and executed not far from the site of his camp. Still, even toned down, he’s considered by AFI as the highest ranked non-fictional villain in movie history.)

The Gestapo:

The Gestapo wore those snazzy black outfits. (First, it was the SS who wore those. Second, since they were the secret police of the Third Reich, the Gestapo would either be wearing gray police uniforms or more often no uniforms at all. Actually, in Nazi Germany, you wouldn’t be able to recognize a member of the Gestapo.)

The Gestapo was ruthlessly efficient political police force in Nazi Germany. (They were also constantly understaffed and overworked and only counted on helpful German citizens or paid informers of occupied countries. Anne Frank and her family were turned in by an informer who worked for the Gestapo. Gestapo officers were selected primarily for their political reliability, rather than their professionalism {though there were effective agents who served there}. Yet, they weren’t as skillful with other espionage agencies as they were with sowing terror. The Third Reich’s truly scary counter-espionage agency had been the SD {security department within the SS} that were always driven to do their best, but even they weren’t that very effective. )

Gestapo Chief Herbert Kappler was a tired worn out man who’s disillusioned by the Nazi cause and thought that the fall of Nazi Germany was imminent. (Contrary to his Richard Burton portrayal in Massacre in Rome he was a zealous Nazi and was sent to Rome exactly for this reason. There, he organized round-ups of thousands of innocent victims, oversaw raids on Jewish homes for looted valuables, and was a key figure for transporting Italian Jews to Nazi death camps. Also, he was 37 years old. Oh, and the massacre was ordered by the SS and his superior was SS Captain Karl Wolff.)

The Hindenburg:

14 year old Werner Franz was doused with water once he escaped from the burning Hindenburg. (According to Wikipedia Franz: “escaped the flames after a water ballast tank overhead burst open and soaked him with water. He then made his way to the hatch and turned around and ran the other way, because the flames were being pushed by the wind towards the starboard side.” As of 2012, he’s still alive along with Werner Doehner who was 8 at the time.)

Circus performer Joseph Späh escaped by grabbing a landing rope from the Hindenburg. (There was no landing rope on the Hindenburg. According to Wikipedia he escaped by “smashing a window with his home movie camera (the film survived the disaster), and held on to the side of the window, jumping to the ground when the ship was low enough, surviving with only a broken ankle.”)
The Blutner baby grand piano was in the Hindenburg during its final season. (It was aboard during its 1936 season but not on its final flight in 1937.)

The Hindenburg’s crew repaired a tear in its cover as it drifted lower and lower in the Atlantic. (This happened but it was on the Great Zeppelin, not the Hindenburg.)

Captain Ernest Lehman and Dr. Hugo Eckener were very wary of the Nazi Party. (Contrary to the 1975 Hindenburg film, these two guys didn’t see eye to eye as far as the Nazis were concerned. Eckener hated the Nazis and made absolutely no secret about it while Lehman was very accommodating to the powers in Berlin to advance his career and the fortunes of the Zeppelin Company. Though the 1975 film has Lehman protesting using a ship to drop propaganda leaflets in 1936, he was perfectly eager to do this to the extent that he launched the ship in a dangerous wind condition, bashing its tail. Eckener actually lashed out against Lehman for endangering the ship to please the Nazis. Because of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels blacklisted Eckener in the press forever after despite him being a national {or international} hero.)

There was a conspiracy to destroy the Hindenburg airship. (Nope, the 1975 film gets this wrong. It was more or less due to a series of preventable events with the ignition coming out of nowhere.)

Miscellaneous:

No male spectator removed his hat and no military personnel saluted while a German national anthem was played by a military band. (This would simply not happen in Nazi Germany.)

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris was behind the plot to assassinate Winston Churchill. (This is the plot in The Eagle has Landed but the guy was a member of the German Resistance who was involved in several plots to kill Hitler and shared information with British intelligence. It’s very unlikely that he’d sign off on a plot particularly under orders from Heinrich Himmler and would’ve at least done something to sabotage it. He chose his agents on their Anti-Nazism as much as their competence. Still, there actually was an attempt to kill Churchill {which included assassinating FDR and Stalin as well}. Yet, it was headed by Otto Skorzeny, the man who rescued Mussolini but the plan foiled before they could get anywhere near the leaders. Also, they knew that Churchill was away at Tehran at the time and the assassins were sent there.)

Banners in Nazi Germany had inscriptions in Gothic type during World War II. (Hitler actually banned all Gothic types in 1941, saying that they were of Jewish origin.)

Urban German churches in World War II had stain glass windows in place. (Priests, nuns, and other clergymen had removed the stained glass windows from the churches and buried them outside the cities so they wouldn’t be destroyed if the Allies bombed Germany.)

The SA stormtroopers were around in 1936. (The Brown shirts ceased to exist after The Night of the Long Knives in 1934. Though they lingered, it was significantly weakened, almost pointless since the SS had taken over most of their duties by this point.)

The Germans used Scopolamine during their interrogations. (It wasn’t tested as a truth drug until the 1950s.)

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and Henrich Himmler got a long great with each other. (They detested each other.)

Nazis enjoyed listening to Gustave Mahler. (Mahler’s music was banned in Nazi Germany because he was Jewish.)

Germany stood a chance of winning World War II. (Let’s just say Hitler was never really so close to winning World War II mostly because of his attempt to invade Russia. Let’s just say he should’ve learned from Napoleon that invading that country is never a good idea. Still, this resulted not only in utter disaster but also with Josef Stalin joining the Allies as he was going to be in the winner’s corner of the war no matter what.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 63 – Life in 1930s Europe

Image

Tea with Mussolini is a 1999 film by Franco Zeffirelli which is loosely based on his childhood. The Scorpioni was a real group of English women in Florence (but there were no Americans) but I’m not sure if one of the members had tea with Il Duce. Still, what Zeffirelli said about the leader of the group greatly explains why Maggie Smith was so perfectly cast. Though she’s called Lady Hester Random in the movie, he said, “I don’t remember if she was called Hester, but I remember this terrible, fantastic woman. She was the dowager of the community. I remember the many outrageous things she did because she could afford to be arrogant and bossy.”

1930s wasn’t a great place to live since tough economic times had brought political troubles along with it since several authoritarian regimes emerged in many European countries like Italy and Germany but they weren’t the only ones. Mussolini and Hitler were just the most memorable because their delusions of grandeur led them to invade countries like Ethiopia and Poland. Then there’s Russia which is ruled by the iron fist of Josef Stalin but we don’t see 1930s Russia in movies because we have some idea the guy’s either starving his people, staging purges, sending people to gulags, and other atrocities. Yes, Stalin was a paranoid beyond all doubt except that one time when he signed a non-aggression pact with that guy from Germany but I’ll get to that later. Then there’s the matter with Spain in which a simmering of a decades long ideological conflict in the nation had exploded into a civil war between the Nationalists led by Generalissmo Franco, which was backed by both Italy and Germany and the Republican Loyalists backed by the Soviet Union. Of course, we remember this war for many of the people who signed up to fight there like Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell as well as for Pablo Picasso’s heart-wrenching Guernica. It was a nasty war but Franco won and managed to rule Spain until the 1970s. Still, there are plenty of things the movies would get wrong about Europe in the 1930s which I shall take time to list accordingly.

France:

Georges Melies didn’t receive much recognition for his film work until 1931. (His prestige in the film world started to grow in the late 1920s and in December 1929, there was a gala retrospective of his works at the Salle Pleyel. He was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur and received a medal by fellow filmmaker Louis Lumiere {of the Lumiere brothers}. However, none of the enormous praise he received helped his livelihood or decreased his poverty. Still, his renewed recognition had nothing to do with a young orphan boy rediscovering his automaton.)

Georges Melies lived with his granddaughter Isabelle during his later years. (His granddaughter’s name was Madeleine Malthête-Méliès. However, she wasn’t technically Mama Jeanne’s granddaughter though but you wouldn’t know that from watching Hugo. Also, by the time Hugo takes place, Melies had only been married to Jeanne for five years as his second wife, though she was his longtime mistress before then but you can’t include that fact in a movie catered for kids.)

The Spanish Civil War:

The Republican Loyalists were the good guys in the Spanish Civil War. (Sure the Franco Nationalists weren’t the good guys in this conflict and were allied by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. But this doesn’t mean the Republican Loyalists were exactly nice guys either. Both sides committed atrocities and the Republicans were backed by Stalin.)

The Republican Loyalists believed in democracy. (Some of them did as did many people outside Spain who fought on their side. However, the Loyalist side also included Stalinists, Trotskyists, and Anarchists who you could hardly call democratic supporters. You could say that the Republican side was united in that they didn’t want Franco to rule.)

Francisco Franco was a Fascist. (He claimed he was and undoubtedly had Fascist support, but many historians think he was just after power and just wanted to introduce his own brand of totalitarianism.)

American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War received Purple Hearts for their service there. (Though you wouldn’t know it from My Dog Skip, there were no military personnel in that war, only volunteers who didn’t receive military awards of any kind. So Willie’s dad was probably lying.)

Fascist Italy:

Benito Mussolini was friends with Adolf Hitler. (They were more like frenemies, which The Great Dictator pretty much sums it up perfectly. Mussolini was jealous of Germany’s military strength that he made many stupid mistakes as well as things way above his pay grade in order to keep up with Hitler. As TTI says, “Despite their similar ideologies, Mussolini always had a fractious relationship with Hitler. In 1935 he threatened to intervene during the Nazis’ first attempt to occupy Austria, and signed the Stresa Front with Britain and France to block further Nazi aggression. It wasn’t until the Spanish Civil War that Il Duce and Der Fuhrer found themselves on the same side. Even during the war, Mussolini and Hitler distrusted each other so much that they often didn’t make the other privy to major military operations {Mussolini didn’t tell Hitler about his plans to invade Greece, for example}.”)

Benito Mussolini had a popular following in Italy. (He was never especially popular in Italy {as shown by what his own people did to him and his mistress in World War II}. However, he was initially and surprisingly admired abroad, not just by fascists like Hitler and Franco, but many British and American politicians, journalists, and intellectuals viewed Il Duce’s outwardly efficient and well-organized regime as a potential role model. That is, until Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia.)

Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time. (He claimed to have done this but some observers called Il Duce out on this.)

Poland:

Poland was a free country before Hitler invade it. (It had been under a military dictatorship since the 1920s but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the movies. Still, at least it was a dictator from their own country and not some other nation like Germany or Russia.)

Stalinist Russia:

The Moscow Trials between 1936 and 1938 were fair. (They are seen this way in Mission to Moscow {which is a Hollywood movie made in 1943}, but the actual Moscow Trials were nothing more than for show in which Stalin used to rubber stamp the executions of his old Bolshevik comrades. The charges against these people were basically trumped up and the defendants were tortured into confessing. The trials are often considered a part of Stalin’s Great Purge. Yeah, they were totally fair, not.)

The notion of Stalinist Russia being a backwards tyranny was just a silly prejudice. (Stalinist Russia may not have been considered a 3rd world country but it was still very much a tyranny under the rule of a very brutal man who went to great lengths to establish absolute power in Russia. No wonder Mission to Moscow’s screenwriter was blacklisted after World War II.)

Stalinist Russia was a plucky place working toward the day when it would be a democracy, which was a day just around the corner. (Really, Mission to Moscow? Democracy just around the corner in Stalinist Russia, a corner of a Siberian prison cell or gulag that is. Besides, under Stalin, the prospect of Russia being a democracy was at its nadir at this point. I mean Russia was more likely to become a democracy under the Czars than this guy.)

Madame Molotova still had her swanky perfume works at this time. (She actually had her business confiscated and nationalized by the Bolsheviks and in Stalinist Russia, produced only one scent Red Moscow.)

Austria:

Austria had been a free country before the country fell to the Third Reich. (Before the Anschluss, Austria had been under a fascist dictatorship for four years. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from watching The Sound of Music.)

The Von Trapp Family:

The von Trapp family escaped Salzburg by going through the Alps to Switzerland. (They actually didn’t go through the Alps which would put them at Hitler’s springtime retreat at Berchtesgaden in Germany. So the Alpine trek was out of the question. In fact, the von Trapp family just took a train to Italy since the dad was born in an area that used to be part of Austria prior to World War I. Thus, they could claim Italian citizenship but who wants a beloved singing family to escape to another country held by a fascist dictator?)

Captain Georg von Trapp was a strict disciplinarian as well as a humorless and emotionally distant father. (Actually contrary to his Christopher Plummer portrayal, the actual George von Trapp was a kind man who greatly enjoyed musical activities with his kids and even rocked the violin during family concerts. He’d also make handmade gifts for his kids in his workshop. Also, the reason why he used a whistle to call his kids was that he had a weak voice as well as about half-dozen kids on a large estate. His family was greatly annoyed but this portrayal because he was the cool dad, while Maria von Trapp was the strict one and was said to have a terrible temper. But having Julie Andrews playing the strict parent would be unthinkable! Besides, having Georg as the strict disciplinarian allowed Christopher Plummer to be as miserable as he wanted. However, the real Maria did like Christopher Plummer even if the guy couldn’t care less doing The Sound of Music, which made him a star.)

Captain Georg and Maria von Trapp were married right before the Nazis moved into Austria. (Uh, by the time the Nazis moved into Austria, Georg and Maria were married for nearly 10 years with a couple of kids. Also, while Christopher Plummer was 35 when he played Georg, the real guy was 47. The real Maria was 22 so I don’t blame the casting agency.)

Captain Georg von Trapp had no trouble turning down the Nazis when they offered him a post in the Kriegsmarine when they moved into Austria since Georg had anti-Nazi beliefs {but so did most of the Austrian nobility}. (Though it’s true that Georg didn’t like Nazis, he was offered a job in the German Navy before the Anschluss. The Nazis wanted to recruit him because of his extensive experience with submarines and Germany wanted to expand its U-Boat fleet. Still, unlike in The Sound of Music where Georg tells the Nazis where they could shove it, the real Georg seriously considered taking their offer since his family was in desperate financial straits and he had no marketable skills other than his training as a naval officer. He decided that he couldn’t serve the Nazi regime but the Nazis continued to woo him.)

The von Trapp family had to flee Austria because the Nazis had threatened to arrest Georg. (Georg was never in serious danger of being arrested by the Nazis since he turned down the Nazis’ offer before they took over the country. They couldn’t arrest him even if they wanted to. Also, after the von Trapps left in 1938, he and his family returned for a stay for several months in 1939 before departing for good without incident.)

The von Trapp family had to flee Austria after the Salzburg Music Festival before the borders closed. (Actually Hitler took over Austria in March of 1938 while the Salzburg Music Festival is in June. The von Trapp family couldn’t do both.)

