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Arens, Katherine. "Jefferson in Paris: Imperious History, Un-Domesticated." Das Achtzehnte Jahrhundert 27.1 (2003): 76-84.
A comprehensive critical summary of the film framed, however, by a sternly negative assessment of its perspective: "Jefferson, representative of a colony seeking freedom, is a relentless colonizer; his slave-children will nominally have freedom in their descent from him, occupy a small, neat house, and play into his hagiography. But they are not free: They live his life, as his daughter was forced to, and as Maria Cosway would not. He cannot see that his words apply only to his public space, not his private ones, and that he has set up a world that will oppress women."
Bernier, Olivier. Pleasure and Privilege: Life in France, Naples, and America, 1770-1790. New York: Doubleday, 1981.
Director Ivory says this book was the genesis of the film, though it has very little on Jefferson. Of the book, a notice in the New York Times says that "In this engaging history of late 18th-century French culture, Olivier Bernier concentrates on 'the few thousand people who made the visible part of the nation' as France rushed toward its revolution. The center of life for those who mattered was the court, a society fueled by pageantry, prerogative and political intrigue. On their way to the guillotine, these nobles raised conspicuous exhibitionism to a fine art."
Bolam, Sarah, and Thomas J. Bolam. The Presidents on Film. Jefferson: MacFarland, 2007.
This book is a filmography of 407 films that feature an American President as a character. Each film mentioned contains a plot summary and the credits for the film, as well as a discussion of the President that is featured. The book goes in chronological order of Presidents from George Washington on through George W. Bush, considering each of the films that feature that president with a short description of their administration and commentary on the overall nature and message of the films. The authors make comments based on the historical accuracy of the films, mentioning both when the films make mistakes and when they do a particularly good job getting it right. Lincoln has the most appearances in films, with 123, while Tyler, Buchanan, and Harding each appear in zero films. A good resource for information on Presidents in film.
Chase-Riboud, Barbara. Sally Hemings: A Novel. New York: Viking, 1979.
An enormously popular novel that looks at the Jefferson-Hemings relationship from Sally's view as a first-person narrator. The characterization of Sally here by an African American woman artist is quite different than in the film. The Sally in this novel is intelligent, mature -- someone to command Jefferson's love and commitment. Surprisingly, The Jefferson in Paris film seems to owe virtually nothing to this prior representation, and it is not mentioned at all by either the writer or director.
Dacey-Groth, Camilla Elisabeth. "Slaves of Fiction: Coming to Terms with the American Holocaust through Representations of Slavery in Post-Civil Rights Fiction and Film." Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences. 63.1 (2002): 245.
"This dissertation discusses representations of slavery in post-civil-rights fiction and film as reflections of and influences on public policy and opinion concerning race in the United States. In particular, I examine William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner, Margaret Walker's Jubilee, Ernest Gaines' The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Alex Haley's Roots, Sherley Anne Williams' Dessa Rose, Toni Morrison's Beloved, and the films Jefferson in Paris, Sally Hemings: An American Scandal, and A View From the Mountain."
Dudar, Helen. "Merchant Ivory's special take on Thomas Jefferson." Smithsonian 25.12 (1995): 94-105.
Leisurely factual and informational overview about the making of the film. Of interest, though, is that the genesis of the film was in director Ivory's reading of Oliver Bernier's Pleasure and Privilege: Life in France, Naples, and America, 1770-1790, after which he then went on to read Fawn Brodie's Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History that provided "details of Jefferson's life that was history in technicolor." Nothing in-depth about the film itself or the issues it raises except Ivory's remark regarding reactions to the film as an "assault on history": "It's fine that he had 125 slaves. That he might have fathered seven children with an almost-white concubine who was his wife's half sister is too much to think about."
Erickson, Steve. Arc d'X. New York: Holt, 1993.
A novel that totally inverts the nature of the Jefferson-Hemings relationship in Chase-Riboud's novel, in Sally Hemings: An American Scandal, and even in Jefferson in Paris. For instance, their first sexual encounter is a rape narrated from Jefferson's perspective as he is overcome by lust and maddened by the surrounding furor of the French Revolution.
Gordon-Reed, Annette. "Did Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?" American Heritage 58.5 (2008): 14-17.
Perhaps the foremost authority on the Jefferson-Hemings relationship tackles the question on everybody's mind and concludes: "The most that can be said is that Hemings and Jefferson lived together over many years and had seven children, four of whom lived to adulthood. Jefferson kept his promises to Hemings, and their offspring got a four-decade head start on emancipation, making the most of it by leading prosperous and stable lives. That, I think, is about as much as one can expect from love in the context of life during American slavery."
Hipsky, Martin A. "Anglophil(m)ia: Why Does America Watch Merchant-Ivory Movies?" Journal of Popular Film & Television 22.3 (1994): 98-107.
Describes the incredible success of Merchant-Ivory movies in America despite extreme dislike or apprehension of the British culture. We see an in-depth look at what it takes for a film to be successful and the formulaic approach many directors take to create a hit. Furthermore, how films use the power of luxuries to draw people into the theater to provide "affordable luxuries." The fantasy world that can be seen in movies provides an escape for those viewing them and also helps show beauty as a release for the viewers.
Joyner, Will. "Studies in the Lives of Slaves." New York Times 19 November 1995: 2.30.
