66 posts in this topic

17 minutes ago, Brittany Ashley said:

I understand now, thank you for clarifying. 

What I don't understand is on the one hand, white audiences clearly liked, were fans of and wanted to see black entertainers on screen yet, apparently, did not have a issue with otherwise racist and stereotypical depictions of black people? I'm trying to understand that mindset and square that in my mind because it doesn't make sense. Seems like a situation of loving the art but not the people (who weren't talented entertainers). Very sad and unfortunate.

I knew about cutting certain scenes for white southern audiences. You can even tell when and where something was cut. The scenes also look like they were staged and set up in such a way that would make cuts and edits easier. 

It's not logical. But when you look at how much money white audiences have always spent on black athletes, you could almost say the same thing. And we can go back to Jack Johnson and Joe Louis before Jackie Robinson ever swung a bat.

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29 minutes ago, Brittany Ashley said:

I recently saw Swing (Oscar Micheaux) and Theresa Harris has a very brief dancer in an audition for a show. I was  pleased to see her but had the same thought. She was a pretty woman forced to play in background as a maid for a white character. It was nice seeing her have fun, show her dancing talent and wear a sexy costume. 

 

 Was Swing a musical?  I'd still like to know whether there were any early musicals with black casts that had black directors, and if so, whether they're any less stereotypical than Hallelujah or Cabin in the Sky (which I've seen in the past).  

14 minutes ago, Brittany Ashley said:

What I don't understand is on the one hand, white audiences clearly liked, were fans of and wanted to see black entertainers on screen yet, apparently, did not have a issue with otherwise racist and stereotypical depictions of black people? I'm trying to understand that mindset and square that in my mind because it doesn't make sense. 

I'm wondering whether back then, white audiences simply had no other images of black people, and therefore thought that the depictions they were seeing were accurate.  Stereotypes are based in ignorance.

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29 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

black people only began getting any kind of reasonably middle class or upscale mainstream jobs in the a very late sixties or early seventies. 

If you're referring to jobs outside of the African-American community, I don't disagree.  But within the African-American community there were plenty of highly-educated doctors, lawyers, and others, after the founding of the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the late 1800s.  See, for example, this Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African-American_upper_class, and this New York Times article, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/education/edlife/black-america-and-the-class-divide.html.

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15 minutes ago, Languorous Lass said:

 Was Swing a musical?  

No, not exactly although much of the plot centers around putting on a show. I suppose you could consider it a sort background musical but it didn't really "feel" like a traditional studio musical to me. of There are chorus girls, a "mammy" singer character, a blues singer and some shots of performers auditioning. 

15 minutes ago, Languorous Lass said:

I'm wondering whether back then, white audiences simply had no other images of black people, and therefore thought that the depictions they were seeing were accurate.  Stereotypes are based in ignorance.

Good point. I wonder that too. That certainly isn't impossible that at least some audience members weren't out and out racists who enjoyed consuming degrading images of black people. They really did not have more positive and frequent images presented to them. So can you really say they were complicit in oppression and degradation of people or should be held accountable? Hard to say.

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While some white audiences may have questioned the need or relevance of ”race films".  For black audiences, they were grateful to see glimpses of black stars from Broadway (people that they heard of but never could see in person).  So, they were happy to see Bill Robinson dancing with Shirley Temple, or the Nicholas Bros. with Gene Kelly. This is why black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux were important because they were fulfilling a need.   But not only, did we have "race movies", there was also color-ism. In Cabin in the Sky, Ethel Waters the "good" darker skinned woman is mostly dressed in working clothes and head rags, while the "devilish" lighter skinned, Lena is taking bubble baths and looking absolutely beautiful. This is a subconscious pitting of one woman against the other (and I’m not just talking about their rivalry for Little Joe).  This color-ism has played out in numerous films, in modern times we have "Dreamgirls", where Beyoncé becomes the superstar, the "loudmouth and pushy" Effie  (Jennifer Hudson) sees her career torn away from her.  I'm just pointing out that the black audiences of yesterday looked at these race films and saw things that perhaps the broader audience was not aware of.  

