|Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hyde Park, NY|
by Lois Winston
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “Let me tell you about the rich. They are different from you and me.” The same thing can be said about celebrities. We all know that there are separate rules for celebrities. They commit crimes and most of the time serve little or no jail time. A non-celebrity committing the same acts will likely receive a stiff sentence.
Did you know, though, that the same can be said for novelists vs. screenwriters? Most novel authors are held to a very high standard when it comes to research. Editors question everything to make sure we have our facts right. In Hollywood facts don’t matter. Time and time again I see history rewritten by screenwriters who feel a movie works better if they don’t keep to the facts. Sometimes they only tweak things a little here and there. Other times they totally rewrite history.
I feel confident making these statements thanks to a conversation I had recently with a park services historian and tour guide at FDR’s home in Hyde Park. Several months ago I saw Hyde Park on the Hudson, the story of FDR’s relationship with his cousin Daisy Suckley. I brought up the movie because the exterior of the home featured in the film didn’t look like the one we were touring. That’s because the movie was filmed entirely in England, not in Hyde Park. However, as it also turned out, that was just a minor detail compared to the film’s content.
For the next ten minutes or so I heard a long list of everything the movie had gotten wrong. And when I say everything, I mean everything. No scene, whether plot or dialogue, escaped a huge rewriting of historical facts. And in some cases, had the screenwriters stuck to the actual, documented conversations and events, the movie would have been improved!
The park service had provided the producers with all sorts of records, both written and on film, which they completely ignored, twisted, and rewrote. The movie is so factually inaccurate that the park service requested all their employees see it specifically to be able to set visitors straight.
Now, I realize that sometimes authors also take artistic liberties. This often occurs in historical fiction. Sometimes an author might compress a timeline when depicting historical events or combine several historical characters into one for better plot flow. When this happens, though, the author will include an author’s note explaining why she took such liberties. Movies don’t do this. They leave us believing we’ve watched an accurate portrayal of events as they occurred during the period. It’s no wonder so many people have a skewed sense of history.
Let me tell you about screenwriters. They are different from you and me...
Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Other books in the series includes Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse and the ebook only mini-mysteries Crewel Intentions and Mosaic Mayhem. Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Visit Lois at www.loiswinston.com, visit Emma at www.emmacarlyle.com, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Twitter @anasleuth.