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Open AccessArticle

Lancastrians, Tudors, and World War II: British and German Historical Films as Propaganda, 1933–1945

Department of History and Political Science, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA 70402, USA
Received: 2 February 2020 / Revised: 27 July 2020 / Accepted: 3 August 2020 / Published: 10 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World War, Art, and Memory: 1914 to 1945)
In World War II the Allies and Axis deployed propaganda in myriad forms, among which cinema was especially important in arousing patriotism and boosting morale. Britain and Germany made propaganda films from Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 to the war’s end in 1945, most commonly documentaries, historical films, and after 1939, fictional films about the ongoing conflict. Curiously, the historical films included several about fifteenth and sixteenth century England. In The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), director Alexander Korda—an admirer of Winston Churchill and opponent of appeasement—emphasizes the need for a strong navy to defend Tudor England against the ‘German’ Charles V. The same theme appears with Philip II of Spain as an analog for Hitler in Arthur B. Wood’s Drake of England (1935), William Howard’s Fire Over England (1937), parts of which reappear in the propaganda film The Lion Has Wings (1939), and the pro-British American film The Sea Hawk (1940). Meanwhile, two German films little known to present-day English language viewers turned the tables with English villains. In Gustav Ucicky’s Das Mädchen Johanna (Joan of Arc, 1935), Joan is the female embodiment of Hitler and wages heroic warfare against the English. In Carl Froelich’s Das Herz der Königin (The Heart of a Queen, 1940), Elizabeth I is an analog for an imperialistic Churchill and Mary, Queen of Scots an avatar of German virtues. Finally, to boost British morale on D-Day at Churchill’s behest, Laurence Olivier directed a masterly film version of William Shakespeare’s Henry V (1944), edited to emphasize the king’s virtues and courage, as in the St. Crispin’s Day speech with its “We few, we proud, we band of brothers”. This essay examines the aesthetic appeal, the historical accuracy, and the presentist propaganda in such films. View Full-Text
Keywords: Britain; film; Germany; Lancastrian; Nazi; Tudor; World War II Britain; film; Germany; Lancastrian; Nazi; Tudor; World War II
MDPI and ACS Style

Robison, W.B. Lancastrians, Tudors, and World War II: British and German Historical Films as Propaganda, 1933–1945. Arts 2020, 9, 88. https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9030088

AMA Style

Robison WB. Lancastrians, Tudors, and World War II: British and German Historical Films as Propaganda, 1933–1945. Arts. 2020; 9(3):88. https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9030088

Chicago/Turabian Style

Robison, William B. 2020. "Lancastrians, Tudors, and World War II: British and German Historical Films as Propaganda, 1933–1945" Arts 9, no. 3: 88. https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9030088

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