Saturday, December 12, 2020

Fossils in the Media


Recently, while watching YouTube I saw two videos that were fossil related.

The first is a movie trailer for the film Ammonite starring Kate Winslet as Mary Anning, Saoirse Ronan as Charlotte Murchison, Fiona Shaw as Elizabeth Philpot and James McArdle as Roderick Murchison. I am not sure what to make of this movie. While excited a movie is being made of the famous fossil hunter Mary Anning I wonder if they focused too much on speculation about her private life and not on her contributions to the field of fossils. If you want to sell tickets, the film's writer, director, and producers probably took the path to achieve this. I will watch none the less just out of curiosity.

UPDATE (January 2021): I was able to watch the movie using and found the movie to be good but not historically accurate. It is probably not everyone's cup of tea but if you like stories from this time period or location it might be for you. The story centers on Mary Annings relationship with  Charlotte Murchinson. Referring to a book entitled Jurassic Mary: Mary Anning and the Primeval Monsters by Patricia Pierce (2015) [obtained at London's Natural History Museum's gift shop]. What I liked about the movie was Mary looking for fossils and prepping them. It also shows the bluntness of living in the early 1800s in England. They filmed on location in the winter of 2019 at Lyme Regis. One can see the challenging conditions in which to collect fossils in. The color tone of the movie is dark and dreary.

The main problem with the story is the real timeline is all a mess. It shows an older Mary (maybe in her 40s) interacting with a 20 something year old Charlotte. In reality, Charlotte (1788-1869) was 11 years older than Mary (1799-1847). Also Mary's interaction with Elizabeth Philpot in the movie puzzling as she appears estranged but in book it tells how they collected fossils together. It also documents that the Philpot sisters were known for a healing salve they made for the local community.

The movie credits lists geology consultants as David Tucker and Paddy Howe, geologist as Phil Stephenson. It thanks David Tucker of Lyme Regis Museum, David Roche Geoconsulting, and the Residents and Businesses of Lyme Regis, Dorset. It shows as filmed on location in Dorset, Kent, Surrey and London, United Kingdom.

According to the Jurassic Mary book, Charlotte visited Lyme Regis in 1825 with her husband and then stayed for 2 weeks to hunt fossils. The couple later invited Mary to stay with them in London in 1829. Mary visited London in 1829 (not sure the year is definitive) but it appears she did not stay with them. So when Mary met Charlotte she would have been 26 years old and Charlotte 37 years old. It would appear there would not be any romantic connection between the two of them. 

On a side note, Roderick Murchison (1792-1871) was Charlotte's husband and known for first describing the Silurian geologic time period. He also named the Permian Period after Perm, Russia in 1841. Also a new book about Ms. Anning has been published. The Dovecote Press has released THE FOSSIL WOMAN A Life of Mary Anning by Tom Sharpe October 2020.

Earlier this week I was watching clips from the December 5, 2020 Saturday Night Live (SNL). They usually open with political satire. Near the end of the skit they brought on cast members Pete Davidson and Kyle Mooney. When the character played by Pete Davidson was asked what was his current job was, he responded "I am curious about fossils." I am not sure what to make of this as a joke.

YouTube Links if movie viewer does not work in your browser.