I love some of the old Hollywood movie battle scenes where the wagon train gets attacked by Indians, when the cavalry defends its fort, when there’s a big Roman army battle or a cowboy gunfight. But what I soon learned is that Hollywood movies are not very accurate in their history.
For example, I grew up in the 1950’s watching TV, so there were NEVER any cowboys who were black. Years later, I found out that 25% of cowboys were black. I was shocked!
Wagon trains were another example of inaccurate history. Hollywood always shows the big white cloth covered Conestoga wagons travelling in a single file. But Conestoga wagons weren’t used in wagon trains as their center of gravity was too high and a good stiff plains state wind would blow them over. They used regular wagons without the big white cloth covering them. And they only traveled in single file when going thru the mountains or a very narrow pass. Travelling single file would have kicked up a tremendous of dust for any wagon that was behind the lead wagon. They normally traveled side-by-side in a long row.
They also never circled the wagons in an Indian fight. They wouldn’t have had time to do that. The Indians also never circled the wagons. Indians weren’t dumb. Circling the wagons would have made them all moving targets. Instead, Indians attacked the wagons head on. They did, however, circle their wagons at night to keep the animals in.
All of these things, the Conestoga wagons, traveling in single file, circling the wagons in an Indian attack and the Indians circling around the wagons were inventions of Hollywood writers because they all looked better on camera.
Regarding cowboy gun duals, Hollywood became obsessed with the fastest gun winning. But when Wyatt Earp was interviewed shortly before his death in the 1920’s, he exploded this myth. He said the fastest gun that shot first generally missed their target and that the guy that took time to AIM usually won. And cowboys who “fanned” their guns almost always missed as “fanning” your gun threw off your aim.
We often hear about how violent the old West was with all those gunfights going on. But the old West wasn’t nearly as violent as Hollywood might have us think. Read https://www.wideopenspaces.com/10-misconceptions-guns-wild-west-pics/ and https://history.howstuffworks.com/historical-events/ridiculous-history-the-wild-wild-west-was-really-the-mild-mild-west.htm.
In the movie “Gladiator” starring Russell Crowe, they have the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius being killed by his son, Commodus, who then became Emperor. But in real life, Marcus Aurelius retired and Commodus succeeded him as Emperor. In the movie, Commodus is killed by Russell Crowe’s character but in real life, he was poisoned by his wife. When that didn’t work, his wrestling partner strangled him while he was bathing.
Also at the end of the movie, Rome returned to being a republic. In real life, Rome NEVER returned to a republic but kept on being an empire. Finally, there is no evidence that Marcus Aurelius wanted to restore Rome to a republic. This was an obvious appeal to 21st century democratic ideals. While Marcus Aurelius wasn’t a terrible Emperor (as Emperors went), he wasn’t the wise philosopher-king the movie made him out to be. He did violently persecute Christians.
So, as you can see, it’s best not to get your history from the movies. Hollywood’s purpose is to entertain and to make money, not to be a history teacher. It’s a shame because their influence on gullible Americans is great. While you may like seeing battle scenes in the old West or the ancient world (I sure do), don’t trust Hollywood to be real accurate. They have got it right a few times, like in 1964’s ‘The Longest Day’ or 1970’s ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’, but overall, they’re not very accurate.
What I learned from this little episode in my life was to watch what I accepted as truth. Was the source of a particular truth claim reliable? Did that source have an agenda? It made me appreciate the one source that I do have that guides my life…the Bible. I know when I look to that source that it is the ultimate truth that has my best interests at heart.
For His Kingdom and picky moviegoers,