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35 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

It's not logical. But when you look at how much money white audiences have always spent on black athletes, you could almost say the same thing. And we can go back to Jack Johnson and Joe Louis before Jackie Robinson ever swung a bat.

Absolutely. This needs to be talked about more. Particularly in the context of history like we are doing now. 

Come to think, this was the basis of the movie Get Out.

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1 minute ago, Languorous Lass said:

If you're referring to jobs outside of the African-American community, I don't disagree.  But within the African-American community there were plenty of highly-educated doctors, lawyers, and others, after the founding of the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the late 1800s.  See, for example, this Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African-American_upper_class, and this New York Times article, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/education/edlife/black-america-and-the-class-divide.html.

And we all know that --but they didn't get to work in the mainstream and I couldn't tell you how many had to hold menial jobs-- just like people who had no college degrees-- just to get by.

Black American people have always been highly educated on the middle class or upper class level and they've always been able to find teaching or nursing or librarian jobs in the segregated world. Because as I can remind you their entire world was segregated.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, starryeyzze said:

While some white audiences may have questioned the need or relevance of ”race films".  For black audiences, they were grateful to see glimpses of black stars from Broadway (people that they heard of but never could see in person).  So, they were happy to see Bill Robinson dancing with Shirley Temple, or the Nicholas Bros. with Gene Kelly. This why black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux were important because they were fulfilling a need   But not only, did we have "race movies", there was also color-ism. In Cabin in the Sky, Ethel Waters the "good" darker skinned woman is mostly dressed in working clothes and head rags, while the "devilish" lighter skinned, Lena is taking bubble baths and looking absolutely beautiful. This is a subconscious pitting of one woman against the other (and I’m not just talking about their rivalry for Little Joe).  This color-ism has played out in numerous films, in modern times we have "Dreamgirls", where Beyoncé becomes the superstar, the "loudmouth and pushy" Effie sees her career torn away from her.  I'm just pointing out that the black audiences of yesterday looked at these race films and saw things that perhaps the broader audience was not aware of.  

Excellent! I agree with you.

Just wondering, I understand about the colorism and pitting the women against each other. Was it significant that the darker skinned woman was "better" than the lighter skinned woman? Because I know ligh skin= goodness and darker skin= bad or evil. Thats more of what I have seen in movies/pop culture. I would have thought this would be the case in this movie between Waters and Horne but its flipped in CITS. 

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   6 minutes ago,  Princess of Tap said: 

And we all know that --but they didn't get to work in the mainstream and I couldn't tell you how many had to hold menial jobs-- just like people who had no college degrees-- just to get by.

 

I don't really think "we all know that."  I'm white, and I didn't learn much about the black community until I grew up and met black people and began working in civil rights.  

When we're talking about charged topics such as race, I think it's important for us to identify our assumptions.  I apologize if I came across as lecturing or assuming that you didn't know the topic I was talking about.  I will watch my assumptions and my tone in future posts.

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11 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

And we all know that --but they didn't get to work in the mainstream and I couldn't tell you how many had to hold menial jobs-- just like people who had no college degrees-- just to get by.

 

I don't really think "we all know that."  I'm white, and I didn't learn much about the black community until I grew up and met black people and began working in civil rights.  

When we're talking about charged topics such as race, I think it's important for us to identify our assumptions.  I apologize if I came across as lecturing or assuming that you didn't know the topic I was talking about.  I will watch my assumptions and my tone in future posts.

ETA:  I apologize for the double post.  I'm still learning this message board, and it won't let me delete the duplicate.  :unsure:

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10 minutes ago, Brittany Ashley said:

Excellent! I agree with you.

Just wondering, I understand about the colorism and pitting the women against each other. Was it significant that the darker skinned woman was "better" than the lighter skinned woman? Because I know ligh skin= goodness and darker skin= bad or evil. Thats more of what I have seen in movies/pop culture. I would have thought this would be the case in this movie between Waters and Horne but its flipped in CITS. 

I think we see the Petronia, the darker skinned woman as "good" because she is religious and identified as one of God's favorites in the film.  

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1 minute ago, Languorous Lass said:

I actually don't think "we all know that."  I'm white, and I didn't learn much about the black community until I grew up and met black people and began working in civil rights.  

