In their relentless search for the crock of gold, cinema’s moguls and fat cats seem to have decided that the so-called ‘biopic’ might be where El Dorado is located. In the last twelve months there have been biographical treatments of figures as varied as Alfred Kinsey, Howard Hughes, Alexander the Great, J M Barrie, Che Guevara, Ray Charles, and the singer Bobby Darin. It is a safe bet that the vogue for biopics will fade away like all the other Hollywood crazes once the paying customers vote with their feet, as they surely will. But the biopic will never entirely go away, as the genre is as old as the movies themselves – Georges Méliès produced an ‘epic’ on Joan of Arc as early as 1899.
Yet it remains the case that the stories of great and even not-so-great lives have not fared well on the silver screen. Warner Brothers, always the most serious of the Hollywood studios, made a valiant attempt in the 1930s to make the biopic popular. Their doyen of the biographical art