. . . have been a staple of cinema for ever and a day in dramatising the life of a historically-based or non-fictional person or people. Such films show the life of a historical person and they differ from docudrama films and historical drama films in that they attempt to comprehensively tell a single person’s life story or at least the most historically important years of their lives.
Back in the 1930s Warner Bros. embarked on a series of prestige biographical films starring Paul Muni which included The Story Of Louis Pasteur, The Life Of Emile Zola and Juarez. They have dated now and you can almost smell the greasepaint but they were immensely popular at the time.
In the 1940s we saw the emergence of biographical films featuring music composers whether it be classical eg. Chopin in A Song To Remember or contemporary with Cole Porter in Night And Day and Glenn Miller in The Glenn Miller Story; but as accurate representations they were more fiction than non-fiction.
In fact, it’s been a constant criticism of the genre in the way facts are distorted or even invented to serve the film’s narrative. We have seen this recently with the 5th season of the Netflix series The Crown.
One of my favourites in the way it focused on the most important years of a historical person is Franklin J. Schaffers’ Patton released in 1970. The film focused on U.S. General George S. Patton’s years during WWII and starred George C. Scott in the title role in a performance which I rank as one of the top 3 male performances of all-time. Scott totally immersed himself in the role in that he is General George S. Patton.
Because the figures portrayed are actual people, whose actions and characteristics are known to the public (or at least historically documented), biopic roles are considered some of the most demanding of actors and actresses, but are also often the most rewarding as a fair number of such portrayals have seen the winning of the Academy Award for either Best Actor or Best Actress.
A favourite of mine in regards to detailing the life story of a person is Richard Attenborough’s 1992 film Chaplin. Unlike his earlier Gandhi which I found to be a crashing bore, despite Ben Kingsley’s excellent performance, Chaplin is a very entertaining biopic of the legendary film comedian and boasts a superb performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin.
Some other favourite biopics of mine I would recommend are Young Winston, La Vie en Rose, Michael Collins and even Bohemian Rhapsody (despite it being wildly inaccurate).
So what favourite biopic films do Cats enjoy ?