Max Detweiler was the von Trapp family’s music director who gave up his life to save them. (Max is a fictional character. Their music director was their priest Reverend Franz Wasner who acted as such for over 20 years and accompanied them when they left Austria.)

Maria Kutschera gave up her dream of becoming a nun when she fell in love with Georg von Trapp. (Actually, she fell in love with the man after their marriage, though she did like him and his kids a lot. Still, she had to be pressured by the Mother Superior to accept his proposal for she wanted to get her out of the convent anyway. Their marriage was more about practicality.)

George von Trapp was a baron. (His hereditary title was “Ritter” which means “knight” in German and is an equivalent for baronet. Also, in 1919, the nobility was abolished in Austria so his legal name was “Georg Trapp” yet he continually used the von as a particle of courtesy.)

The villa at Aigen in Salzburg, Austria was the von Trapp family’s ancestral home. (The von Trapp ancestral home was in Pola which is in present-day Croatia, which they were forced to abandon due to World War I. Besides, by this point, they had lived in homes in Zell Am See and Klosterneuburg. The von Trapps moved to their Salzburg home in 1922 after the death of Georg’s first wife. Also, the home wasn’t as grand as depicted in The Sound of Music.)

The von Trapp family became the Von Trapp family singers before they went to America. (The whole Von Trapp Family Singers thing started because they lost their life savings thanks to the Nazis damaging the Austrian economy as well as Georg’s poor business decisions that left the family virtually bankrupt. Since they were in need of funds, they entered a music competition which was Maria’s idea {she was a very resourceful lady}. Yet, entering the music business caused Georg a lot of embarrassment.)

While a convent novice, Maria Kutschera was hired as a governess for Captain Georg von Trapp’s children. (She was hired as a tutor to the young Maria Franziska {a. k. a. Louisa} who had come down with scarlet fever and needed her lessons at home.)

Miscellaneous:

Upper-class dinner parties in the 1930s had men and women seated separately. (Actually most upper-class dinner parties in the 1930s were seated on a boy-girl-boy-girl basis. And it wasn’t unusual for people to sit next to someone of the opposite sex who wasn’t their spouse.)

Catholic clergymen wore the poncho style chasuble in the 1930s. (Actually they wore the “fiddle back” style at the time. Poncho style chasubles are modern.)

Flapper and sheik clothing was popular in 1931. (These styles were popular from 1925-1928. By 1931, they’d be considered outdated. Yet, this is the Great Depression so those outfits were probably some of the good ones some people had at the time to go to the club.)

It wasn’t unusual for barber shops to be open on Sundays during the 1930s. (Depends on the location but certainly not in the American South.)

Measles vaccines were in existence at this time. (They weren’t until at least the 1970s or later.)

Most European countries at this time were relatively free. (Unless you live in Britain, France, Scandinavia, Switzerland, or the Low Countries, you were probably living under a dictatorship by 1939 either run by Fascists or made use by them. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from movies set at the time.)

1930s straitjackets had buckles on them. (Straitjackets wouldn’t have buckles until the 1980s, before then, they were laced with eyelets.)
Radios played almost immediately after turned on. (Before the radio transistor, all radios used tubes which took many seconds to warm up before providing any sound.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 59 – Life in 1920s Europe

Image

No movie defines 1920s life in Paris like Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris in which Owen Wilson’s character meets 1920s luminaries in the city of lights and falls for artist model played by Marion Cotillard. Though it’s a romanticized portrayal, it sort of serves a purpose as the subject matter pertains to nostalgia. Yet, while everything may seem glamorous in Paris in that era, things weren’t much fun elsewhere in Europe.

Europe in the 1920s doesn’t appear much in movies for some reason, but that doesn’t mean that there was nothing going on at the time. Of course, Paris was a haven of culture and expatriate artists and authors like Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, as well as the home of Gertrude Stein. You also had the bohemian Bloomsbury group in Great Britain as well as Agatha Christie writing her mystery novels but there’s really not much happening there outside fiction. Yet, there are some places in Europe not having a fun time. For instance, Italy came under Fascism in 1922 under the forces of Benito Mussolini and his Blackshirts. Let’s just say living in Italy under Ill Duce was not a fun time, especially with Blackshirt thugs and secret police around. 1920s Germany was under the Weimar Republic which was of political corruption and instability, economic hardship {their whole currency collapse}, and the rise of political movements like Nazism, all of which would pave the way for the creation of Nazi Germany in 1933. However, 1920s Germany did experience great cultural growth in this period like cabaret culture which helped start Marlene Dietrich’s career, Dadaism, Bauhaus architecture, German Expressionism, and lots of writers and intellectuals. Nevertheless, while there aren’t a lot of movies set in 1920s Europe but I’ll list the historical inaccuracies nonetheless.

Weimar Germany:

Adolf Hitler was friends with a Jewish art dealer named Max Rothman during the 1920s. (There’s a movie about the whole thing but I’m sure Hitler didn’t have any Jewish friends at any point in his life that we know of. Still, anti-Semitism was rife in Europe during that time in history.)

Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian in the 1920s. (He didn’t become a vegetarian until 1931mostly due to health reasons.)

The NSDAP was around in in 1918. (It was known as the DAP then before Hitler changed the name to NSDAP in 1920. Still, we know this party as the Nazi Party which is just a rather violent political party at this point.)

During and immediately after World War I, Adolf Hitler sported his trademark “comb” mustache. (He actually had a traditional handlebar mustache at this time, yet he adopted the “comb” mustache we know him by today shortly thereafter.)

Great Britain:

Leonard Woolf did the typesetting for his wife Virginia’s novels at Hogarth Press. (Leonard’s hands shook so he couldn’t set type. It was actually Virginia Woolf who would do the typesetting, which she said felt calming and that it shaped her feel for words on the page, influencing her approach to writing.)

In 1926, Agatha Christie spent her 12 day disappearance at the Harrogate Hotel under the name of a relative of her husband Archie’s lover. She spent her time there planning to commit suicide as a way to frame her husband and his mistress for her “murder” but was stopped by a smitten American journalist. (Well, this is a theory which forms the plot in a movie called Agatha but we’re not sure what she did during that time. Still, her heirs fought two unsuccessful lawsuits in the US to prevent the film from being distributed. Also, she was missing for 10 days not 12 and may have been in a fit of amnesia at the time. Not to mention, she and Archie divorced in 1928 and her second husband was a British archaeologist so it’s unlikely she’d have a romance with an American reporter.)

Harold Abrahams was the first person to compete the Great Court Run through Trinity College in 1919. (This is just all smoke and mirrors nonsense from Chariots of Fire. The first person to compete in the Great Court Run was Lord David Burghley in 1927. Abrahams never competed in one.)

Harold Abrahams fell in love with Sybil Gordon during her performance in The Mikado who kissed him goodbye before the 1924 Paris Olympics. (She was a real person but Harold didn’t fall in love with her. However, he did end up dating and eventually marrying a woman named Sibyl Evers who was a singer in the same D’Oyly Carte Opera Company around the interwar period. Yet, he didn’t meet her until the 1930s. But neither of them played the lead female role in The Mikado. Still, Abrahams was a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan.)

Aubrey Montague was a student at Cambridge University. (He was a student of Oxford but Chariots of Fire takes place at Cambridge. Still, oddly Montague’s daily letters about Oxford he sent to his mother serve as narration for the film. Also, Montague died 30 years before Harold Abrahams yet in Chariots of Fire, he’s seen attending Abrahams’ funeral in 1978.)

Harold Abrahams first sought Sam Mussabini as he saw Eric Liddell race. (Eric Liddell introduced the two of them.)

Harold Abrahams lost the 200 meter run before winning the 100 meters. (He did both of these but he won the 100 meters before losing the 200. Still, Chariots of Fire is a sports move so a character’s losses have to go before his or her victories.)

During the international athletic meeting between Scotland and France, Eric Liddell was tripped up by a Frenchman in the 400 meter event, recovered, made up the 20 meter deficit, and won. (This actually happened but it was during the 440 yard race at the 1923 Triangular meet between England, Ireland, and Scotland. His achievement was remarkable because he also won the 100 yard and 220 yard races that day.)

Lord David Burghley had his butler place champagne glasses on hurdles at the grounds of his country estate so he didn’t catch them with his feet. (Actually he used matchboxes not champagne glasses. I’m sure the household staff wouldn’t let him use the glasses for his athletics. However, he wasn’t a contemporary of Harold Abrahams. Also, the Burghley expy of Lord Lindsay was created for Chariots of Fire because Douglas Lowe a a real gold medalist in the 1924 Olympics refused to get involved.)

Eric Liddell agonized over having to run the 100 meters race on a Sunday since he was a devout Christian raised by missionaries in China to respect the sabbath and his sister gave him hell for him enjoying himself on account of insulting God. (Jennie Liddell actually supported her brother’s running. Besides, it’s very common for sports competitions to fall on weekends at colleges anyway, even at those with a religious affiliation {this coming from someone who spent four years at a Catholic school}. Besides, don’t people usually spend Sundays watching sports anyway? Chariots of Fire just takes the religion idea too far.)

The Prince of Wales and Lord Birkenhead tried to convince Eric Liddell to run on the Sunday 100 meter competition. (Yes, Liddell did refuse to run on a Sunday yet he had the race schedule well in advance so he had plenty of time to swap events and train for the 400 meters. He didn’t have to switch places with anybody at short notice.)

Lord Burghley won a medal for the 400 meter hurdles during the 1924 Paris Olympics. (He actually went out in the first round in the 110 hurdles of the 1924 Olympics but he won medals in the 400 meter hurdles in the 1928 Olympics and the 1932.)

France:

Coco Chanel had an affair with Igor Stravinksy. (Well, both of them knew each other and had several affairs with other people, we’re not sure whether they had an affair with each other.)

Pablo Picasso had a lot of mistresses. (Yes, he was married twice, had affairs, and was famous for his love life. However, he was quite constant with his mistresses for he was with two of them for at least eight years {though he wasn’t necessarily faithful to them either}.)

After World War I destroyed his studio, Georges Melies burned his props and sold his films. (He actually burned his films and sold his props. Also, the costumes and sets for his movies were in shades of gray, not in their natural colors as depicted in Hugo.)

The Lost Generation:

F. Scott Fitzgerald was the co-dependent in his relationship with Zelda. (Yes, Zelda had problems but unlike in Midnight in Paris, but the Fitzgeralds’ marriage was nowhere near as harmonious as depicted in the film. Sure they loved each other but their marriage was plagued with financial difficulties {one of the reasons why Scott ended up moving to Hollywood}, infidelity {she cheated on him with a French pilot according to Hemingway}, her mental illness {schizophrenia and was later institutionalized}, and his alcoholism {since his college days}. Also, their relationship was quite stormy especially in their later years when Scott was having a long affair with dancer Sheila Graham. And during the 1930s, they became estranged. Not to mention, they had a daughter whose existence goes unmentioned in Midnight in Paris. Still, while Zelda is free to have her problems, Scott seems to be perfectly normal in the film.)

Zelda Fitzgerald was blond. (Maybe, but she was more of a dirty blonde or brownish blond than bleached.)

Ernest Hemingway was the ultimate literary man’s man. (Yet, we forget that he drank a lot, had affairs {which was one of the reasons he was married 4 times}, was subject to depression in the 1940s as he saw his many of his friends die, experienced all kinds of health problems due to his lifestyle {like severe headaches, high blood pressure, weight problems, and diabetes as well as had all kinds of injuries}, and eventually committed suicide.)

Miscellaneous:

The Roaring 1920s was a decade of great economic prosperity. (It was also a decade of great debt and there were burgeoning problems that only created the illusion of prosperity. Ditto, the notion of the unregulated consumer economy. Besides, there were plenty of people who weren’t doing that great during the decade, even before the Great Depression. For instance, in 1920s America, 60% of the population lived below the poverty line.)

The virus responsible for Spanish flu pandemic came from Spain. (The first outbreak of Spanish flu came from a military training facility in Kansas. The fact that it infected troops was a major factor in its spread.)

Flappers wore sleek bobs, fringe dresses, and feathered headbands. (Not always. Earlier flappers wore wide brimmed hats but longer and narrower skirts but still had that loose silhouette. Yet, as the decade progressed with the help of prominent women like Coco Chanel, hats became tighter and narrower while silhouettes became more streamlined and skirts became shorter.)

All men in the 1920s treated women with the same level of respect as other men. (Sometimes, but if Gertrude Stein didn’t have influence with or access to publishers and booksellers {or wasn’t able to get struggling writers published}, then she wouldn’t have received the respect she got. Also, if you were just an artist model or girlfriend in 1920s Paris, then your opinions were more easily dismissed. Not to mention, Hemingway doesn’t really treat his heroines well in his fiction. Not to mention, it’s a time when women were called, “broads,” “bunnies,” “dames,” and “dolls.” A woman who could sing was called a “canary” while one who was sexually promiscuous was called a “chatty girl.”)

Filtered cigarettes were available at this time. (Actually they wouldn’t be around until the mid-1950s.)

Elevators had push buttons at this time. (Actually push button elevators wouldn’t come around until the 1950s. Until then you had elevator operators.)

Pants in the 1920s had zipper closures. (Zippers on men’s pants wouldn’t be around until the 1930s.)

Lobotomies were a medical procedure at this time. (This nightmarish surgery wasn’t around until 1935.)

Cognitive dissonance theory of attitude was around during the 1920s. (This notion was first formulated in the late 1950s.)

Sliced bread was around before 1927. (Sliced bread was invented in 1928 and it was the best thing ever.)

Chocolate chip cookies were around in 1928. (They were invented in 1933.)

All 1920s films were silent and in black and white. (Many films did have sequences in color but this was painstaking work and didn’t happen that often. Also, 1927 had The Jazz Singer which paved the way for movies with sound.)

Exit signs were around in the 1920s. (They weren’t invented yet.)

Crop dusters were around in 1923. (The first commercial crop dusting company began operation in 1924.)

Parties were always awesome in the 1920s. (Except if you were a member of Gatsby’s staff who had to clean up after his parties. I don’t think that would be fun. Gatsby must pay them generously for all the work they did.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 52 – Early 20th Century Europe

Image

Of course, I couldn’t think of any movie that characterizes Pre-World War I Europe than the 1964 My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Yes, I know it’s a musical but it’s fun and entertaining with costume as authentic as the misogyny. And, yes, hats in that era were that big. For all the ladies out there, I sincerely recommend you making your boyfriends watch this with you.

