Overview for films in America Becomes a World Power
(Digital History ID 2957)
America’s rise as a world power coincided with the invention of moving pictures. The Spanish-American War was one of the first conflicts to be captured on film, and the Library of Congress has created a website dedicated to "The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures." (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/sawhtml/sawhome.html). Since then, however, Hollywood has almost wholly ignored America’s rise to globalism, including the Spanish-American war, the annexation of Hawaii, the Philippine war, the Boxer Rebellion in China, American interventions in the Caribbean, and the construction of the Panama Canal.
It is not easy to explain why these subjects have been ignored. In part, it reflects the discomfort that Americans feel over any hint that our country has engaged in imperialist aggression and colonialism.
John Milius’s made-for-television film Rough Riders is one of the few films to depict any aspect of the Spanish-American war. The film is unapologetic about American involvement in the war and, unfortunately, makes little effort to explore the war’s origins.