Inspired by the debate about the influence feature films exerted over popular political attitudes during the interwar period, this article explores how one of cinema's most popular genres, the historical drama, represented British politics during the 1930s. It concentrates on eight films that depicted leading figures from Britain's modern political past, ranging from Robert Clive and Pitt the elder to Queen Victoria by way of Benjamin Disraeli. The article emphasizes how this historiophoty was shaped by the movies' production context. For they were: created within a transatlantic culture, with a majority produced in Hollywood; depended on how stars associated with the genre, notably George Arliss, embodied their roles; and structured around conventions which privileged popularity over accuracy. Thanks to such influences, these movies articulated a strongly normative view of British democracy, showing how personable, paternalistic, and disinterested leaders had improved the people's welfare and advanced a benevolent empire. This picture of Britain's political past was clearly convenient to Stanley Baldwin's Conservative party. However, it owed its essential character less to the establishment bias of the interwar film industry and more to the irreducibly ‘cinematic’ nature of commercial cinema.
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