Unless it’s set in Russia, no era in history has been shown as nostalgically as the early 20th century. Despite the fact that much of the world was under a ruling monarchy, the a small elite controlled much of the world’s wealth, most women didn’t have the right to vote and were willing to go through extraordinary measures to get it, and child labor existed in even the most prosperous nations, a lot of family friendly musicals, cartoons, and romances are set in this period. Perhaps there’s the steam punk appeal with the old timey automobiles out on the road with no traffic rules, seat belts, or speeding limits, and went as fast as 20 miles per hour. Perhaps there’s the appeal with the amazing flying machines like biplanes, balloons, and airship zeppelins. Maybe it’s the amazing costumes and the massive women’s hats. Or perhaps this period is so idealized by movies because this is the part of the 20th century which is before things like the Titanic, a war that would wipe out a significant fraction of a generation of young men, a flu epidemic that would also wipe out a lot of young people. Let’s just say the 1910s wasn’t a great era for young people. Still, for Europe, the early 1900s was a time when the British Empire was in it’s glory days, France still had its art scene and was getting into experimenting with film, Germany and Austria had their monarchies, and technology and science were creating a great range of new inventions. Nevertheless, there are significant inaccuracies in movies set in this time which I shall list accordingly.

Edwardian Great Britain:

The Duke and Duchess Marlborough had daughters before World War I. (The Duchess of Marlborough was an American woman named Consuelo Vanderbilt Marlborough who was married to the 8th Duke of Marlborough who was a cousin of Winston Churchill. They had two boys who weren’t yet of marriageable age and were separated until their divorce in 1921. Thus, the reference of the Duchess of Marlborough’s daughter in 1912 would’ve been historically inaccurate.)

Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen killed and brutally mutilated his wife Cora. (Recent DNA evidence has found that the remains found in his basement not only weren’t Cora but of a dude. So it’s probably likely that he didn’t kill his wife like he’s alleged to.)

King Edward VII:

King Edward VII was alive in 1912. (He died in 1910. Yet, he’s the king in My Fair Lady.)

King Edward VII wanted his son the future George V to be frightened of him. (Actually they were very close and Edward VII actually brought George’s desk next to his at Buckingham Palace so they could work together. Of course, they come from a family in which it wasn’t very common for sovereigns to get along so harmoniously with their heirs apparent.)

King George VI:

King George VI was starved and pinched by his nanny when he was a child. (Actually, his original head nanny wasn’t really that abusive and actually pinched his brother David {the future Edward VIII} before taking him to see his parents and didn’t starve him or his siblings. Nevertheless, she was quite a piece of work who neglected the kids, particularly Bertie. Also, while Bertie might’ve had an eating disorder, he developed it all on his own and by that point the original nanny was replaced by a kind and motherly one named Charlotte Bill who swore like a sailor off duty. Still, she was a full time companion to Bertie’s youngest brother Johnnie when the boy was “hidden from view” and was with him when he died.)

Dora Carrington:

Dora Carrington was straight. (She was bisexual and had affairs with women which is left out in the 1995 movie about her. At least Frida Kahlo’s bisexuality wasn’t left out in her movie.)

James M. Barrie:

James M. Barrie was a normal sized attractive man. (He was actually very short with a head that seemed too big for his body {5’3 ½” to be exact which is about my height} with a receding hairline and a persistent cough to boot. Yet, in Finding Neverland, he’s played by Johnny Depp. Some said he might’ve had psychogenic dwarfism. Also, he’s said to have a lot of self-esteem issues stemming from when he had a brother die at six and how his mother made it clear to her surviving child that she preferred the dead son who’d never grow up to him. )

James M. Barrie set aside seats for children on Peter Pan’s opening night. (This didn’t happen.)

Peter Davies was James M. Barrie’s inspiration for Peter Pan. (Barrie met the Llewelyn Davies boys when Peter was only a baby and unlike as seen from Finding Neverland, he wasn’t the youngest brother. Barrie was actually closer to George and Michael with the latter being the inspiration for Peter Pan. Peter just shared the character’s name. Oh, and Peter Pan initially appeared as a character in a fictional universe in one of Barrie’s novels before he wrote the play.)

The Llewelyn Davies boys were all living with their widowed mother Sylvia when they met James M. Barrie. (Actually the father of the boys Arthur Davies was very much alive several years into Barrie’s friendship with his sons. He and Sylvia also had Michael and Nicholas during that time, with the latter being absent in Finding Neverland. And no, Barrie didn’t have any romantic feelings for Sylvia for their relationship was much more platonic though Barrie claim they were engaged. Besides, Arthur Llewelyn Davies was a much more attractive man even though he did die in 1907 of skin cancer and Sylvia 3 years later in 1910.)

Sylvia Llewelyn Davies had blond hair. (Photographs reveal her as a brunette.)

James M. Barrie and his wife Mary Ansell divorced before the Peter Pan premiere in 1903. (They divorced in 1909.)

James M. Barrie’s producer Charles Frohman was full of cynical misgivings of the Peter Pan idea. (He was actually very supportive of Barrie throughout his career and one of the few friends he ever had and was crazy about Peter Pan from its inception that he’d act out whole scenes of the play to friends. Frohman would die during the bombing of the Lusitania.)

James M. Barrie’s relationship with Peter Davies managed to achieve an equilibrium. (Their relationship became more strained as the boy grew up and Peter actually grew to hate his association with Peter Pan. As with George and Michael, they both died young and in tragic circumstances. George was killed by a sniper in WWI at only 21 years old. Michael and his close friend {possibly lover} drowned in either a terrible accident or a suicide pact. Peter committed suicide in 1960 at 63 though he was actually much luckier than the boys and might’ve did it because he was suffering from emphysema and found out that his wife and kids had inherited Huntington’s disease. Also, he became an alcoholic yet he probably had plenty of reasons why he drank and might’ve just been drunk when he threw himself in front the train. Still, he managed to start a publishing company that published works by his cousin Daphne Du Maurier and managed to win a Military Cross for his actions in World War I.)

Beatrix Potter:

Norman Warne proposed to Beatrix Potter in person and her parents softened their opposition to the match. (Contrary to Miss Potter, he proposed through letter but her parents never softened their opposition to the match. Lucky for them, Norman died a month later due to lymphatic leukemia. He’s probably the reason why she never married.)

Beatrix Potter had no interest in shrooms. (She had detailed studies in fungi and once wanted to be a mycologist, though you wouldn’t know it from Miss Potter. Still, being a woman at the time, she had to settle for children’s book author.)

Frederick Warne published Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit. (Actually she published the story herself in a private manner before Warne took it up.)

Switzerland:

Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein engaged in BDSM during their affair. (Their fantasies were more about an obsession with the Wagnerian hero Sigfried than anything related to BDSM as in A Dangerous Method. Still, Carl Jung did have a sexual relationship with this woman.)

Sabina Spielrein went crazy when Carl Jung tried to dump her that she was set on ruining him. (She did have trouble accepting the breakup yet the real Jung’s letters make him sound so much like an asshole that it’s impossible not to take his side. However, him and Freud also belittled her as a colleague throughout her career while simultaneously incorporating some of her ideas such as the “death instinct” into their own work. In A Dangerous Method, Spielrein is made to be like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction. Yet, Spielrein might have some justification on wanting to ruin Jung’s career because he used her for his own ends, both as a sexual partner and as a colleague.)

Carl Jung was an open-minded, human-hearted, progressive who gallantly explored uncharted territory in search of ideals and nobly believing the possibility of more. (Jung may have put forward a lot of new and interesting concepts in psychology but vast bodies of his work were disproved, and his penchant for the mystical was rather detrimental to scientific theory like the equivalent of a creationist in the field of evolutionary theory. Not to mention, he was a Swiss evangelical who married a woman for money and had the habit of sleeping with his patients. Oh, and he was complicit with the Nazis.)

Carl Jung was under 6 feet tall. (He was 6’1.”)

Austria:

Sigmund Freud’s work on a male’s preoccupation with penis size was around before World War I. (He actually didn’t publish anything about this until 1920 under the title “The Pleasure Principle.” Also, until 1919, Freud relied on data solely from females.)

Sigmund Freud was a gruff, stubborn, conservative crackpot who jumped to conclusions, reduced everything to sex, shirked any ideas that weren’t his own, impeded progress, and strived to preserve the status quo in psychiatry. (This is a popular image of Freud but he wasn’t really like this. Still, while Freud was fallible and stubborn, he was also lighthearted and brilliant. Also, many of his theories proved to be right and his Oedipus complex theory had absolutely nothing to do with parental incest. Oh, and he was never as hot as Viggo Mortenson.)

Sigmund Freud rejected the notion of the repression of ego during sex. (The repression of ego during sex was Freud’s own idea.)

Germany:

Kaiser Wilhelm II spoke English in a German accent. (He spoke it like a member of the British Royal Family would since his grandmother was Queen Victoria. Then again, he was German and spoke the language so maybe having a German accent in World War I movies can be forgiven.)

“Deutschlandlied” was the national anthem for Imperial Germany. (Imperial Germany never had a national anthem, though “Watch on the Rhine” served as one in the unofficial sense. “Deutschlandlied” is actually the national anthem for the Weimar Republic when it was adopted in 1922.)

The Cecilienhof palace was built for Wilhelm II. (It was built for the last crown prince of Germany who lived there from 1917-1919 and 1926-1945.)

Austria:

Colonel Alfred Redl was a essentially a scapegoat by officials of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to distract from a coup d’etat planned by Archduke Franz Ferdinand who actually betrayed military secrets to Russia. (There’s a movie about this but this premise is total bullshit. Redl actually did betray military secrets to the Russians. Most historical accounts claim that Redl committed treason because Russian agents blackmailed for homosexuality, while a few accounts say he merely did it for money. As for Archduke Ferdinand, there’s no way he was planning a coup, nor was he a bloodthirsty warmonger of any kind.)

Miscellaneous:

Old timey cars were perfectly safe and navigable. (Yes, you certainly start seeing more cars on the road at this time and yes, they did go slower than nowadays. However, these were the days when there weren’t any speed limits, traffic rules, or seat belts. Also, while many people were upset when Matthew Crawley was killed in a car crash in Downton Abbey, such accidents were very common place. Not to mention, between 1890 and 1916, they used horses to haul stranded cars out of ruts, mud, and ditches. As for navigability, paved asphalt streets weren’t a common sight in this time and your early cars weren’t all-terrain vehicles. Oh, and you had to use a crank to get them to start.)

Early flying machines were perfectly safe. (Orville Wright and Lieutenant T. E. Selfridge found out the hard way in 1908 when Orville’s plane developed mechanical problems and crashed in Maryland, killing Selfridge.)

Wristwatches were a common accessory. (Not until after World War I. Until then, pocket watches reigned supreme.)
Electric trolleys were faster than horses and clanged to alert passengers of their presence. (Yes, they could but they usually didn’t travel that fast since they had to deal with traffic. They usually traveled at a horse’s pace and seldom at their rated speed because the horses just wouldn’t get out of their way.)

Knapsack parachutes were around in 1908. (They were invented in 1911.)

Nobody sweat in an old timey bathing suit. (They were made out of wool and were very impractical to swim in, more or less made for preserving modesty than actual swimming. Women’s bathing suits were black, knee-length, puffed-sleeve wool dresses, often featuring a sailor collar, and worn over bloomers or drawers trimmed with ribbons and bows. Men’s kind of resembled striped pajama leotards or something worn by guys on the high school wrestling team. Still, if you were a woman who wanted to swim, you sometimes ran the risk of being arrested for indecent exposure. Also, it wasn’t unusual for beaches to ban topless bathing for men.)

Early psychoanalysis was permeated with sexual perverts. (There were a lot of early psychoanalysts involved who were there for the intellectual and humanitarian purposes. That’s not to say that there weren’t any perverts among the early shrinks for there certainly were like Carl Jung. Still, while Sigmund Freud has been portrayed this way in movies, he wasn’t a pervert though or at least knew to keep it in his pants.)

Wheels had metal rims and spokes at this time. (They actually had wooden rims and spokes.)

Modern frosted glass light bulbs were used at this time. (Light bulbs of the era were hand blown clear glass ones.)
Most roads were paved during this time. (Most of them were unpaved, cobbled or lined with crushed rocks, such as gravel and they weren’t properly maintained as well as often lay in disrepair.)

Gentlemen wore their hats indoors. (They didn’t do this until in very recent times.)

Suffragettes were just angry women shouting with signs. (Women in this era went through great lengths to get the vote even risking their lives and braving police brutality. One British woman threw herself at the horse tracks during a Derby race. A lot of suffragettes got arrested and went on hunger strikes in jail. Still, suffragettes make hippies and Occupy Wall Street protestors look like a bunch of wusses.)

Catholic priests at the time wore a traditional black garment with a white “dog collar.” (By this time, the Catholic Church forbade priests to dress this way.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 49 – Life in 19th Century Europe

Image

Here we have a lovely ball scene from Luchino Visconti’s 1963 movie The Leopard starring Burt Lancaster as an aristocrat having to deal with the changes that come with Italian unification as well as other aspects that any noble of the 19th century has to deal with like a rising middle class, a dying aristocracy, and other things. Still, Burt Lancaster’s character faces many of the obstacles that befall many people in his class all over Europe. Still, it’s nice to see him dance with Claudia Cardinale who plays the woman who marries his nephew.

Europe went through a lot in the 19th century and not just in France, Great Britain, or in the German speaking world either. Spain lost its most of its colonial empire and would soon become a constitutional monarchy by the end. Belgium would form in the 1830s as a constitutional monarchy though it would later have a king named Leopold II who would be responsible for atrocities in the Congo Free State which would inspire Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as well as the first human rights movement. Much of Eastern Europe would continue to be dominated under Prussia, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, though the Greeks did manage to gain their independence with Lord Byron fighting for them. Finally, Italy would unify in the 1860s thanks to the efforts of Giuseppe Garibaldi and his army of Redshirts known for their fighting prowess as well as utter ability to be utterly disposable (couldn’t resist with the Star Trek reference). Still, there were plenty of others fighting alongside him as well as plenty of opera composers, too. And of course, Russia tried to modernize by getting rid of the serfs and slaves but doesn’t do much else except produce a string of composers and writers. Nevertheless, Europe at the end of the 19th century would be a very different place than at its beginning just in time for another big trans formative century. Still, there are a lot of movies made in this time period which get a lot of things wrong about this time, and I shall list these errors.

Spain:

Queen Maria Louisa hated her unflattering portrait Francisco Goya painted for her. (She actually liked it so much that she made Goya the first court painter in Spain.)

Francisco Goya’s artwork brought him to the unwanted attention of the Spanish Inquisition. (There’s no record it did.)