When we're talking about charged topics such as race, I think it's important for us to identify our assumptions.  I apologize if I came across as lecturing or assuming that you didn't know the topic I was talking about.  I will watch my assumptions and my tone in future posts.

Oh I'm sorry-- I did a lot of research in graduate school on film and race and lot of these different topics.

But nowadays I do assume that people are much more aware of other people's realities in the society  than they were say 40, 50 or 60 years ago.

I also assume that well-educated people who are well-read and "know their stuff" usually have a good grounding of the subject they're talking about.

 I don't see race necessarily as a " charged "subject, I simply see it as a subject which needs reality and the light of day shined on it at all times.

 

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3 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

Additionally, other races were not as separated, although they were treated as less valuable than white. They were marginalized in mainstream films. The "yellow peril" was a common term for Asian men in films. Just awful. But they were not the victims of the same kind of laws that African Americans had been. Go figure. Slavery, am I right?

Thank you Dr. Ament for your reply. This is what I was trying to figure out and understand. You  reminded one of my professors discussing Hispanics in the US and their placement in the racial system. Seems like it was stratified between white and black and the positions for both were fixed and unmovable because of slavery. But "everybody else" (by that I mean non-whites; I just used the phrase so it was easy for me to explain) were sort of existing in the middle like a wedge. And their experiences with racism and segregation and how they were "dealt with" in the white supremacist system varied. Seems like there was more nuance and fluidity with these groups in navigating and existing within that system than there was for blacks. 

This plays out in the movies too with more representation Hispanic artists and performers (granted they were more European and lighter skinned) but I do not know about Asians.

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1 minute ago, Princess of Tap said:

 I don't see race necessarily as a " charged "subject, I simply see it as a subject which needs reality and the light of day shined on it at all times.

Same here. Its not "charged" to me; its vital. 

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This is a topic that is very important to me.  Some of the films I used to enjoy are difficult to look at now.  Case in point:  Annie Get Your Gun.  What a wonderful Irving Berlin score, but how hard it is to see its treatment of women and Native Americans.  I love Auntie Mame, but cringe at the treatment of Ito.  But these are obvious stereotypes.  There are many ways that white supremist attitudes subtly infuse films.  I am not referring white supremacy as exemplified by the ****.  I am thinking of anything that perpetuates the systems that keep white people in charge.

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1 hour ago, Brittany Ashley said:

I have seen that movie (own the DVD) but haven't actually watched it in over a decade. I don't remember this specific number well but it is interesting this number is included because like you said the military was segregsted with no plans of integration.

There was strict segregation by and large, but WWII is where it started to be broken up in the military. I'll have to pull my books out, but I recall the Navy was forced to do some integration and Eleanor Roosevelt force FDR's hand on this much to his frustration.  She was fighting relentlessly for integration in the military while he was trying to just get the war machine up and going. She wouldn't stand down, so he had to accommodate in some areas where she was publicly against him.  I'm not saying that Fred and Ginger were reflecting this, but if we were to see it early, I do think I recall it would be in the navy.  It wasn't actually integration either. It was service on the same submarine or ship, but separate quarters. I'll thumb through my books on this.

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20 minutes ago, MotherofZeus said:

I recall the Navy was forced to do some integration and Eleanor Roosevelt force FDR's hand on this much to his frustration.  She was fighting relentlessly for integration in the military while he was trying to just get the war machine up and going. She wouldn't stand down, so he had to accommodate in some areas where she was publicly against him.

I am reading the book Code Girls and literally just read this. This is true. The Navy was definitely more strongly against any sort of integration no matter how small but the Army did to comply to Mrs Roosevelt and there was more integration in the Army. Particularly for women.

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31 minutes ago, Jim K said:

This is a topic that is very important to me.  Some of the films I used to enjoy are difficult to look at now.  Case in point:  Annie Get Your Gun.  What a wonderful Irving Berlin score, but how hard it is to see its treatment of women and Native Americans.  I love Auntie Mame, but cringe at the treatment of Ito.  But these are obvious stereotypes.  There are many ways that white supremist attitudes subtly infuse films.  I am not referring white supremacy as exemplified by the ****.  I am thinking of anything that perpetuates the systems that keep white people in charge.

