How Accurate Is: Manhattan (TV Show, 2014-2016) S1E1

Hello everyone! Today’s post will focus on the first episode of Manhattan, a television show which aired from 2014-2016 on WGN America. The show focuses on the Manhattan Project, which produced the world’s first nuclear weapons from a secretive base in the New Mexican desert during the Second World War. It is an interesting show, one which covers fascinating topics; it is not, however, especially historically accurate. In a slight mitigating factor, the producers of the show were not aiming for full accuracy, only trying to bring to life the atmosphere which the scientists at Los Alamos would have experienced.[1] However, it is nonetheless important to discuss the inaccuracies in the show to avoid any confusion.

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How Accurate Is: All The President’s Men (Movie, 1976, Alan J. Pakula)

Hello everyone! Today’s (long-delayed) post will be on the 1976 film All the President’s Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, and directed by Alan J. Pakula. This film chronicles the Washington Post investigation of the Watergate Scandal and, like the 2015 Best Picture winner Spotlight, focuses almost exclusively on the investigation itself. The film is very strong overall. Similar to the process of investigative journalism, it is slow-moving in parts; however, it never lets the audience forget what is at stake. Robert Redford in particular does an excellent job as Bob Woodward, and Hoffman as Carl Bernstein is also a strong performance. With regards to historical accuracy, All the President’s Men is one of the most accurate films this site has reviewed.

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How Accurate Is: Bridge of Spies (Movie, 2015, Steven Spielberg) Post 2

Donovan.
Donovan.

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be part 2 of the series on Bridge of Spies, focusing on the negotiations themselves and the treatment of the main character, James Donovan. Both historically and in the film, Donovan was a New York attorney and former prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials who was called upon to defend Abel in American court; he then became involved in the negotiations for the prisoner exchange because neither the American nor the Soviet government wanted to send officially recognized representatives. By and large, the film did a good job with the character of Donovan, with his arguments in court in particular lifted directly from the historical record (including his excellent arguments in front of the Supreme Court, which almost seem to have been made for a movie).[1] Donovan’s friendship with Abel was also accurate; historically, in fact, Abel sent Donovan 400-year old Latin commentaries on the Code of Justinian to thank him for his efforts on Abel’s behalf.[2] The role of Donovan in the negotiations was also more or less accurate with the major exception that attempting to free Pryor as well as Powers was not Donovan’s side project against direct orders from the CIA: in fact, the American government had always hoped to have Pryor freed as well.[3] This change was one of the largest because it made the CIA significantly less sympathetic than they come across as in the historical record, and increased Donovan’s role in the negotiations.

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How Accurate Is: Bridge of Spies (Film, 2015, Steven Spielberg) Post 1


Bridge Of Spies

Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the 2015 film Bridge of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. The film focuses on one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War: the 1962 spy swap of spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers and PhD student Frederic Pryor for “Rudolf Abel”, a high-ranking Soviet spy in the United States. The film was quite good, and Hanks in particular played his role to a tee; Mark Rylance, who played Abel, also did an excellent job. Overall, the film was also fairly accurate. It took its title and its inspiration from Giles Whittell’s Bridge of Spies, a book chronicling the events leading up to and comprising the spy swap. The film began its narration later than did the book; while the book, for example, devoted more than a chapter to Abel’s mission in the United States, the film began with his capture.

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How Accurate Is: Valkyrie (Film, 2008, Bryan Singer)

Valkyrie

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be on the film Valkyrie. Released in 2008, directed by Bryan Singer, and starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie chronicles the 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler, in which a significant number of upper-ranking German military officers participated. The plot was equal parts desperation due to Germany’s looming defeat in the war and genuine disgust with Nazi methods; the conspirators were an odd combination of fervent anti-Nazis (such as Stauffenberg, Beck, and others) and former Nazis who had decided that Hitler’s time had come (including von Neurath, the former foreign minister and governor of Bohemia). Tom Cruise played the leader of the plot, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg; his primary co-conspirators in the film included Major-General Henning von Tresckow, General Friedrich Olbricht, and (former) General Ludwig Beck.

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One-Year Anniversary Post

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Hello everyone! Today’s post is a special post, because two weeks ago (tomorrow) was the one-year anniversary of the very first post on ButISawItOnTv! On this occasion (the special qualities of which are up for debate) I would like to thank all of those who have read the approximately 50 posts which have made their way onto this site, or nearly one a week, in the past year. I would also like to say that I look forward to another exciting year of posts, and already have some ideas for topics: however, if any of you have ideas of your own or would like me to continue reviewing a television show I have already begun, it would be wonderful if you sent them in via the comments or social media.

If you truly love history, I cannot recommend enough that you enjoy some form of historical media during the following year. Whether this includes reading history books, listening to historical podcasts (during lunch is a good time, I have found), watching movies or television shows, or playing video games, it will enrich your life, I assure you. On that topic, I firmly hope that ButISawItOnTv has enriched yours during its year of existence thus far. Thank you all for reading as always, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

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How Accurate Is: Marco Polo (TV Show, 2014-, S1E1) Post 2

Kublai Khan
Kublai Khan

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be, as promised, on the first episode of Marco Polo, from the Mongol and Chinese point of view rather than that of Polo. In the previous post, it was discussed that the show was fairly faithful to the life of Polo principally because the surviving accounts of his life (including his own) were not especially detailed. The same cannot be said of Mongol and Chinese life during this period, however, so how does the show measure up in this respect? Before entering into a discussion of this subject, it should be noted that there are less personal details on the Mongol or Chinese characters than Polo, so a direct comparison between the treatment of the two cannot truly be made.

For more, continue past the link.

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How Accurate Is: Marco Polo (TV Show, 2014-, S1E1) Post 1

Marco POlo

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be on the first episode of the Netflix show Marco Polo, released in 2014. My personal opinion on this show was that it was a promising historical drama derailed by numerous and wholly unnecessary graphic scenes; however, for the sake of this review, that is neither here nor there. In terms of historical accuracy, the show was significantly more accurate than expected, with some caveats. The first is that nearly the only source on the life of the historical Marco Polo is his own book, Il Miliones, which he published upon his return; the second is that this book does not relate his life in great detail, giving the creators of the show significant leeway with their interpretation of events. In many ways, this makes Marco Polo the perfect historical drama from the perspective of television producers; they are permitted to tell a compelling historical story without having to worry too much about getting the details right.

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How Accurate Is: Gladiator (Film, Ridley Scott, 2000)

Gladiator

Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the film Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe. To begin I should point out that Gladiator is only a historical film in the sense that Inglorious Basterds is; the names are right, and the story is quite satisfying, but there is little relation to actual history. Just as Hitler was evidently not assassinated, so too was the Roman Republic evidently not restored in 180 CE (I should point out that I am not making any comparison between these two events). It is, therefore, a difficult task to truly assess the historical accuracy of Gladiator.

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How Accurate Is: Rome, S1E2 (TV Show, HBO, 2005-7)

Mark Antony
Mark Antony

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be another post on Rome, this time Rome Season 1 Episode 2. There will be less to say about the episode this time, but as always there were certainly some inconsistencies present. I will add before I begin that, once again, the show has the potential to be enjoyable; however, it wastes that potential.

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