Queen Isabella II was running Spain while she was ten. (Her mother was actually ruling as regent but John Quincy Adams would’ve just wanted to say that in Amistad.)

Ireland:

The Irish were a bunch of culturally backward country bumpkins who drank heavily and encouraged spousal abuse. (This is not only false but very offensive.)

Sein Finn was formed during Queen Victoria’s reign. (It was founded in 1905, four years after Victoria died.)

Belgium:

King Leopold I of Belgium was a pushy manipulator who tried to use his nephew Albert to control Queen Victoria. (He was actually Victoria’s favorite uncle who gave her a lot of good advice. However, his son was a real evil bastard, to put it mildly.)

King Leopold I didn’t visit Great Britain with his family. (He did but since his kids were Leopold II and the Mad Carlotta, it’s kind of justifiable you don’t see them in The Young Victoria.)

King Leopold was the youngest son of a penniless duke. (For one, he had a younger brother who died shortly after birth which was two years after his. Second, his old man Francis of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was far from penniless.)

Vincent van Gogh took up with a prostitute named Sien when she had a small baby. (She was pregnant by that time and had a five-year-old girl. However she was an alcoholic prostitute who hated him when she shacked up with Vince.)

Norway:

Norway’s capital was Oslo at this time. (Yes, but the city’s name was Christiana. Sort of like how Tokyo was the capital of Japan in the Tokugawa Era when it was named Edo.)

Miscellaneous:

The Duchy of Savoy existed in the early 19th century. (It had ceased to exist by 1713 when the duchy acquired the kingdom of Sardinia. At that time the Duke of Savoy was simply called, “the king of Sardinia.”)

Everyone in the nineteenth century aged faster than they do today. (They aged at around the same speed as we do today once you subtract the hard work and malnutrition.)

Young revolutionaries in Europe were sympathetic to the peasants and their plights. (Actually they revolted more for themselves since they were mostly middle class born and when they got what they wanted, rejoined the human race and went on with their lives.)

19th century scientists ranged from loveable eccentrics whose experiments tended to go out of control to total nutcases and/or possibly sociopaths who performed scientific experiments with little regard to ethics or concern for the community and usually in their secret laboratory.

Photography was available in the 1820s and 1830s. (It wasn’t available until the 1840s.)

The Prayer of St. Michael existed in 1846. (It was written by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.)

19th century 12 pound guns could fire at a distance of 1,500 yards. (This would be well beyond accurate range for any gun like this.)

The Peterson System pipe was around during the mid-1800s. (It wasn’t patented until 1894 and made in Dublin.)

Metal cartridges were widely used from the mid-19th century. (They wouldn’t be widely used until the late 1860s.)

4 wheeled train cars were common place throughout the 19th century. (Not in the US after 1850.)

It wasn’t unusual for a woman in the 19th century to be wearing a bra. (19th century women didn’t wear bras, which were invented in 1913.)

Dynamite was around since the mid-1800s. (It was invented in 1866.)

19th century Gatling guns were reliable weapons. (Let’s just say these machine guns didn’t have a fast firing speed like they do in many Civil War movies.)

All 19th century trains had air brakes. (They weren’t invented until 1869 yet trains in movies before that somehow had them.)

Dresses had in seam pockets throughout the 19th century. (Flat surface pockets weren’t invented until after the American Civil war. Before that, wealthy women used Chatelaines that held purses and other items while poorer women used cloth pockets suspended from a strap pinned to a waistband.)

Kissing and holding hands in public was acceptable behavior in the upper classes. (Not until the turn of the 20th century.)

Vaccines were around at this time. (They were developed in 1885 by Louis Pasteur but Edward Jenner did have one for smallpox in the 18th century.)

Gas lighting was clean with no ill effects as well as gave warm glow. (By this I mean, literal gas lighting not the type of emotional abuse inspired by the Ingrid Bergman movie. Gas lights left a sooty residue everywhere, blackened ceilings, corroded metal, and even wilted and yellowed indoor plants. Rich people didn’t use gas lighting for the damage it did to paintings and precious fabrics. They also had a nasty tendency to explode and were a great fire hazard. Still, this should make you wonder why Ingrid Bergman’s ceilings were so clean in Gaslight.)

Household servants were treated well by the estate owners. (Depends on the location. If you were a servant in early 19th century Russia or Pre-Civil War America, you probably didn’t earn anything at all. Still, while people in the 19th century viewed servants like people nowadays view their appliances, doesn’t mean they were treated that well. A live-in maid usually earned less than $35 a year while general servants could make as much as $90 annually. A better paid butler could expect to earn an annual salary of $230 a year. They also faced a constant risk of being let go and were subject to an honesty test by their employers hiding a coin or something valuable in plain sight to see if they would pocket it. Sometimes they weren’t even called by their own names.)

Photographs were always black and white or sepia toned.

Small boys wore pants and short hair. (They actually wore dresses because they weren’t potty trained and fasteners like snaps, zippers, and Velcro weren’t available for the time period. Also, clothes for very young children were hard to make and the fact that babies and toddlers grew quickly. Having them wear dresses was a matter of practicality because it made diaper changing easier and could be worn for a few years. Thus, men like Ernest Hemingway, Douglas MacArthur, Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and others. As for hair, it wasn’t unusual for some to have long hair and curls {though this wasn’t standard for the time period}.)

Chimney sweeps were pre-teen boys who went in fully clothed. (Except in the German states {where chimney sweeps had their own guilds and were primarily adults}, chimney sweeps elsewhere in the western world started out as young as 4-5 years old {in the US they were primarily black in the 19th century and from the South and hired from their owners} and were usually at the end of their careers by 11 or 12. Known as “climbing boys” they would climb up the chimneys naked {or in pants and a cotton shirt} propelling themselves with their knees and elbows which would be scraped raw. Oh, and they rarely bathed. There were also methods to enforce the boys to work harder. One was to light a pile of straw in the grate to send a blast of heat up the chimney after them. Another was to send another sweep to prick pins on the soles of his feet or butt. Of course, the child chimney sweep is a fixture in the 19th century though the practice of child chimney sweeps began to fade in the 1870s mostly due to laws banning the practice.)

Child chimney sweeps rarely got stuck in the chimneys they were cleaning. (Many boys did get stuck in chimneys, which could be for hours before they were either pushed from below, pulled out with a rope, or taking out by removing bricks from the chimney. They harder they struggled, the tighter they were wedged could possibly cause a fall of soot which could lead to their suffocation. Child chimney sweeps suffered from hazards like general neglect, stunted growth and deformities of spine, legs, and arms, blindness, asthma and respiratory problems, chest inflammation, burns, accidents, and bruises. Yet, perhaps the most famous health hazard for a child chimney sweep was Chimney Sweeps’ Cancer which was a cancer of the scrotum and didn’t occur until the sweep was in his late teens or early 20s. It was the first reported occupational cancer.)

Women’s dresses weren’t fire hazards in the mid-19th century. (Women who wore crinolines of tulle and gauze as well as wide sleeves were walking torches in the era of candles and open flames. In the 1850s, there was a prima ballerina who died when her petticoat puffed tutu was ignited by a gas lamp.)

Women in the mid-19th century never experienced embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions. (If a fashionable woman fell, the crinoline would splay all about her like a 3D fan exposing whatever was beneath. Also, this was a time when such clothing wouldn’t make it easy for women to go to the bathroom so they probably wore split crotch knickers which explained why the can-can was considered obscene. Yes, any women experiencing a wardrobe malfunction in this era would make Janet Jackson’s little incident at the 2004 Super Bowl seem tame.)

Workhouses were primarily for orphan children. (They were actually for those who were too poor, old, or ill to support themselves. This could be due to periods of high unemployment, someone having no family willing or able to provide care for them when they were elderly or sick. However, contrary to most adaptations of Oliver Twist, orphan children weren’t the only people living at workhouses which included unmarried pregnant women disowned by their families, mentally ill and mentally handicapped poor, and others who had no other means of support or economic opportunity. Workhouses in 19th century were in Britain during both the Georgian and Victorian Eras. Nevertheless, Oliver Twist wouldn’t be just working alongside orphans like himself though inmates were segregated into certain classes depending on gender, age, and health. )

Workhouse admission was akin to a form of prison. (In the 19th century, this was seen as a poor relief measure and entry was usually voluntary {except maybe in Oliver Twist’s case since he practically lived in one all his life}, though it was a painful decision since it carried a change of legal status such as the loss of political rights. Still, they life there was kind of like prison, except that inmates would have their possessions seized and stored until they left.)

Women had no rights during this time. (This depended on the country or what time in the 19th century you lived in. Still, this was a century when women made gains in property ownership, divorce, work, and education. Still, by the end of the 19th century, only women in New Zealand had the right to vote but the Women’s Suffrage movement was in full swing by this time.)

The 1890s were a great time in history. (In old movies, this was a very nostalgic decade for a time. However, in this decade, there was rampant child labor, rampant discrimination in the United States, European Anti-Semitism, lots of abject poverty, wars and human rights abuses in Africa, and other things.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 48 – The German-Speaking World of the 19th Century

Image

Here’s Gary Oldman as Ludwig van Beethoven in 1994’s Immortal Beloved which makes Amadeus look like a faithful biopic. Sure Oldman does look like Beethoven as you clearly see. Yet, let’s just say, he wouldn’t ask Metternich for favors, he didn’t love his sister-in-law Johanna, and he didn’t sire his own nephew Karl. Nor did he will his estate to his Immortal Beloved either.

The German speaking world of the 19th century was a key place during this time period. The Holy Roman Empire had collapsed in 1806 (partly thanks to Napoleon who probably had something to do with it) which left the Empire of Austria-Hungary which still had an Emperor that would last until World War I. Nevertheless, while Vienna was the home of the royal family as well as where the famous Clemmens von Metternich ran things from 1790 until he was forced to resign among the 1848 Revolutions. However, though many contemporaries think that the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was a backward, ignorant, and underdeveloped, they forget that this was Vienna was home to a lot of great 19th century German composers as well as Sigmund Freud. Then you have Germany which began the 19th century as a loose confederation of small entities until the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck started a war with France in the 1870s and helped form these little countries into Germany which was ruled by the Kaisers. It was also a place for composers,  scientists, and other people of note. There aren’t a lot of movies made in this period save maybe a few Nazi propaganda films as well as those that take place in Vienna. Yet, there are plenty of inaccuracies in these films, nevertheless.

Austria:

Ludwig van Beethoven:

Ludwig van Beethoven’s will mentioned an “immortal beloved.” (She wasn’t mentioned in his will. Also, the mention of an “immortal beloved” was in a series of letters dating said to be written in 1812. Beethoven died in 1827 and probably wasn’t still hung up with her. Still, he had quite a lot of romances in his life so there are plenty of candidates. As to his will, he left the bulk of his estate to his nephew Karl who he loved with a sort of tormented horror in a parental fashion.)

Ludwig van Beethoven was deaf when he wrote the “Pathetique” sonata. (He wrote it in 1798 when he could still hear and was doing performances. He certainly heard it.)

Ludwig van Beethoven was a ladies man. (Contrary to what Immortal Beloved says, he was unlucky with women in general and often rejected by them. He also tended to form attachments with women who were unreachable {already married}.)

Ludwig van Beethoven stopped playing after his Eroica Symphony. (He stopped playing in 1814 due to his hearing loss. However, this was long after he wrote the Eroica {or Third Symphony} which was in 1805 and said to originally to be titled the Bonaparte Symphony. However, he changed it to Eroica when he found that Napoleon had declared himself Emperor according to one of his biographers. He was crushed and tore the title page in half.)

Ludwig van Beethoven died poor. (He may not have been a wealthy composer but he was a shrewd businessman and not above doing music commissions just for money. Still, he spent a lot of his money on his family, especially when it came to his brother Kaspar’s tuberculosis treatment and in a custody battle over his nephew. Not to mention, as a composer in his day, he was responsible for all the expenses in performing his work.)

Ludwig van Beethoven had an unkempt appearance, had terrible manners, and was emotionally unstable. (He had usually been a neat freak and was polite in public until his personal life and health problems began to take their toll in the 1810s. His hearing loss was also a factor. Still, he had a close circle of devoted friends all his life though there are accounts of him accusing them of cheating him only to later get over it and apologize to them the next day.)

Clemens Von Metternich and Ludwig van Beethoven met in person in which the latter offered to write an oratorio praising the former in return for the arch-conservative minister intervening on the composer’s custody dispute over his nephew. (For one, they didn’t meet in person. Second, to think Beethoven would propose such a thing to a guy who had secret police on him is not only absurd, it’s borderline slanderous because Beethoven was a passionate democrat who supported revolutions sweeping across Europe.)

Ludwig van Beethoven’s immortal beloved was his sister-in-law Johanna and was her son Karl’s real father. And the reason why he was so horrible and abusive to Johanna was that he was secretly crazy in love with her. (For fucking God’s sake, Immortal Beloved, Beethoven isn’t a sparkly vampire from Twilight! Besides, it’s highly unlikely that Johanna van Beethoven was the immortal beloved because he was completely awful to her, calling her a whore in public multiple times and questioning her fitness as a mother. It’s also likely that his nephew Karl had a lot of resentment for his uncle because of how he treated his mom. Not to mention, Karl wasn’t his son since Ludwig and Joanna were on bad terms from the start. His biographer Anton Schindler is said to allege that Giulietta Guicciardi was the most likely candidate who might’ve been engaged to Beethoven at one point but ended up dumping him for another guy mostly due to their different social standings. Nevertheless, if Johanna was the immortal beloved, Beethoven probably would’ve married her without a hitch which would’ve made things a lot easier for both of them as well as Karl.)

Countess Anna Marie Erdody saved Ludwig van Beethoven from public humiliation, gave him a place to stay, and took up with him. (All that’s known about her in Beethoven’s life was that she paid to keep him in Vienna when he threatened to leave.)

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote the “Immortal Beloved” letter in Karlsbad. (It’s fairly certain he actually wrote it while at a spa in Teplitz. The person he wrote to was in Karlsbad or Prague as far as he knew.)

Ludwig van Beethoven met Giulietta Guicciardi in 1804. (He actually met her in 1800.)

Ludwig van Beethoven’s music was way for him to express himself during times in his life. (Actually he was a man dedicated to his craft who composed music for its own sake. Yet, he didn’t always compose music that was inspired from his life. He also said that it was his music that kept him from committing suicide since couldn’t bear to leave his music unwritten.)

