“Let’s Not Go to Camelot”: Deconstructing Myth

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


In the 1960s, Hollywood returned to the days of King Arthur and the political ideal of Camelot in an attempt to revive the 1950s’ consensus of the center. Disney, poised on the threshold of the crises of the 1960s, revisited the Arthurian past to reaffirm his central Distorical vision, relocating America’s founding myths to the Middle Ages, endowing their values with the status of a universal originary tale, and enshrining the “American way” of our forefathers as the only viable way. In the midst of the decade’s social upheaval, the film version of Camelot returned to the Round Table to examine the disintegration of the national ideal, invoking a politics of nostalgia for a lost order and inviting its audience to become Toms of Warwick—good sons who remember and transmit the values of an almost vanished chivalry. Hollywood, however, was not the sole occupant of the Arthurian space in the turbulent 1960s. In the same year that Disney claimed that space as a proto-American ideal, independent producer Cornel Wilde presented a version of the legend that questioned the very myths its Hollywood cousins enshrined. In The Sword of Lancelot (originally released in Britain as Lancelot and Guinevere) Arthur is an aging King, determined to hold on to power at any cost and the young lovers are the innocent victims of an outmoded establishment. Given the reception of Camelot and its youth film competitors four years later, Wilde’s skeptical take on the Arthurian narrative and the dominant culture it traditionally supported, proved to be prescient.1


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© Susan Aronstein 2005

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  • Susan Aronstein

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