Domesticating the Frontier: Gender, Empire and Adventure Landscapes in British Cinema, 1945-59

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Webster, Wendy (2003)

Before 1945, films of the empire genre, produced in Hollywood as well as Britain, celebrated the masculinity of the British adventure hero, and promoted an imperial world view. This article explores the significance of the incorporation of white women into empire films in the late 1940s and 1950s, focusing on three films from different moments in the period. What are the range of meanings assigned to white femininity in these films, and their significance to the politics of race and gender? How is the white woman represented in relation to colonised women and men? In addressing these questions the article considers shifts in the gendering of the empire genre as part of an attempt to address a range of anxieties – about the transition from empire to Commonwealth, the rise of American power, and the collapse of boundaries between colonisers and colonised.
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    11 references, page 1 of 2

    television serial which was adapted from Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet - a series of novels published between 1966 and 1975).

    18 Laura Kipnis, 'The Phantom Twitchings of an Amputated Limb: Sexual Spectacle in the PostColonial Epic', Wide Angle 11 (1989), p. 50.

    19 John Hill, British Cinema in the 1980s (Clarendon Press, 1999), p. 112.

    20 Richard Dyer, 'There's Nothing I Can Do! Nothing!', in Richard Dyer, White (Routledge, 1997), p. 184.

    21 Black Narcissus (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947).

    22 Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962); Zulu (Cyril Endfiled, 1964); Khartoum (Basil Dearden, 1966).

    23 See Andy Medhurst, '1950s War Films', in Geoff Hurd ed., National Fictions: World War Two in British Films and Television, (London, BFI Publishing, 1984), pp. 35-9; Nicholas Pronay, 'The British Post-bellum Cinema: A Survey of the Films Relating to World War II Made in Britain between 1945 and 1960', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 8 (1988), pp. 39-54; Neil Rattigan, 'The Last Gasp of the Middle Class : British War Films of the 1950s', in Wheeler Dixon, ed., Reviewing British Cinema, 1900-1992 (State University of New York Press, 1994), pp. 143-52; John Ramsden, 'Refocusing 'The People's War': British War Films of the 1950s', Journal of Contemporary History 33 (1998), pp. 35-63; Michael Paris, Warrior Nation: Images of War in British Popular Culture 1850-2000 (Reaktion Books, 2000), pp. 222-230. Ramsden notes a dearth of studies of British post-war films about the war of 1939-45 by comparison with films made during the war.

    24 Daily Express, 1 June, 1953.

    25 The language of 'colonial' and 'colonialism' was increasingly abandoned in the 1950s. The Colonial Review changed its title to Overseas Quarterly in March 1958. The Committee and Institute for Colonial Studies at Oxford University substituted the word 'Commonwealth' for 'Colonial' in its title in 1956. See Richard Symonds, Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? (Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 290.

    26 The discourse of the Coronation is explored in Becky Conekin, Frank Mort, and Chris Waters, eds., Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain 1945-1964 (Rivers Oram Press, 1999), pp. 1-3.

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