Ludwig van Beethoven’s relationship with Giulietta Guicciardi fell apart over a bet to see on whether Beethoven still knew how to play the piano. Giulietta also betrayed Beethoven by testing his deafness. (Beethoven’s main instruments were the piano and violin since he wrote a lot of music for them. Still, they more or less broke up due to their different social standings and he knew they had no future together. Also, it’s very likely that Giulietta’s cousins didn’t tear up their dresses in a public place to have sex with him. Still, Beethoven’s love life was hampered by class issues since he was a commoner who kept falling for aristocratic women way out of his league. Maybe he should’ve just marry girls like his brothers did.)

Anton Schindler was Beethoven’s executor. (He was his first biographer, secretary, and friend. Yet, he’d probably be executor, too.)

Ludwig van Beethoven had a female copyist and co-conductor. (He had two and they were both male and neither contributed or altered the score. Also, the person who assisted him with conducting the 9th Symphony was Michael Umlauf though Beethoven was on stage but the orchestra had been told to ignore him. Also, one of the soloists by the name of Caroline Unger had to turn him around to see the enthusiastic applause of the audience.)

In 1824, Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing but quite capable of understanding people who spoke loudly. (Though he had never experienced permanent deafness, his condition fluctuated between total silence and terrible tinnitus. Also, his hearing had deteriorated severely by the time he composed his 9th symphony. Still, unlike many popular portrayals of Beethoven today, he was able to carry on conversations as long as they were facilitated by notebooks and that the person he was talking to looked directly at him since he could read lips.)

Ludwig van Beethoven was deaf for most of his life even in his youth. (He could hear perfectly fine until he started to lose his hearing at 26 this was gradual process due to having a “distended inner ear” which developed lesions over time. By 1818 he was almost completely deaf. As to what caused it, his hearing loss has been attributed to typhus, aut0-immune disorders {like systemic lupus erythematosus}, or his habit of immersing cold water on his head to stay awake.)

Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was an ode to himself escaping the oppression of his father. (Uh, Beethoven’s actual inspiration for his 9th Symphony was

Ludwig van Beethoven was private about his deafness. (His deafness wasn’t a secret and he was very public about it.)

Ludwig van Beethoven’s grave was an 8-foot obelisk. (His original grave was 2 feet tall and in a different Vienna cemetery. His body would later be moved next to Schubert in the 1880s at the site where the 8 foot obelisk in his memorial stands.)

Kaspar van Beethoven survived his famous brother Ludwig. (He died of tuberculosis in 1815 and was one of the reasons why Beethoven had a nasty custody battle with his widow. Heck, Beethoven had spent money for his care.)

Karl van Beethoven left his uncle Ludwig after he tried to commit suicide. (Yes, Beethoven did have a stormy relationship with his nephew who tried to kill himself. Yet, Karl didn’t leave his uncle until after finishing the metronome markings for his uncle’s 9th Symphony. And when he did, he left under his uncle’s permission {though reluctantly} to join the army.)

Sigmund Freud:

Sigmund Freud’s “Dora” case was in 1892, in which Freud had her strip naked for a back massage. (Freud had the “Dora” case for 11 weeks in 1900. Also, according to his published account of the whole thing, he never laid a hand on her. Not to mention, he never had his patients strip naked and never massaged anything other than their foreheads. Yet, there were some erotic undercurrents in Freud’s treatment of her. Still, Freud was a psychiatrist not a masseuse.)

Anna O. was Sigmund Freud’s patient. (She may have been the founding patient of psychoanalysis but she was the patient of Josef Breuer, Freud’s friend and patron. He reported the case to Freud in detail and often at his request. Yet, Freud never met this women, let alone treated her.)

Sigmund Freud hypnotized a female patient to get to the root of her traumatic experience in 1896. (He had given up using hypnotism by this time since he had discovered the value of sitting behind his patients instead. Though he did use both years earlier. Still, Freud didn’t pursue any of his female patients and was well known for being faithful to his wife.)

Signmund Freud’s theories of psychology revolved around sex. (Many did, but he also had theories on dreams. However, what cements Freud’s place in history is the use of his method of talking to people in order to cure their mental issues, his work concerning the subconscious, and his theory of the Id, Ego, and Superego were all considered groundbreaking and laid the foundations of what much is understood about psychology today.)

After discovering the Oedipus complex, Sigmund Freud felt horrendously guilty and was ready to abandon his practice because it revealed the latent hatred of his father. (There’s no evidence that his theory of the Oedipus complex depressed him. In fact, he was quite pleased with it saying that every man has been a little Oedipus at some time in his life. And, by Oedipus complex, he didn’t mean that guys are sexually attracted to their mothers, which it mostly implies in pop culture.)

Empress Elisabeth:

Empress consort Elisabeth was hated by her mother-in-law Dowager Sophie and brought the sun and love to everyone else by solving their problems with much class and sweetness. (She was more of a woman who was unable to withstand pressure coming from the Hapsburg Court and plagued by disgraces and mental illness. She never recovered from the loss of her son who died of a murder-suicide with his mistress at the Mayerling hunting lodge. Not to mention, in many ways, she was kind of strange to put it lightly. Also, Sophie was more of an ignored expert yet she was still a domineering woman who picked all grandchildren’s names. But she tried to make her daughter-in-law a good empress and was adamant about tradition. This clashed with Elisabeth’s free spirited nature. And though she was stern and strict, Sophie was very caring and actually worried about her daughter-in-law. Still, Empress Elisabeth was nowhere near the Disney princess mode a she’s depicted in the Sissi trilogy.)

Empress consort Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Josef were around the same age. (Well, they did have an eight year age difference like my grandparents. Yet, when they met Franz was 23 and Elisabeth was 15. Oh, and he met her while on a visit to meet her sister whom he was supposed to marry in the first place but fell for her instead.)

Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth had a fairytale relationship. (They had a rocky marriage. However, Elisabeth would undergo mercury treatments {which were commonly used for treating syphilis} and soon had her teeth rot. She also displayed erratic behavior. So somebody wasn’t being faithful here.)

The “Emperor’s Waltz” was played at Franz Joseph and Elisabeth’s wedding in 1854. (It was composed by Johann Strauss Jr. in 1889.)

Empress consort Elisabeth met Maria Vetsera. (She probably didn’t since she had been the wandering Empress who shunned Vienna, the Court, the etiquette, and even the politics. However, she was in Vienna when Crown Prince Rudolf died.)

Johann Strauss Jr.:

Johann Strauss Jr.’s first marriage was to a baker’s daughter. (It was to a singer named Henrietta Trefz, who wasn’t a baker’s daughter.)

Johann Strauss Jr. composed “The Blue Danube” during his dad’s lifetime. (“The Blue Danube” was composed in 1866. Johann Strauss Sr. died in 1849 so he probably wouldn’t have been able to hear it.)

The Mayerling Incident:

Maria Vetsera lived to be 20. (She died at 17 in a murder-suicide with her lover the Crown Prince Rudolf at the Mayerling hunting lodge. Pretty sad story. Still, this incident was one of the reasons why Archduke Ferdinand would be assassinated since it practically made him heir to the throne of Austria after his dad renounced his claim.)

Maria Vetsera refused to bow before Crown Princess Stephanie at the German Embassy ball. (Contrary to the movie Mayerling with Omar Sharif, this was never mentioned by anyone who attended the party. The only account that does mention this is from the Countess Marie Larish who wasn’t even invited because her mother was an actress. She was also kind of a shady and perverse character despite being Empress Elisabeth’s protege.)

Crown Prince Rudolf and Maria Vetsera made a suicide pact because they couldn’t live in a world without love or prospects for peace. (Most historians agree this wasn’t the case. Actually, contrast with the movie Mayerling, the incident isn’t as romantic as it implies. Many historians think that Rudolf’s murder-suicide had more to do with Rudolf being a desperate man too afraid to die alone {though official reports say that it was due to Franz Josef’s demand that the couple end their relationship}. Also, Maria Vetsera wasn’t his only mistress nor was she the only one Rudolf asked to die with him. Still, though Rudolf did at least play with the idea of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire having a federal parliamentary democracy {though there’s doubt whether he really believed them} and clashed with his father, he was a jaded alcoholic who was seriously ill with some STD and used morphine to relieve his suffering as well as a weak and unsound man. Also, unlike his Omar Sharif portrayal, Rudolf didn’t leave a good looking corpse. As for Maria she was just a 17 year old girl desperately in love with a troubled man and was too young to understand her lover was using her as a helping hand to die. Not to mention, Rudolf died six hours after his teenage mistress.)

Crown Prince Rudolf took part in student demonstrations. (This is implausible since his dad’s henchmen watched him like a hawk day and night. Also, he was more interested in partying than political protesting regardless of what his ideas were.)

Crown Prince Rudolf was drawn into a treasonable attempt to dethrone his father as the King of Hungary mostly because he wanted to put his liberal ideas into practice and that he could divorce his wife Stephanie and marry his mistress Maria Vetsera. (Unlike the Omar Sharif portrayal in Mayerling, the real Crown Prince Rudolf would’ve done no such thing. For one, while Hungary had the right to self-govern within the Empire, most Hungarians were perfectly fine with the Dual Monarchy and would’ve never wished to replace Emperor Franz Josef as their king, especially with a divorced man, something that would’ve been totally unacceptable in a predominantly Catholic nation. Second, Rudolf may have had liberal ideas{or at least played with them} and probably toyed with the idea of divorcing his wife {since it was an unhappy marriage and that his wife had failed to give him a son and may have been rendered infertile due to contracting VD from her husband. Not to mention, his father-in-law was Leopold II who was famous for his brutality in the Congo}. Third, he probably had no plans on marrying his teenage mistress and it’s very likely he didn’t love her anyway. Fourth, he wasn’t serious enough about politics to even consider overthrowing his old man over anything.)

Maria Vetsera was blond. (Photographs indicate that she had dark hair.)

Other:

Richard Wagner was responsible for Nazism. (No, he wasn’t. Sure he was anti-Semitic but he died six years before Hitler was born. Still, the Nazis were a fan of his music and he gets a bad rap for that.)

Germany:

Kasper Hauser was a young man when he appeared in Nuremberg. (He was said to be 17.)

Albert and his brother Ernest lived in Saxe-Coburg-Gotha around 1837. (They were attending the University of Bonn as residents.)
There was a Prince of Brunswick at the Duke of Richmond’s ball during the Napoleonic Wars. (There was never a prince of Brunswick but there was a Duke of Brunswick who was 43 at the time of Waterloo.)

The Brothers Grimm wrote “Jack and the Beanstalk.” (It’s an old English tale and not well-known in Germany so it’s not one of them.)
Prussian General Blücher ordered his army to leave no survivors. (He actually told them to pursue the French until their last breath. It’s just that his army was in no mood in taking prisoners at the time.)

The Prussians wore black military uniforms. (They were dark blue. Also, contrary to Waterloo, the black-clad Leibhusaren weren’t part of Blucher’s army. )

Otto von Bismarck challenged Kaiser Wilhelm I’s authority. (No, because Kaiser Wilhelm I let Bismarck do whatever he wanted. Still, Bismarck was one of the reasons why Kaiser Wilhem was able to rule Germany though it was the Kaiser who appointed him prime minister. Unfortunately Kaiser Wilhelm I died in 1888 and his son Frederich III died of cancer after ruling Germany for 99 days which paved the way for Kaiser Wilhelm II who eventually fired Bismarck from his job after unifying Germany and running it for nearly 20 years mostly because Wilhelm II was fed up with being Bismarck’s puppet.)

Otto von Bismarck was a proto-Hitler. (No, he wasn’t despite being portrayed like that in Nazi propaganda films. Still, Bismarck was a sneaky bastard who enacted social welfare policies to reduce worker support for the socialist parties he loathed and set the retirement age to 65 thinking that nobody would receive benefits since a lot of people didn’t live past 50 at the time. However, though he had few scruples he wasn’t willing to override, Bismarck was a pragmatist more willing to find more expedient and effective ways to get what he wanted and didn’t pursue aggressive foreign policy.)

Albert Einstein was a patent clerk in 1899. (He was still in school at this point and wouldn’t become one until 1902.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 47 – The Victorian Era

Image

Emily Blunt stars in 2009’s The Young Victoria which is known for it’s costume design yet it did take a few liberties with the truth though it shows a Queen Victoria we rarely get to see. Still, in movies, we’re used to seeing Queen Victoria as an old queen wearing black but we forget that she ascended the British throne at just 18 and didn’t start wearing black until the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1861. Not to mention, white wasn’t considered a traditional wedding color until Queen Victoria wore it at her nuptials as shown here. Still, while the Victorian Era was know for traditionalism, it also started a lot of traditions we come to know today.

Though remembered as an era of stale and frumpy traditionalism, the Victorian Era was a time of tumultuous social, cultural, and technological change in Great Britain. Victorian Britain is said to be the birthplace of the modern middle class as well as for the rapid and jarring transformation to a highly industrialized nation, the massive Expansion of the British Empire, and the high emphasis on morality and propriety that only barely masked a dark and seedy underbelly of society. However, it was also a time of many of your familiar authors like Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, the Bronte sisters, the Brownings, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Not to mention, it was time when the English speaking world started celebrating Christmas as a major holiday with Christmas trees, Christmas cards, Christmas caroling, Christmas lights, and Christmas dinner all introduced by Queen Victoria’s beloved German husband Prince Albert. Still, no discussion of the Victorian Era would be complete without talking about Queen Victoria herself, who reigned for sixty-four years, longer than any British monarch before or since (so far). Nevertheless, there are a lot of movies set in this era since most of these authors listed above had at least one book made into one. Not to mention, Victorian Britain tends to be a common setting for period pieces though you can always tell how far along since Victorian fashions changed quite a bit as time went on. Still, as far as movies go, there quite a bit of historical inaccuracies which I shall list.

Queen Victoria:

William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne and Queen Victoria were of similar age. (He was about 40 years her senior and was the closest thing she had to a dad {her biological father Prince Edward, Duke of Kent died when she was a baby. However, he did take great pride in her, said she was going to be Queen, and brought her to a military review to the shock of his brother the future King George IV}. Interestingly, Lord Melbourne was married to the infamous Caroline Lamb known for her short affair with Lord Byron and conducted a vicious tirade of revenge against him after he dumped her, that lasted longer than the original affair as well as played a major part in ruining Byron’s reputation in England with accusations of crimes up to and including murder. Yep, Queen Victoria’s father figure was married to Lord Byron’s psycho ex.)

Queen Victoria had a crush on Lord Melbourne. (No, she didn’t have any romantic feelings toward him at all because he was her father figure nearly 40 years older than her. Their relationship was more likely paternal than romantic.)

