Ed Zwick’s Glory - An Exemplary Model for Historical Films

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Ed Zwick’s Glory - An Exemplary Model for Historical Films

“History, I am convinced, is not just something to be left to the historians.” - Warren Susman

[1] From a critic’s point of view, what is there not to scrutinize when a white, Jewish filmmaker is responsible for a historical film about African-Americans during the Civil War? One which happens to have a brave young Boston Brahmin as the supposed leader of a colored battalion? Surely he does not have the license to create a film based on a heritage with which he has no affinity. Director Ed Zwick was apprehensive with the task and struggled with his entitlement to create such a film.

I was afraid initially that a young, white, liberal, Jewish director would be presuming a lot to talk to them [African-American actors] about their slave antecedents. In fact, what I discovered in rehearsal and everyday shooting was that they approached the situation with extraordinary humor and generosity. And I realized that if I was to act out my ancestors in the shtetl in Poland, that I would approach it in a similar way.

In retrospect, it is both fortunate and honorable that Zwick overcame his misgivings and came to this realization, because the finished product can serve as an exemplary model for future historical films. While not entirely perfect in form or substance, reputable critics ultimately praise Glory’s end result.

[2] James McPherson, author of Pulitzer Prize winner Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, analyzed Glory with the crucial understanding of its role as a film and not a documentary. Accordingly, McPherson had this to say about Zwick’s work: “Glory is not only the first feature film to treat the role of black soldiers in the American Civil...

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