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The Use of the Past to Shape the Present: Shifting Depictions of the Ancient World in Twentieth-Century American Cinema

  • Jacqueline E. Jay
Original Paper

Abstract

The ancient film epic has its roots at the very dawn of cinema as a form of popular art and entertainment, with a number of early silent films drawing their plots from ancient Biblical and Classical sources, and the genre remains relevant in the early twenty-first century. Ancient film epics thus provide a useful lens through which to trace evolutions in film history and in western culture more broadly. This paper analyzes seven American films spanning the early twentieth century to the early twenty-first century (Intolerance, Quo Vadis, The Egyptian, The Ten Commandments, Spartacus, Gladiator, 300), identifying specific ways each film mirrors or challenges the time period in which it was produced.

Keywords

Film history Ancient history Ancient film epic Intolerance D.W. Griffith Quo Vadis The Egyptian The Ten Commandments Cecil B. DeMille Spartacus Stanley Kubrick Gladiator 300 

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Films

  1. The Egyptian. 1954. Directed by Michael Curtiz, 20th Century Fox.Google Scholar
  2. Gladiator. 2000. Directed by Ridley Scott, DreamWorks and Universal.Google Scholar
  3. Intolerance. 1916. Directed by D.W. Griffith, Triangle Distributing Corporation.Google Scholar
  4. Quo Vadis. 1951. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.Google Scholar
  5. Spartacus. 1960. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Universal International.Google Scholar
  6. The Ten Commandments. 1956. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Paramount Pictures.Google Scholar
  7. 300. 2006. Directed by Zach Snyder, Warner Bros. Pictures.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Fudan University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.History DepartmentEastern Kentucky UniversityRichmondUSA

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