Queen Victoria had a loving relationship with Prince Albert. (Yes, but she was rather conflicted with Albert taking over more and more of her work when her pregnancies forced her to step aside. She really appreciated him for picking up the slack but she didn’t like being robbed of her powers as queen. She was also prone to temper tantrums and hated being pregnant and breastfeeding. Not to mention, neither Albert nor Victoria were loving parents to Bertie {future Edward VII who was actually a decent and charming king but he had many affairs}. Then there’s the fact that Prince Albert wasn’t very popular in Britain until the Great Exhibition of 1851 and that he helped popularize Christmas. Nevertheless, it’s said the Victoria actually married Albert as soon as she could in order to move out of her self-centered mother’s house {even as Queen she had to live with her mom, whom she had a difficult relationship with}. Victoria and Albert’s relationship wasn’t easy but they loved each other.)

Queen Victoria was a prudish old woman with no sense of humor. (She wasn’t always an old woman as seen in The Young Victoria. Also, she never said, “We are not amused” and actually did have a sense of humor an there’s a picture of her smiling {she was even a fan of Alice in Wonderland}. It’s also said by her staff she, “was immensely amused and roared with laughter” on many occasions. Still, she and Albert managed to have nine children so make that what you will. Also, she liked to draw and collect male nude figure drawings and at least gave one to her husband as a gift.)

Queen Victoria sent a portrait to Albert with her in a white dress with a tiara and a vertical bun while they were dating. (This portrait was done two years after they were married. Furthermore, the tiara and hair style were suggested by Albert himself.)

Victoria and Albert reigned. (Except that Albert was a prince consort and had no official standing.)

Queen Victoria was British. (She was born in Britain but to a German father and a half-German mother. She even spoke German with her husband. Also, Victoria wasn’t a British name until she came to the throne. Still, she did speak English in a British accent like you’d expect.)

Queen Victoria lived to be over 85. (She died at 81 in 1901.)

Queen Victoria was right handed. (She was left handed but a lot of movies get this wrong.)

Queen Victoria was interested in Albert due to the guy’s successful wooing. (It was more on her willingness to please her uncle Leopold. Luckily he didn’t want her to marry his own son who was crazy though Victoria did comment on the younger Leopold’s industriousness after she sent him a toy steam engine {little she know that her cousin Leopold II would become one of history’s greatest villains due to the atrocities he was responsible for in the Congo Free State inspiring Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness}.)

Prince Albert was present at Queen Victoria’s coronation. (Sorry, Julian Fellowes, but Prince Albert wasn’t at his future wife’s coronation ceremony. They were dating at the time though and wrote letters to each other. Also, his family wasn’t invited.)

It was love at first sight for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. (She was repelled of him during their first meeting in 1836 since he had a tendency to be fat at the time. Still, he did lose the weight and developed a fine waist which Victoria admired so much that she married him. As for Albert, he was actually quite ambivalent about coming to Britain and marrying Victoria {unexpectedly} and wasn’t the lovesick puppy as depicted in The Young Victoria. Actually his love for her developed more or less after their marriage than before.)

Prince Albert was willing to take a bullet for Queen Victoria. (He was never forced to do such thing and was never harmed in any of her assassination attempts.)

Sir John Conroy was at court when Queen Victoria was crowned. (She had expelled Conroy from court as soon as she became queen. However, sure he was a piece of shit but he wasn’t quite the bastard depicted in The Young Victoria.)

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were first cousins. (Well, they were supposed to be first cousins since Queen Victoria’s mother and Prince Albert’s {official} father were siblings. However, according to German historians Prince Albert was said to have resembled his mother’s boyfriend, Alexander von Hanstein who wasn’t related to any of the German royal families so it’s up for debate who his biological father really was. Nevertheless, their marriage didn’t have much to do with Victoria’s descendents having hemophilia since she became a carrier due to having a father who was in his fifties at the time she was born.)

Queen Victoria’s relationship to her servant John Brown fed a wave of republicanism to the nation at large. (Yes, Republicanism was on the rise in Great Britain but she wasn’t the sole cause. Yet, it had its roots in the Chartist movement, was stoked by a financial crisis in 1866, and the naming of the Prince of Wales in a divorce case was also a factor.)

Benjamin Disraeli shamed Queen Victoria on her relationship with her servant John Brown after the man’s death. (She was never shamed out of her admiration for Brown. She also developed an attachment to her Hindustani teacher Abdul Karim. Still, Mrs. Brown probably plays down the romance with John Brown which is probably more or less right.)

Queen Victoria ordered a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. George’s Chapel when her oldest son recovered from typhoid. (She was a devout low-church Anglican/Presbyterian in England and Scotland and would never have ordered a Mass. She actually ordered a Church of England service at St. Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate her son Edward’s recovery.)

Prince Albert and her cousin George were the only suitors Queen Victoria had to deal with. (Actually she had other suitors including Albert’s brother Edward.)

Benjamin Disraeli:

Benjamin Disraeli spoke from notes in his speeches in Parliament. (Disraeli made a point in delivering all his speeches from memory even if they were several hours long or involved complicated statistics. He also warned younger politicians against using notes as a crutch.)

Benjamin Disraeli was British Prime Minister in 1866. (He didn’t serve his first term as prime minister until 1868.)

Benjamin Disraeli was prime minister during the “Disestablishment of the Irish Church” question which was in 1867. (Disraeli didn’t start his first term as prime minister until 1868. The “Disestablishment of the Irish Church” question wasn’t raised in 1867 or under his first term either. Rather it was raised in 1869 under the prime minister ship of William Gladstone, his rival.)

Benjamin Disraeli wasn’t Jewish. (He was and his whole life was a history of struggling to overcome Anti-Semitism to be accepted in mainstream British society. Interestingly, he got his start as a romance novelist so he could get into politics but continued his writing even after he got his wish. However, though Jewish, he wasn’t a practicing Jew.)

Lord Melbourne took an active interest in Benjamin Disraeli. (Lord Melbourne was dubious about Disraeli’s future as anyone else was.)

Benjamin Disraeli knew Queen Victoria personally during her coronation. (She didn’t know much about him at the time apart from him writing some novels. Actually, she didn’t really become acquainted with him until after Prince Albert had died.)

Sir Henry Ponsonby:

Sir Henry Ponsonby was Queen Victoria’s private secretary before 1866. (He didn’t serve until after the death of his predecessor Sir Charles Grey in 1870.)

Ripper Murders:

Jack the Ripper was the most notorious serial killer of all time. (The only thing that was notorious about him was that he was never caught mostly because 19th century police investigation was very, very faulty and unreliable. Still, he only killed 5 people when many identified serial killers have killed more than that even Victorian Britain.)

Jack the Ripper murdered attractive young women. (Four of his victims were in their mid-forties and only one of them was said to be young and good looking.)

Frederick Abberline was a young man as well as psychic and an opium addict who died soon after the Ripper murders. (He was a middle-aged man in 1888 with no known opium addiction nor claim on psychic abilities. Not to mention, he would investigate other cases after Jack the Ripper. Also, he died in 1929 in his 80s at his Bournemouth villa. Yet, in a movie called From Hell, he’s played by Johnny Depp.)

All of Jack the Ripper’s victims were friends. (Well, they were professional colleagues in the oldest profession. However, there’s no evidence to support this.)

Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence was Jack the Ripper. (He’s been a candidate for Jack the Ripper but there are plenty of reasons to doubt he was. First, there’s no basis in him ever being involved with East End prostitutes, let alone siring a child by one. Second, there were rumors he was gay and he didn’t seem to show much interest in women {save maybe a couple}. Third, though it’s rumored he may have had syphilis, royal records state that he died from a bout of influenza in the pandemic of 1889-1892. Fourth, at the time of two of the Ripper murders, he was in Scotland in the presence of Queen Victoria and other family members, visiting German royalty, and a large number of staff. Furthermore, there are plenty of records that state he couldn’t have been near any of the Ripper murders at all. Fifth, he was a high profile member of the royal family as well as considered second in line to the throne, a position that would give him a lot of attention from the media of the time. So to think that Prince Albert Victor was Jack the Ripper is very much of a stretch since there’s overwhelming evidence he wasn’t.)

Jack the Ripper was dressed in a top hat and a cape as well as carried a “Gladstone bag.” (Witnesses say that he actually wore common clothes indicative of lower-middle class status {making it another reason why Prince Albert Victor couldn’t have been Jack the Ripper}. Also, while there has been a sighting of a man with a “Gladstone bag” he was later proven not to be involved in the murders. Not to mention, most true sightings of the killer showed nothing but his hands yet one may have contained a parcel of paper that may have concealed the knife.)

Jack the Ripper didn’t kill alone and didn’t kill his victims where they were found. (With one possible exception, there’s no evidence more than one person was involved in the murders or that his victims were killed anywhere other than where they were found.)

Jack the Ripper used a carriage as a mode of transportation. (For one, there’s little evidence that he had since they were loud on cobble-stoned streets and witnesses certainly would’ve noticed it. Second, he’s said to be a lower middle class guy.)

Jack the Ripper knew his victims. (He may have talked to them but there’s no evidence he knew them personally.)

Frederick Abberline was acquainted with Mary Kelly before her murder. (He didn’t know of her existence until her corpse turned up.)

The Ripper letters came from Jack the Ripper himself. (Hundreds of Ripper letters were written but historians believed few actually came from the killer himself, if at all.)

Sir William Gull was Jack the Ripper. (There’s no evidence he was. Also, though he was the royal physician, he was in his seventies during the Ripper murders and had recently suffered a stroke.)

Charles Darwin:

Charles Darwin abandoned Christianity after his voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle that led him to develop his theory of evolution. (To be fair, Charles Darwin did lose his faith but that didn’t happen until decades after his Beagle voyage and It’s pretty clear that his scientific findings had nothing to do with it. In fact, he considered his work to be proof of God’s existence as well as wrote extensively and approvingly about the religious implications {despite knowing how controversial the work would be}. The reason why Darwin lost his faith is highly debatable, one possible explanation could be the tragic and prolonged death of his daughter. Also, as a side note, there were many amateur scientists in the 19th century who were also clergymen.)

Charles Darwin was the first man to propose the theory of evolution. (Darwin was just the first guy who explained the process of evolution which could be observed and tested. The idea of evolution isn’t an new idea but has been around for a very long time, even during the Middle Ages {Saint Thomas Aquinas may have wrote something suggesting it}. Also, there were other theories of evolution out there before Darwin came along.)

Charles Darwin formulated his theory of evolution by studying finches in the Galapagos during his Beagle voyage. (He wasn’t just studying finches there but other animals of which many that tend to exist in areas they didn’t seem to fit and others that would’ve been well suited but didn’t exist.)

Charles Darwin proclaimed that humans descended from monkeys and apes. (Actually he said that humans are related to monkeys and apes as well as evolved from a common primate ancestor. He didn’t say that humans evolved from them. To add further note, Darwin was not a fan of eugenics nor believed in Social Darwinism.)

Edward VII:

King Edward VII was addressed as “Edward” while Prince of Wales. (He was actually called Albert Edward, and prior to his ascension was known as Prince Albert {after whom, by the way, the brand of pipe tobacco was named a source of Prince Albert in a can jokes. Yes, he’s that Prince Albert, not his dad}. Also, his family and close friends called him, “Bertie.” This is kind of confusing but true.)

Kaiser Wilhem II was Edward VII’s cousin. (The Kaiser was his nephew as well as Queen Victoria’s grandson.)

Oscar Wilde:

Oscar Wilde didn’t have a homosexual encounter until after he was married with kids. (A recent biographer said he had a relationship with Frank Miles in 1876 but his sex life after his marriage is much better known.)

Oscar Wilde met Lord Alfred Douglas at the premiere of Lady Windemere’s Fan in 1892. (He’s said to have met Douglas through another of Wilde’s young men at his residence on Tite Street in 1891.)

Winston Churchill:

Winston Churchill’s parents were doting and supportive of him. (Actually, with few exceptions, the portrayals of Winston Churchill’s parents in Young Winston are false and compared to them, they make any reality show parent look like a Mother or Father of the Year. His parents basically neglected him and his brother and he was one of the only kids in school not to go home for Christmas and basically spent his summers in France which was a way for his parents to get rid of him. His dad had no idea of what was going on with his kids’ lives nor he care to. He didn’t know the school he sent Winston to or how old he was. And Jennie as pretty as she was, was also selfish, shallow, and thrill-seeking type who didn’t much care for kids. She was also said to have slept with nineteen men including King Edward VII. And Winston was well aware of that and even knew one who was kinder to him than his own father. Perhaps the best things about Winston Churchill’s childhood were that he was from a wealthy family and grew up during Victorian times. If he had been growing up these days, the future prime minister’s family would’ve been featured in a reality show.)

Winston Churchill was a dutiful and obedient child at school. (He was actually known for constant misbehavior and occasional acts of unprovoked violence. Of course, it was to be expected since he had very shitty parents.)

Jennie Churchill was an angel in the house and a model of sexual propriety who didn’t understand when her husband’s doctors explained his syphilis illness. (Churchill’s mother had a reputation as a slut and after Randolph died, she married a man about the same age as Winston. When it went wrong with him, she married an even younger man after that. Still, to say she was a model of Victorian womanhood is a joke. Amazing embarrassing mother? Absolutely. By the way, Winston Churchill was listed as being born 2 months premature on his birth certificate though we’re probably sure it may have more to do with being born less than eight months after his parents were married.)

The Bronte Sisters:

Both Emily and Charlotte Bronte were in love with the same man. (Contrary to Devotion, they never were.)

Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning:

It was love at first sight between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. (Their courtship actually began through a correspondence of letters they exchanged before they even met in person. The first one was a fan letter sent by Robert Browning fawning over how much he liked the poems Elizabeth published in 1844. So it was probably more like love before first sight to them.)

Edward Barrett expressed incestuous tendencies toward his daughters and discouraged contact with any guys. (Actually her dad discouraged marriage between any of his children whether male or female and disinherited them for this reason {Elizabeth had eight brothers and three sisters with all but one girl surviving to adulthood}. Still, there’s no evidence that he was sexually aggressive toward any family members.)

Edward Barrett had a sex addiction and regularly raped his wife. (There’s no evidence of this. Still, Edward Barrett wasn’t an abusive father or a rapist. He was just a man of his time.)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was disabled. (She had a lot of health problems that made it painful for her to stand or walk. More or less an invalid than disabled.)

Crimean War:

The Battle of Balaklava directly resulted in the fall of Sebastopol. (It actually left the Russians in charge of an Allied supply route.)

