The Story of Mankind (1957) - Movie Review for History Teachers | Student Handouts
 
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The Story of Mankind (1957)
Film and Book Guides > Popular Films
 
 
The Story of Mankind (1957) - Film guide for World History teachers. Length: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)

Age appropriateness: The Story of Mankind film is suitable for any age group.

Creators and stars: Agnes Moorehead, Cedric Hardwicke, Charles Coburn, Cesar Romero, Chico Marx, Dennis Hopper, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Hedy Lamarr, Irwin Allen, John Carradine, Peter Lorre, Ronald Colman, Vincent Price

Accuracy: This kitschy comedy gem from 1950s America is pretty short on historical authenticity.

Miscellaneous: This is a favorite pick for "family movie night." Kids like the big-budget scenery, action sequences, and quick scenes. Parents love watching the parade of movie and television stars who make appearances. Better yet, the G rating makes it safe for all ages.

Review: The premise of The Story of Mankind is that mankind is on trial for the events of world history. Ronald Colman stars as the Spirit of Mankind (goodness) and Vincent Price stars as Mr. Scratch (evil or the Devil). Together, good and evil travel through history, watching major events unfold. Each character explains either the good or bad involved in these historical vignettes. Viewers see Khufu and Cleopatra of ancient Egypt, Nero of Rome, France's Joan of Arc and Napoleon Bonaparte, and much more. Groucho Marx appears as a Pilgrim in colonial America; Harpo Marx plays the role of Sir Thomas Newton.

The film is quite humorous. While viewers will definitely not get a piercing view of history from this film, or even a particularly accurate one, they will be entertained. Events are told in chronological order. This movie can serve as a light-hearted review or preview for students studying World History or Global Studies.

This film will make for fun viewing by children in grades 5-12. Despite the movie's overall corniness, the issues raised are still controversial today. For example, was human progress served by the European discovery of the Americas, or did this encounter lead only to tragedy through the deaths of millions of Native Americans? Kids watching this film could be asked questions related to these controversies. Do students agree with any of the arguments proposed in the film? How do the students feel about the film's conclusions?
 
 
 
 
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The Story of Mankind Movie Review Publication Date for Citation Purposes: March 1, 2012