Interview-profile on Thandie Newton, who plays Sally, in which director Ivory is quoted as saying that he left Sally's characterization up to her. Says Ivory: "Today, in that part, a lot of actresses would bring a long-suffering quality to it. She didn't do that, which was a plus. She didn't do a politically correct, repressed slave girl. She did a non-politically correct exuberant slave girl, which was a great way to go."
Martinez, Pablo Miguel. "Yours, Sally Hemings." North American Review 294.1 (2009): 30.
Short poem describing their lovemaking from Sally's viewpoint -- Jefferson is not appealing, to say the least.
Monteith, Sharon. "America's Domestic Aliens: African Americans and the Issue of Citizenship in the Jefferson/Hemings Story in Fiction and Film." Alien Identities: Exploring Difference in Fiction and Film. Ed. Deborah Cartmell et al. Sterling: Pluto Press, 1999. 31-48.
"I view the controversial relationship between America's architect of democracy and his slave Sally Hemings as an allegory of the racial drama that made whites 'Americans' and blacks 'aliens'. . . . Literary representations of Thomas Jefferson have . . . quite regularly encoded the special relationship he is purported to have had with his wife's half-sister as a means of interrogating issues of race and rights." This film "ensures that Thomas Jefferson is read as a quiet intellectual statesman and a lonely widower whose emotions are awakened by the charm of a young girl who in Paris reminds him of home, of America, and most tellingly of Monticello. In fact, rather than enforcing the droit de seigneur, Nick Nolte's Jefferson succumbs to a bright young Sally . . . after an incredibly literate . . . but quite formal flirtation with married Maria Cosway."
Monteith, Sharon. "Sally Hemings in Visual Culture: A Radical Act of the Imagination?" Slavery and Abolition 29.2 (2008): 233-46.
Some consideration of fiction and film representations of Jefferson-Hemings, but the intriguing original contribution of this article is the survey of representations in painting, public art, performance art, and sculpture.
Newnham, David. " Portrait: True Grit; Did Thomas Jefferson, revered founding father, have a love affair with a slave? The suggestion, made in a new film, has outraged America." Guardian 3 June 1995: 36.
Profile of the life and works of writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, culminating in Jefferson in Paris. Jefferson embodies Jhabvala's recurrent concerns: the foreigner abroad, smothered love, and the conflict between head and heart. Jhabvala does not consider the film an attack on Jefferson, since she regards his relationship with Hemings as romantic and loving and wholly honorable within the context of the times. Thus, she was surprised at the vigorous negative reaction. "It was a case of fools rush in," she says, "This was virgin territory for me, and I just didn't realise how important the subject is to some Americans." Jhabvala's research for the film included not only Fawn Brodie's ground-breaking 1974 biography, but Jefferson's letters, countless books on the period and slavery, and collections of interviews with slaves that were useful for creating realistic dialogue. "I think," says Jhabvala, "that [Jefferson's] heart was really only in his nearest and dearest -- in Monticello his home, in his daughter, his dead wife, and perhaps in his slaves -- in everything that belonged to him." And thus, in the end, "Quite simply, [Maria] Cosway was displaced by someone whose associations with Monticello, with America and with his beloved dead wife were truly heartfelt. And that person was Sally Hemings."
Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (2000)
A post-DNA television mini-series that makes an intellectually sharp, drop-down gorgeous Sally the central character in the relationship, even the initiator of the sexual side of things. Sally assumes the role of care-taker for the aging Jefferson, and her love for him transcends his death. The image of Sally here is closer to that in Barbara Chase-Riboud's novel and the polar opposite of the stereotypical slave Sally in Jefferson in Paris.
Vivian, Bradford. "Jefferson's Other." Quarterly Journal of Speech 88.3 (2002): 284-302.
Vivian divides representations of the Jefferson-Hemings relationship into three categories: the desire for judgment (Annette Gordon-Reed, the DNA), the desire for romance (Fawn Brodie, Jefferson in Paris, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Sally Hemings: An American Scandal), and inversion of the romantic interpretations by contemplating the horrible (Steve Erickson).
Welsh, Jim. "Jefferson in Love." Hollywood's White House: The American Presidency in Film and History. Ed. Peter C. Rollins and John E. O'Connor. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 2003. 50-61.
Not much is learned here of Jefferson's diplomatic mission. The film's "sights are set somewhat lower, more at the heart than the head -- if not below the belt." The film was not intended to celebrate Jefferson's intellect "but rather his somewhat tarnished reputation." Sex sells, and one must wonder if that was the prime motive in exploring Jefferson's sexual habits. But "why this Renaissance man of over forty would be so taken by an ignorant teenager is not successfully explained by either the screenplay or the acting."

See Also

Custen, George F. Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1992.

Karsten, Eileen. From Real Life to Reel Life: A Filmography of Biographical Films. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1993.

Riding, Alan. "Getting It Right and Going Light on the History." New York Times 3 July 1994: 2, 9, 17.

Rollins, Peter C., ed. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Video/Audio Resources

"Fireworks." Episode 18, Year One of 30 Rock.
In this episode, Tracy, fighting a paternity suit, discovers that his DNA shows he's a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and is mostly white. In his distress he has a dream that he's on the Maury Povich show where Jefferson's paternity is confirmed. Jack as Jefferson shows up and quiets his anxiety by telling him this is America, embrace who you are.
Jefferson in Paris French Revolution Francaise 1789
Clip of the scene in the film in which Jefferson first meets Maria Cosway.
Jefferson in Paris French Revolution Francaise 1995
Clip of the opening scene from the film in which Jefferson addresses the King.
"The Story on Page One." Episode 219 of Family Guy.
Split-second joke involving Jefferson's whole (black) family.

Online Resources

Morrison, James (updated by Rob Edelman). "James Ivory." Film Reference.
Basic overview biography and critical assessment.