Lord Raglan was a stiff-upper lipped commander. (He was even stiffer than his John Gielgud portrayal in The Charge of the Light Brigade. When he had his arm amputated due to being shot in the elbow with a musket ball at Waterloo, he was stoically silent without anesthesia while the surgeon sawed off his arm. The only comment he made was when he saw his arm chucked in the basket in which he said, “Hey, bring my arm back up. There’s a ring my wife gave me on the finger.” Yes, this guy was really like this in real life.)

Captain Louis Nolan had an affair with another officer’s wife as well as ordered black Moselle wine when Lord Cardigan asked for champagne. This made Cardigan furious that he had Nolan arrested. (I’m not sure that Nolan had an affair or whether that was made up. However, the wine incident did happen but with a guy named Captain John Reynolds who was in the Indian division of the British Army, not Nolan. The real Nolan did fight in the Sikh Wars but he was born in Milan and served in the 10th Hungarian Hussars before joining the British Army.)

Fanny Duberly was a featherbrained slut trying to bed Lord Cardigan. (She was actually a tough minded adventurous woman who was endlessly faithful to her husband. She should sue for slander in her depiction in The Charge of the Light Brigade.)

It was General Airey that half-garbled the order from Lord Raglan to Lord Cardigan which prompted the Charge of the Light Brigade. (Most historians blamed Captain Nolan for garbling the order, which was then misinterpreted by Lord Lucan, and the charge was carried out by Lord Cardigan. There’s actually some dispute over who was responsible for the disastrous charge though but agree that Captain Nolan was an arrogant and hotheaded young officer who kind of got what he deserved in the end.)

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a direct plan to invade the Russian camp. (It was the result of a command mix up between Lord Cardigan and Lord Raglan. Also, the Charge of the Light Brigade was a complete and utter disaster mostly because of the incompetence of the British top brass consisted of a bunch of upper class twits. Also, during the charge, whole regiments were annihilated.)

The Battle of Balaclava resulted in the fall of Sebastopol. (It didn’t.)

The Battle of Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade took place in 1856. (It took place in 1854.)

The Light Brigade regiments wore cherry color breeches. (Only the 11th Hussars wore pants of that color. Officers and troops of the other four regiments wore dark blue breeches with double yellow stripes or white stripes in the case of the 17th Lancers.)

The Crimean War was a primarily British conflict. (It was primarily between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. France and Great Britain were allies on the Turkish side since they knew the Ottoman Empire was on the decline and wanted its territories. Yes, Britain and France sided with the Muslim power this time.)

Lord Raglan was an air-headed incompetent. (While he wasn’t the best general, Lord Lucan and Cardigan were probably worse than he was. Yet, his incompetence is highly debatable.)

Lords Lucan and Cardigan hated each other for no reason. (The men were brothers-in-law and didn’t like each other. However, most historians think their enmity stemmed from Lucan mistreating Cardigan’s sister. Still, after the Charge of the Light Brigade, both guys tried to viciously smear one another over it.)

The Battle of Balaclava was an important battle in the Crimean War. (Contrary to the fact that it featured one of the greatest military blunders in history that inspired a Tennyson poem, it was actually a minor skirmish compared to larger, bloodier, and more important battles like the Alma and Inkerman, let alone the protracted siege of Sevastopol {which Leo Tolstoy participated in}. Also, the Russians and Turks fought famous battles in the Caucasus and the Balkans without French and British participation, but nobody pays attention to that.)

The Charge of the Light Brigade started in India. (It started in Russia. Unlike the depiction in the 1936 film, it was never stationed in India. Still, the 1936 Charge of the Light Brigade film almost has nothing to do with the Crimean War and more or less resembles the Siege of Cawnpore.)

Florence Nightingale was the lady with the lamp who helped clean up Crimea. (Yes, but The Lady with the Lamp ignores that she was also a mathematical genius who invented the pie chart. Also, she may have been gay.)

The Elephant Man:

The Elephant Man’s name was John Merrick. (It was Joseph Merrick.)

The Elephant Man had no control over his sideshow career. (Actually Merrick chose to exhibit himself and was treated well by the sideshow establishment as well as established an equal financial partnership with his trainer Tom Norman whose speaking to him “like a dog” was actually part of an act. During 22 months, Merrick managed to save £50 of his earnings {equivalent of what a working class family earned for a year}. So he was probably not a helpless victim but a guy who used what God gave him and was savvy enough to financially benefit from it.)

The Elephant Man was taken in by the Royal London Hospital, was kidnapped by his boss, and carried off to Belgium where he was locked in a cage with baboons. (Merrick never shared any living quarters with baboons and actually went to Belgium by choice after the tide of public taste turned against freak shows in Great Britain. Not to mention, he was robbed by his Austrian business partner there. However, Merrick was only at the Royal Hospital in London after he returned to Great Britain in a state of distress.)

Miscellaneous:

Welsh children were more content to work in the coal mines than go to school. (Actually this is the other way around. Most nineteenth century children would rather go to school even though that was no day at the beach either but at least school children didn’t have to worry about losing a limb, disfigurement, having soot all over their faces, or work-place related death.)

The upper classes of Victorian England were uptight prudes. (They tended to be anything but. However they were very good at keeping up appearances. Also, Victorian era porn would make much of the smut on the internet look like something out of a children’s book. Not to mention, many Victorians also wrote erotica.)

The Duke of Sussex was as tall as Queen Victoria and sported a mustache by the time he walked her down the aisle. (He was very tall and had shaved his mustache and wore a set of mutton chops.)

Robert Burns gave a recital of “Auld Lang Syne” at Queen Victoria’s Balmoral Castle during her reign. (The poem was written in 1788 which meant that Burns was probably long dead at that point. Also, it was published as a song in 1886.)

Anne Crook had an affair with Prince Albert Victor as well as had his child. (There’s no evidence for this nor is there evidence of her knowing any of the Ripper victims or receiving a lobotomy. Also, she’s probably a fictional character.)

Lower class Londoners had Cockney accents. (Really, gov’nuh?)

Sweet lovely virginal young women of aristocratic status and downtrodden whores could die of the same disease yet suffer it in very different ways.

Contrived coincidences abounded everywhere among the characters, especially when it concerned unknown parents.

Lord Kelvin was a sniveling, conniving, backstabber willing to stop anyone out of a little more than professional jealousy. (Of course, this is how Disney depicted him in Around the World in 80 Days. However, this guy was a noteworthy scientist who discovered the first and second laws of thermodynamics, the concept of absolute zero temperature resulting in getting a scale named after him, other things noteworthy of science. Furthermore, he was knighted for working on the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable, including several inventions on this project. Still, Disney’s Kelvin rendition kind of captures the Victorian viciousness in the scientific community perfectly.)

Charlie Chaplin was a kid around 1887. (Sorry Shanghai Knights, but Chaplin was born in 1889, around the same week as Hitler no doubt.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 46 – Late Georgian Great Britain

Image

The 1941 film That Hamilton Woman starring husband and wife Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh recounts the scandalous relationship between Admiral Horatio Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton. Of course, this movie isn’t 100% accurate due to stuff like the Hays Code and let’s say that Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton weren’t that hot in real life at this point in their lives. Nor did Lord Nelson ever wear an eye patch. Still, at least this romance featured two historical characters who actually loved each other in real life unlike some movies.

Great Britain’s first 37 years in the 19th century were encompassed by the Late Georgian Era. Of course, the Industrial Revolution had already kicked off by this time and its effects would later lend inspiration to many Charles Dickens novels. The lives of the upper-classes and gentry, however, would become the tableau in which many novels from Jane Austen are set, especially during the Regency when King George III went permanently insane that the future George IV had to rule as regent for nine years. Not to mention, a lot of the works of the Bronte sisters take place in this period as well though you wouldn’t know it since many movies of their works usually have women in big dresses. Still, much the movies set in this period would usually pertain to either Austen novels or the Napoleonic Wars since the British were the main adversaries of the French as well as introduced heroes like the Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and Admiral Horatio Nelson, famous for his victory at Trafalgar, having one arm and one eye, and his scandalous relationship with Lady Emma Hamilton. This would also be an era of Romantic Era poets and writers like Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and Mary Shelley as well. Not to mention, this would be the time period when Britain would give the vote to Catholics and abolish slavery. Nevertheless, there are plenty of historical errors in movies set in this time period I shall list accordingly.

Napoleonic Wars:

The Battle of Waterloo was mostly a British victory. (Wellington’s army wasn’t just made up of English, Scottish, or Irish soldiers as seen in Waterloo, but also the contingents from various German states and the Kingdom of the United Netherlands {Dutch and Belgian} that consisted of 2/3 of his army. It was an international effort.)

General Ponsonby died in the same way as his father during the Napoleonic wars. (His dad was a politician who died peacefully in 1806. Ponsonby himself, according to French accounts surrendered to a French sergeant of lancers who later killed him when a group of British cavalrymen attempted to rescue him {and Ponsonby was getting ready to bolt without handing his sword or dismounting}.)

Royal Marines had child drummers during the Napoleonic Wars. (Their drummers were adults.)

Royal Navy vessels always had one man at the wheel during the Napoleonic Wars whether in battle or during a storm. (There could be as many as four or more guys on the wheel in either situation.)

ADC Lord Hay was killed at Waterloo. (He actually was killed at Quatre Bas.)

The HMS Agamemnon was a 3 decked battleship on the line. (It had 2 gun decks.)

The Santisma Trinidad burned and sank during the Battle of Trafalgar while several ships exploded. (It was captured and taken by the British as a prize after the battle. But it was lost in a storm. Also, during the Battle of Trafalgar, there only one ship that blew up, which was a French gunner called the Achilles.)

The Burke and Hare Murders:

William Burke and William Hare were childless. (Contrary to Burke & Hare, Burke had left a wife and two children in Northern Ireland. We’re not sure whether he deserted them or that his wife simply refused to join him in Scotland. Hare and his wife had a baby with whooping cough during the trial proceedings who was said to be used “as an instrument for delaying or evading whatever question it was inconvenient for her to answer.” Hare’s wife also had another kid to her first marriage.)

William Burke’s girlfriend was an actress named Ginny Hawkins he met during the murders. (Her name was Helen McDougal and they had been living together for 10 years they were assumed to be married. In fact, they had been living at the Hares’ lodging house since they arrived in Edinburgh in 1827. And Burke was well-acquainted with Hare’s wife whom he met on previous trips to the city. As for Hare’s wife, her name was Margaret Laird who did run a lodging house. But she had inherited it from her previous husband after he died. And in 1828, she had one child and was pregnant for some time during the murders. Nevertheless, Ginny Hawkins was loosely based on a real actress named Eva Le Gallienne who played the role of Hamlet.)

William Burke got involved in the murders to raise money for his girlfriend’s play. (This was a ploy for Burke & Hare to make Burke seem like a more sympathetic character. If there’s any motive it might’ve been the possibility that he was sending money to his wife and kids back home. Or that he worked in a variety of trades that either didn’t suit him or didn’t pay well. Or that selling dead bodies to Robert Knox was an easy way to make money. As for Hare, he had a pregnant wife and a stepchild to support and most of his wife’s tenants consisted of beggars and vagrants. And she ran her lodging house at a loss with her charges owing money.)

William Burke’s girlfriend knew nothing about the murders. (While there’s no direct evidence she was, Helen McDougal is widely assumed to be. However, we do know that she had seen many of their victims while they were alive and she had the clothing of one of them in her possession {though to be fair, Burke often passed victims’ clothes to others while Hare disposed them in the Union Canal}. Oh, and they killed her cousin. And that she tried to bribe a couple into keeping quiet about a dead body under a bed. But Burke claimed that she knew nothing and believed he and Hare were grave robbers. Then again, he might’ve been just trying to clear her name. Nevertheless, how much McDougal may have known of the murders and whether she was involved will never be known. Nevertheless, she got off on “not proven.”)

William Hare’s wife knew about the murders and was perfectly fine with them. (Yes, but that wasn’t all. Margaret certainly knew about the murders and there’s enough evidence to suggest that she might’ve assisted or even initiated some of them. We know this because when Burke and Hare split the money among themselves, she always got a cut “for the house.” But what role she played is unknown other than covering them up since many of the victims were her own lodgers.)

William Burke and William Hare were grave robbers before they turned to murder. (There’s no evidence to suggest they ever were. Besides, by then, grave robbing was so commonplace back then that relatives of the recently deceased were known to watch over their graves. And watchtowers were installed in cemeteries. Such developments sped the way for many grave robbers into committing anatomy murder with Burke and Hare’s being the most infamous.)

Dr. Robert Knox performed a sideshow act in America after the Burke and Hare murders. (Contrary to Burke & Hare, Knox continued to teach for many years, but his career and reputation were ruined since he’d always be known as the guy who bought bodies off of serial killers. His house would be frequently vandalized. He’d soon have to resign as curator of the museum he founded and students stopped taking his classes. He ended up working in a cancer hospital in London and writing various works. Still, I can forgive John Landis for that since the sideshow act was too good to miss.)

Dr. Robert Knox’s motivation for getting mixed up with Burke and Hare was that Dr. Monro had access to all the good cadavers and to receive a prestigious award from the King. (In reality, Knox was likely to already have an established network of body snatchers in Edinburgh as well as had agents in Glasgow, Manchester, and Dublin. All of these guys charged him the same as Burke and Hare. Yet, the bodies Burke and Hare sent were obviously in much better shape. Still, Knox was a very busy man at the time since he was aspiring to become a professor at the University of Edinburgh, was working on a research project of comparative anatomy,was Curator of the Museum of the College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and was in the process of seeing several books through publication. Furthermore, he usually delegated responsibilities of his dissecting establishment at 10 Surgeon’s Square to his staff. This included his brother, his technician and doorkeeper, and 3 assistants. It was these guys who mostly dealt with Burke and Hare directly, not Knox. So to say that Knox was complicit in the murders other than being a paying customer who didn’t know he was getting into, is a bit of a stretch. Still, the idea of Dr. Monro hogging the cadavers makes sense since an act of 1823 saw a dramatic drop in crimes punishable by death which caused an extreme shortage of dead bodies legally available for medical schools.)

William Burke confessed to his crimes to save his friends and love. (Burke did no such thing. In fact, he was betrayed by William Hare who sold him out after they were caught. Hare agreed to testify against Burke and his girlfriend to escape persecution. This is mostly because the police had little hard evidence to convict both of them. Nevertheless, if given the chance, Burke would’ve done the same thing but he wasn’t offered. Hare was perfectly happy to do this. Nevertheless, Burke probably did try to clear his girlfriend by claiming she knew nothing about the murders, but he only confessed after knowing he was going to be hanged and there was nothing he could do about it.)

