Biopic Bibliography

By Bell, Alana | Biography, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Biopic Bibliography


Bell, Alana, Biography


This bibliography includes texts on both the biopic and the television docudrama. Though these genres are not new, scholarly study of them has been limited. The major work in the study of the biopic is George F. Custen's Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History (1992), which looks at the almost three hundred biopics produced by major Hollywood studios from 1927-1960, examining "the code of the biographical film, its construction, and, the particular world view it creates when defining history" (4). Bridging the genres of the biopic and docudrama, Alan Rosenthal's Why Docudrama? Fact and Fiction on TV (1999) examines the television docudrama as well as films such as JFK and In The Name of the Father. On the whole, the docudrama has received more attention than the biopic. I have included two other book-length studies of the docudrama in this bibliography: Derek Paget's True Stories (1990), which examines radio, stage, and film docudrama in England, and his No Other Way to Tell It: Dramadoc/docudrama on Television (1988), which looks at film and television docudrama in Britain and the United States. Valuable information on both the docudrama and biopic can also be found in several dissertations.

Several small articles on both genres have been published in popular magazines, and an increasing number of more scholarly pieces are appearing as well. In choosing texts for this list, I looked first for articles that moved beyond the simple fact/fiction dichotomy that has been the focus of so much written about these genres. I have included a selection of articles that provide generic outlines of both forms. Carolyn Anderson's "Biographical Film" defines the genre of the biopic, and Thomas Hoffer, Richard Nelson, and Robert Musburger have, both separately and in collaboration, written several articles defining and tracing the history of the docudrama. Though there are numerous articles on individual biographical films, and especially such recent films as JFK, Malcolm X, and Nixon, I have included such essays only when they also consider the relationship of the particular film to the biopic or docudrama as genre, or when they consider issues not widely addressed elsewhere in the study of these genres. I have tried to find texts that deal with such issues as the production process, and the legal, ethical, social, and cultural dimensions of the genre. I have also chosen articles that represent different sub-genres of the biopic and docudrama, including musicals, science, and campaign biopics, film and oral history, women's autobiographical films, and biographical documentary. To give an international perspective, I have included articles about the biopic or docudrama in Egypt, Hong Kong, Canada, and Britain, as well as the United States.

Both the biopic and docudrama are implicated, if not directly addressed, in texts about film and history. In cases where such texts discuss these genres specifically, I have cited chapters; otherwise I have cited the text as a whole.

Anderson, Carolyn. "Biographical Film." A Handbook of American Film Genres. Ed. Wes D. Gehring. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1988. 331-51.

Provides a profile of the biopic genre based on conventions illustrated by 200 biographical feature films produced from 1929 to 1986.

Arlen, Michael J. "Adrift in Docu-Drama." The Camera Age: Essays on Television. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1981. 276-84.

Explores the debate about the "proper relationship" between fact and fiction in the docudrama.

Auster, Albert. "The Missiles of October: A Case Study of Television Docudrama and Modern Memory." Journal of Popular Film and Television 17.4 (1988): 164-72.

Considers issues of historical accuracy, and the contribution to the genre of the 1974 docudrama on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Barker, Steven Philip. "Fame: A Content Analysis Study of the American Film Biography." Diss. Ohio State University, 1983. …

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