December 4, 2013 Meeting

"Gone with the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema"

by Brian Steel Wills, Ph.D.

When it comes to popular presentations of the American Civil War, few phrases evoke images of that conflict as powerful as "Gone with the Wind", although that epic motion picture had more to do with the adventures of a young Southern woman than depictions of war-related themes. This difficulty in melding stories with facts has been the dilemma of film regarding historical subjects, with Hollywood frequently turning its focus first to entertainment values and then to the historical foundation or framework. Nevertheless, from the silent era to the present day, motion pictures have provided one means by which people have connected with their past. In the process a rich mosaic of figures has emerged for movie audiences that, in some instances, have become iconic, and the sweep and grandeur of the subject matter has proven particularly well-suited to the big screen of the cinema. In more recent years, subjects have broadened to include other aspects, such as the famed 54th Massachusetts in "Glory", the smaller-scale drama in backcountry Kentucky of "Pharaoh’s Army", or the struggle for passage of the 13th Amendment in "Lincoln".

But, in each instance, the Civil War in cinema has provided at least the introductory platform for learning more about the era’s issues, events and personalities.



Brian Steel Wills is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. He has received various teaching awards and is the author of numerous works relating to the American Civil War including "George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel" (2012); "The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest"; "The War Hits Home: The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia" (2001); and "Gone with the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema" (2006).