Most of Burke and Hare’s victims were men of various backgrounds. (The known victims consisted of 12 women, 3 men, and one child. All were very poor, often homeless {which doesn’t make for an entertaining black comedy}. To target men in fancy clothes, carriages, or fur coats would’ve been unthinkable to them since it would’ve led to an easy arrest {no matter how vulnerable these guys were at the time}. So like most serial killers, they preyed on Edinburgh’s poorest communities who were less likely to be missed or recognized. Nevertheless, this resulted in the two being charged with only 3 of the murders. And while Burke and Hare are said to have killed 16 people, the real total is likely to be a lot higher.)

Suspicion of Burke and Hare’s murders arose when medical  body of a local crime boss appeared at Dr. Knox’s dissection table. (The bodies that were recognized by Knox’s students were of a prostitute named Mary Paterson and a mentally challenged young man with a limp but a familiar character named James Wilson also known as “Daft Jamie.” Nevertheless, the two wouldn’t be caught until a couple lodgers called the cops after discovering the body of Mrs. Mary Docherty {or Margery Campbell} under a bed. The body was removed when the police arrived. Burke and Helen McDougal were arrested under questioning. As for the Hares, they were arrested after police were given an anonymous tip-off to Knox’s dissecting rooms where the couple who turned the guys in positively identified Docherty’s body.)

William Burke and William Hare had a genial relationship throughout the murders. (Their relationship had disintegrated towards the end as Burke became suspicious that Hare and Margaret were cutting him and Helen McDougal out of deals with Knox. When they were arrested along with their women, each gave conflicting testimony and the two guys blamed each other.)

William Hare and his wife started a funeral business in Edinburgh after William Burke’s execution. (Contrary to Burke & Hare this wasn’t true. Rather, in reality, Hare and his wife along with Helen McDougal entered into the 19th century equivalent to “witness protection.” And for awhile they had to be taken into police custody and moved since their notoriety attracted mobs and threats to their safety. For the Hares, establishing a funeral business in Edinburgh wouldn’t have been possible for they had no peace afterwards. Nevertheless, McDougal was last seen in Durham, Margaret went back to her family in Ireland, and Hare was last seen fleeing an inn after being trapped by a mob. We’re not sure what happened to him since.)

William Burke and William Hare were likeable guys. (Contrary to Burke & Hare, neither were as nice as Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis portrayed them. Hare was said to be prone to violence while drunk and might’ve killed his wife’s first husband who mysteriously disappeared, conveniently leaving a boardinghouse and him a wealthier man. Burke left a wife and two kids in Ireland. He was working as a shoemaker at the time and could read and write. Yet, he was the more likeable of the two.)

The Duke of Wellington:

The Duke of Wellington spoke in an English accent. (He was Irish. Still, as prime minister, his main accomplishment would be granting Catholic Emancipation granted in Parliament.)

Sir Arthur Wellesley was the Duke of Wellington in 1810. (He was elevated to the Peerage after the Battle of Talavera and to a Dukedom in 1814. The post of the Duke of Wellington didn’t exist yet.)

The Duke of Wellington was an old man during the Battle of Waterloo. (He was in his forties around the same age as Napoleon.)

The Duke of Wellington was opposed to the judicial killing of Field Marshall Michel Ney and saw it as a vicious action of the Duchesse d’Angouleme (Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s only surviving child at the time). (As a friendly observer and adviser to King Louis XVIII, Wellington had no legal standing to get involved and most likely didn’t.)

Admiral Horatio Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton:

Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson wore an eye patch after he lost his eye. (Most of the time he didn’t and at least That Hamilton Woman gets this right even though he wears it once. However, Lord Nelson never did look as hot as Sir Laurence Olivier {who’s a rather tall man while Nelson wasn’t} and neither was Lady Hamilton as pretty as Vivien Leigh and was actually kind of chunky in her later years.)

Admiral Horatio Nelson had “A Life on the Ocean Waves,” played at a victory party. (It was composed in the 1830s when Nelson was long dead.)

Admiral Horatio Nelson was a tall man. (Contrary to his Sir Laurence Olivier portrayal in That Hamilton Woman, he was 5’4″ and weighed about 100 pounds. This would make him built like James Madison. But this guy had the habit of showing his chest as well as covering it in official regalia, which made it clear to the enemy exactly who he was. This didn’t go personally well for him at Trafalgar since he was killed by a French sniper because of this. He also flaunted his small size and disabilities as proof of his bravery. And unlike the real 5’7″ tall Napoleon Bonaparte who was really slightly above average by 19th century standards, Nelson was basically the poster child of the Napoleonic Complex that we should call it the Lord Nelson Complex. Let’s just say That Hamilton Woman would’ve made much more historical sense if they cast Claude Rains in the role instead of Sir Laurence Olivier. Then again, Hollywood has a habit of making certain historical figures taller than they actually were, particularly men.)

Horatio Nelson died at sunset during the Battle of Trafalgar when his ship was fighting the French flagship Redoubtable under heavy fog. (The flagship was the Bucenature and the battle was fought on a perfectly clear day. But yes, they were fighting the Redoubtable and the Santasima Trinidad, too. Also, Nelson is said to have died around 4:30 in the afternoon.)

Horatio Nelson was rear-admiral of the Blue in 1798. (His highest rank vice-admiral of the White Squadron.)

Lord Horatio Nelson had to wait for Sir William Hamilton to die before he could shack up with Lady Emma Hamilton and the two of them kept their relationship under wraps despite having a child together. (Yes, they did let their daughter Horatia be raised by another couple {yet they adopted her later}. Yet, they did pose as her godparents at her christening. However, by the time Emma had Horatia, Nelson was already openly living with the Hamiltons in a ménage a trois. For God’s sake, Nelson was holding Emma’s hand at her husband’s death bed. This was no secret in Great Britain but Emma’s devotion to Nelson was notoriously flamboyant {and it helped that Nelson was a such a prima donna that he made George S. Patton look meek in comparison}. Also, unlike what That Hamilton Woman depicts, Emma was doing a performance art show in which she appeared as famous women from history. Emma Hamilton wasn’t a goody-goody wifelet but a crazy freewheeling nympho who’d put Miley Cyrus to shame. Guess 1940s Hollywood was more tolerant on adultery than threesomes.)

Emma Hamilton was surprised to see Lord Horatio Nelson’s eye patch and empty sleeve. (She probably wouldn’t have been surprised by his war wounds since his exploits were known all over Europe at this point. She would’ve known he couldn’t see from his right eye and had lost most of his right arm. Also, Nelson didn’t wear an eye patch {which he doesn’t in much of That Hamilton Woman save a few scenes}. He may have actually worn a less glamorous eye shade on his hat when it was sunny on deck.)

Lord Horatio Nelson had a full set of teeth throughout his life. (It’s said he lost most of his teeth when he and Emma Hamilton were reacquainted. Yet, his time in the Napoleonic Wars had seemed to prematurely aged him and he was afflicted by coughing spells. Oh, and did I say he was around 40 at the time?)

Emma Hamilton was 18 when she arrived in Naples. (She was 21. However, unlike what That Hamilton Woman implies, Emma had quite a life before she came there. She was a spokesmodel for the Temple of Health, a dodgy London health clinic that sold infertile couples sessions on an electrified Celestial Bed in which the shocks were said to aid conception. She was a mistress to Sir Harry Featherstonehaugh and had a child by him before moving on to MP Charles Greville. Also, she was the favorite subject of the painter George Romney. This was all before she went to Naples where she met her future husband Sir William Hamilton.)

Beau Brummel:

George “Beau” Brummel was booted out of the British Army when he criticized Prince George about the uniforms for his Dragoons. (Brummel resigned his commission in the Hussars voluntarily most likely because he didn’t want to go to war. Yet, there are theories that he couldn’t abide the 10th Dragoons formal hairstyle {long and powdered with a pigtail} and wanted to wear his hair in the Roman Emperor style {short but brushed forward}. There’s probably an understanding why screenwriters would go with the uniforms.)

Beau Brummel and George IV were around the same age. (They were friends around George IV’s wedding to Caroline of Brunswick but Beau was 16 at the time while George IV was twice his age.)

Beau Brummel was bisexual. (There’s no record of him having romantic relationships with anyone, though he spent a lot of time with courtesans and it’s been suggested {and he’s said to have syphilis}. However, he and George IV probably didn’t have a mutually romantic friendship since George IV was exclusively straight and a womanizer. Then again, Elizabeth Taylor {which she is in his biopic} would make an appropriate love interest for him since she has male fans from all sexual orientations.)

Beau Brummel asked Lord Byron, “Who’s your fat friend?” as an insult to Prince Regent George. (It was said to be toward a guy named Lord Alvanley not, Byron. Still, Brummel never protested against Prince George in public speeches.)

Beau Brummel contracted tuberculosis while on exile to Calais. (His French medical records say he had syphilis, which you can’t put in a 1950s biopic. So he may not have been romantically involved with anyone but maybe he might’ve had a few flings.)

George IV and Beau Brummel bonded over the former’s impending and unwanted marriage to Caroline of Brunswick. (They were already friends by this point, though it’s pretty clear George IV didn’t want to marry Caroline of Brunswick and it was a miracle that he was able to sire a daughter from her {though Princess Charlotte’s death would send her uncles scrambling to produce heirs and make Queen Victoria’s existence and succession possible. If she didn’t die of childbirth, Victoria may not have never been born, let alone be queen}.)

King George IV and Beau Brummel had a tearful reconciliation at Brummel’s deathbed. (Actually King George IV died 10 years before Brummel did, so that wouldn’t happen. Also, there’s no record on them having met again after 1816. Not to mention, Brummel remained in France for the rest of his life.)

King William IV:

When King William IV insulted the Duchess of Kent, she sat several feet away from him, she left the room, and neither Princess Victoria nor anyone else reacted much. (The Duchess of Kent sat next to the king, she didn’t leave the room, and Princess Victoria cried in reaction to the king’s outburst, and the guests were aghast.)

Jane Austen:

Jane Austen had a romance with Tom Lefroy, who was the love of her life and a guy she almost married. (Yes, she and Tom Lefroy knew each other but there are plenty of scholars who are skeptical on whether the two were ever a couple. All that’s documented about her relationship with him was that they danced together in 3 Christmas balls. Lefroy may have said he was in love with Austen but at that time he was an old man who may have been willing to play up to his connection with the famous female novelist. Yet, he’s mentioned in only three of Austen’s letters that survive but her sister did burn most of the letters she sent so we’ll never know. Still, it may not have amounted to much contrary to what Becoming Jane implies. However, Austen did receive at least one marriage proposal but it was from a different guy named Harris Biggs-Wither who she turned down {maybe because she didn’t want to be Mrs. Biggs-Wither and a butt of many Monty Python jokes}.)

Jane Austen was a frustrated and mediocre writer until a man entered her life, introduced her to Tom Jones, and taught her about love. (I’m sure she was perfectly capable of telling her own stories without the aid of any men. Becoming Jane is probably an insult to a female writer who wrote with such genius and originality like Jane Austen did. Not to mention, she was already working on her first novel before she even met him and had already read Tom Jones, too. Still, Tom Lefroy may not have been the only man in her life and there’s some reason to believe that she may have actually chose not to get married due to how many of her family members died in childbirth at the time.)

Tom Lefroy proposed to Jane Austen. (Chances are he most likely never proposed to her because he wasn’t from a well-off family and she wouldn’t be what his folks would consider appropriate marriage material. He probably led her on during many occasion and their relationship probably never really went anywhere from a mere flirtation despite any mutual feelings for each other. He more likely never saw Jane again after leaving Hampshire the first time. Lefroy would later marry a woman with a large fortune with whom he’d have seven kids and would later become Britain’s Lord Chief Justice. Nevertheless, Jane Austen had a close relationship with his aunt who was her mentor.)

Jane Austen’s brother Henry was a guy who liked to drink, party, and screw around with prostitutes. (Actually he wasn’t like that but he was adventurous. He ended up marrying a cousin ten years older than him and became a clergyman after she died.)

Jane Austen’s parents didn’t get along. (It’s implied in their letters that they certainly loved each other. Also, while finances were tight in the Austen household, they were never in dire straits.)

Jane Austen was pretty. (There aren’t many contemporary portraits of her save probably one and she doesn’t look very flattering in that. However, we’re really not sure what she really looked like.)

King George IV:

King George IV was a well-meaning and clumsy man. (Many of the people who knew him personally would’ve said otherwise according to his eulogy, “there never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king…If he ever had a friend – a devoted friend in any rank of life – we protest that the name of him or her never reached us.” )

William Pitt the Younger:

William Pitt the Younger was still alive after 1806. (He died that year.)

William Wilberforce’s illness caused a rift between him and William Pitt the Younger. (His illness actually strengthened their relationship.)

William Wilberforce was present at William Pitt the Younger’s deathbed. (Wilberforce didn’t make it in time.)

George Gordon, Lord Byron:

Lord Byron could walk perfectly fine on two legs. (He had a clubbed foot that plagued him throughout his life.)

Lord Byron was thin. (He wasn’t. Actually despite being a vegetarian and athletic most of his life, he was overweight since he wore several waistcoats to sweat the fat off. Still, he was an inspiration for the modern vampire. But he was no model of sexiness by our standards.)

Mary Shelley:

Mary Shelley’s only work was Frankenstein. (Wikipedia has quite a list of her works including novels, editorials, plays, short stories, and travelogues. She was a pretty busy woman. Yet, what’s she remembered for? Still, her dad was the political philosopher William Godwin and her mother was the famous philosopher and women’s rights proponent Mary Wollstonecraft. Her husband was the poet Percy Blysshe Shelley.)

Miscellaneous:

Charles Fox was known as “Lord Charles Fox.” (He was in the House of Commons until the day he died which was in 1806 so he wouldn’t have been able to make comments about Wilberforce after the abolition of the slave trade. Still, he was a younger son of a baron and known as the “Honorable Charles Fox.”)

Formal birth registrations were in place in this time. (The UK didn’t have any formal birth registrations until 1837. At this time the only formal records were baptisms from parish churches.)

The Royal Lyceum Theatre was around in 1828. (It was built in 1883.)

Greyfriars Bobbby died in the 1820s. (He was alive around 1855-1872.)

Edinburgh’s law enforcement was handled by a local militia in the 1820s. (Edinburgh was one of the first cities in Great Britain to establish a police department. But they relied on local residents to bring crimes to their attention and when they weren’t solving crimes, they were arresting poor people. This is why the Burke and Hare murders lasted for 10 months free from police inquiry until a couple of lodgers reported their discovery of Mary Docherty’s dead body.)