The Knights of the Round Table: Camelot in Hollywood

  • Susan Aronstein
Part of the Studies in Arthurian and Courtly Cultures book series (SACC)


When American filmmakers, “men from an undiscovered hemisphere,” claimed Arthur as their “natural father” in the 1950s, they glossed Malory’s warrior king, Tennyson’s blameless monarch, and White’s hapless philosopher as a democratic hero in a motion picture genre that functioned to “make the world safe for democracy.”1 At the birth of the film industry, community leaders and Progressive reformers would not have agreed with Griffith’s characterization of film as a safe, American medium; in fact, they cast a trip to the nickelodeon—which, by 1904, had become a common pastime among the urban immigrant working class that the reformers sought to domesticate—in the same category as visits to brothels and gambling dens.2 However, as the decade progressed, the reformers began to recognize cinema’s potential as a “grand social worker” with “an incomparable power for remodeling and upbuilding the nation’s soul” and the dominant culture moved to take control over cinema’s content and to exploit its possibilities.3 They began by encouraging the production of American-made films exploring democratic national myths—rags to riches, the romance of the West—to displace the European films “depict(ing) (the) foreign norms of immigrants from Catholic peasant backgrounds” that had accounted for more than half of the films shown in the first decade of the century;4


Motion Picture Round Table Film Industry Creative Team Progressive Reformer 
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© Susan Aronstein 2005

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  • Susan Aronstein

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