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How Hollywood Sidelined Black Actors | NYT


This is A.O. Scott. Maids, butlers,
waiters, porters. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Hollywood
offered African-American actors few roles beyond servile ones. Right away. Wrap it up. Was you asking for me,
Miss Allen? The film historian
Donald Bogle has called the ‘30s the age
of the Negro servant, and the careers of
great performers like Clarence Muse
and Theresa Harris confirm this marginality. Too often these actors
were not even credited. Someone’s going to insult you
today if you get out of bed! The offscreen reality
was always more complex. However demeaning
the roles, they also sustained careers
for performers who belonged to another
Hollywood, one that included behind
the scenes activism and the ongoing struggle
for creative autonomy. Clarence Muse, often cast
as butler or a porter, collaborated with the
poet Langston Hughes on the script and the
songs for “Way Down South,” released by RKO in 1939. The same year as
“Gone With the Wind.” I know you’re trying to do the
best you can for Master Tim. I’m trying to do the best
I can for him too, sir. “Gone With the Wind” is a
regressive fantasy, of course. But as Bogle points
out, its black actors transformed their slaves
into complex human beings. Hattie McDaniel,
who plays Mammy, became the first
African-American actor to win an Oscar. But at the time she was
also harshly criticized for helping to perpetuate
negative representations. Oh, now, Miss Scarlett. McDaniel’s complicated
legacy is that she made Mammy more than just a caricature. Hattie McDaniel
is the most famous of three siblings who
appeared frequently in the old Hollywood. Her brother, Sam, had
more than 200 roles to his name, many uncredited. Their sister Etta can be
seen, however briefly, in films like “Son of Dracula.” Working within a white
supremacist system, the McDaniels and
other black performers did what they could to
infuse their limited roles with artistry and dignity. Even as modern audiences
cringe at these stereotypes, it is possible to appreciate
the artists who played them. And sometimes what
we see, in a movie like the RKO Western
“The Arizonian,” suggests a whole other
dimension to the story. [gunshot]

28 Comments

  1. Simiral Entertainment Author

    In the film Carpenter's "The Thing" in the terrible and cold final with one bottle of whiskey for two, two winter antrarctic men sit – Kurt Russell and a big strong bald African American. They do not think about the racial infringement of anyone, they just want to be able to survive … did this happen?..

    Reply
  2. David Marquez Author

    Still a couple of years ago black actors were credited with the first guy to be killed or a saucy girlfriend. Always giving them one dimension, always eliminating the complexity of humankind. And it not only happens with black actors but it also occurs with Asian and Latinos. The pernicious way Hollywood has eliminating the humanity of all other races except white is unbelievable.

    Reply
  3. Vid joe Author

    This is true but we should also remember movies such as Saphire and Imitation of Life which tried to show strong positive Moor roles in cinema

    Reply
  4. russelljohnson2008 Author

    The Help, Monster's Ball, Hidden Figures, Green Book, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Precious, Black or White, etc… Even in the 21st century, Hollywood can't find its way.

    Reply
  5. PorkyPricklyPants Author

    This and the long list of films in the long Hollywood tradition of playing the race card. We have here a string of incidents designed to create anger between the races of those viewing these films. This was at its worst of course in Roots which has created a dynamic in America that is still with us.

    The focus is always on the most negative incidents that the writer can dream up. This of course has created a mental segregation based on anger or misplaced guilt depending on race. It should of course depend on whether your ancestors are abolitionists; plantation owners or black or white Revolutionary War heroes etc. Hopefully Hollywood will someday realize that a person is an individual not a race.

    It is not surprising that these films are used for second grade class as part of the horrible curriculum in today's schools.

    Reply
  6. BRYAN HALLIGAN Author

    Philly
    Music
    Asian to black Hollywood
    They disguise from white to black as well.
    All the Black in music and theater that is supposed to be black is Chinese in disguise as black people 🧞‍♂️ ✨🕴️☀️🕺🏿☀️

    Reply

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