Catholics in the Movies by Colleen McDannell

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By Colleen McDannell

Catholicism used to be far and wide motion picture displays in 2004. Mel Gibson's The ardour of the Christ used to be on the heart of a media firestorm for months. a clergyman was once an important personality within the Academy Award-winning Million buck Baby. all people, it appeared, used to be conversing approximately how spiritual tales may be represented, advertised, and got. Catholic characters, areas, and rituals were inventory gains in renowned movies because the silent period. An intensely visible faith with a well-defined ritual and authority process, Catholicism lends itself to the drama and pageantry of movie. Moviegoers watch as Catholic visionaries engage with the supernatural, clergymen suggestions their flocks, reformers struggle for social justice, and bishops wield authoritarian energy. instead of being marginal to American pop culture, Catholic humans, areas, and rituals are all vital to the realm of the motion picture. Catholics within the Movies starts with an introductory essay that orients readers to the ways in which movies seem in tradition and describes the vast developments that may be obvious within the videos' hundred-year historical past of representing Catholics. every one bankruptcy is written through a famous pupil of yank faith who concentrates on one motion picture enticing vital historic, inventive, and spiritual concerns. each one then locations the movie inside American cultural and social background, discusses the movie as an expression of Catholic issues of the interval, and relates the movie to others of its style. Tracing the tale of yank Catholic historical past via well known motion pictures, Catholics within the Movies may be a important source for someone attracted to American Catholicism and faith and picture.

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Extra resources for Catholics in the Movies

Sample text

The silent Þlm approach of conveying narrative and mood through acting, intertitles, and musical accompaniment remained the standard for the movies from the beginnings of commercial Þlm in the late nineteenth century through the late 1920s, when studios developed the technology to synchronize sound and image. The Callahans and the Murphys, released in 1927, was produced at the very end of the silent Þlm era, and thus represents one of the last silent representations of Catholics on Þlm. In the silent era, Þlm audiences were treated to documentaries, comedies, melodramas, and adventure movies as well as educational and religious Þlms, and they saw these in a variety of venues.

When women wore habits and rosaries, their work became circumscribed and introverted. The inßuence exerted by nuns was represented at best as bossy and at worst as dictatorial and abusive. In The Trouble with Angels (1966), the Mother Superior (Rosalind Russell) spends her time chasing the misbehaving Mary Clancy (Hayley Mills). In Change of Habit, Sister Michelle (Mary Tyler Moore) takes o‰ her habit and puts on a skirt in order to work in the clinic with Dr. John Carpenter (Elvis Presley). At the end we are left guessing whether she will return to her convent or run o‰ with the guitar-playing doc.

Even if the Þlms no longer exist, written accounts of Þlms that are now presumed lost can give us a sense of their stories and of the critical responses of moviegoers. Nevertheless, the absence of the Þlms themselves makes it difÞcult to analyze the relationship between the visual style of a motion picture and its narrative goals. How a Þlm achieves those narrative goals depends not only on the story and dialogue, but also on what we literally see on-screen. Of course, the difÞculty of recovering a full picture of the world of early Þlm applies to a broader range of topics than simply representations of Catholicism, but the fact that silent Þlms often explored class, ethnic, racial, and religious difference makes the loss of so many Þlms that much more regrettable.

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