Thank you for this honestly. I think you touched at something a lot, if not most, classic movie fans try to come to terms with. Being a fan of and loving these movies that had incredible racism and degradation (or total erasure) of minority groups- not to mention rampant misogyny- and the perpetuation of systems of oppression.Its a hard thing to square. Because you can't really "separate the art from the artist" or in this case separate the good and positive this we like about these films from the "times" and the negative aspects of that time that was reinforced in films.

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1 hour ago, MotherofZeus said:

There was strict segregation by and large, but WWII is where it started to be broken up in the military. I'll have to pull my books out, but I recall the Navy was forced to do some integration and Eleanor Roosevelt force FDR's hand on this much to his frustration.  She was fighting relentlessly for integration in the military while he was trying to just get the war machine up and going. She wouldn't stand down, so he had to accommodate in some areas where she was publicly against him.  I'm not saying that Fred and Ginger were reflecting this, but if we were to see it early, I do think I recall it would be in the navy.  It wasn't actually integration either. It was service on the same submarine or ship, but separate quarters. I'll thumb through my books on this.

Zeus--Bonjour!

Mrs. Roosevelt was very much influenced by a close personal friend,  Mary McLeod Bethune. Mrs. Bethune was a great black educator and human rights activist. She founded a school for  black American girls in 1904, which eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. Mrs.  Bethune often visited the White House to converse with Mrs. Roosevelt about civil rights and was considered to be an unofficial advisor to the president.

 

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8 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

Zeus--Bonjour!

Mrs. Roosevelt was very much influenced by a close personal friend,  Mary McLeod Bethune. Mrs. Bethune was a great black educator and human rights activist. She founded a school for  black American girls in 1904, which eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. Mrs.  Bethune often visited the White House to converse with Mrs. Roosevelt about civil rights and was considered to be an unofficial advisor to the president.

 

Bonjour Princess,

I love Mary McLeod Bethune's history.  This site is wonderful for interacting with such knowledgable people (but somehow I should expect that).

I send my best Maxie Ford Turn your way as recognition that you know your stuff!

 

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3 hours ago, MotherofZeus said:

Bonjour Princess,

I love Mary McLeod Bethune's history.  This site is wonderful for interacting with such knowledgable people (but somehow I should expect that).

I send my best Maxie Ford Turn your way as recognition that you know your stuff!

 

Zeus--And Jump, Shuffle hop, toe back  to you for being such a dedicated tap dance artist!

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13 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

Zeus--Bonjour!

Mrs. Roosevelt was very much influenced by a close personal friend,  Mary McLeod Bethune. Mrs. Bethune was a great black educator and human rights activist. She founded a school for  black American girls in 1904, which eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. Mrs.  Bethune often visited the White House to converse with Mrs. Roosevelt about civil rights and was considered to be an unofficial advisor to the president.

 

 

4 hours ago, MotherofZeus said:

Bonjour Princess,

I love Mary McLeod Bethune's history.  This site is wonderful for interacting with such knowledgable people (but somehow I should expect that).

I send my best Maxie Ford Turn your way as recognition that you know your stuff!

 

i too love Mrs Bethune's legacy and contributions. Her impact within the Federal government and friendship with Mrs Roosevelt influenced so much positive good

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On 6/5/2018 at 2:43 PM, BrianBlake said:

I'm not in this field, but those would probably be called race films as well. American history tends to focus on white-black, but of course there are other minorities and the treatment of them can be quite disparate.

At the risk of stirring the pot, I watched SWING TIME earlier today, and in a certain way I'd say it's a quite  'white' film. In particular, this occured when you think about Lucky's character and all the various things he does and gets away with. I don't think it was consciously meant to be about race in some way, but it's hard to ignore watching it today, especially when a major number involves Astaire in blackface.

Yes, since the olden golden days when I studied ballet in NYC (late 60s-early 70s@Joffrey Ballet studios on 7th Ave.) I've adored the exciting and innovative dancing of Astaire, and the poetry of Astaire & Rogers' pas de deux. While I "saw" the blackface then (I've been Black all my life, smile), I was awed and blinded by the choreography. I am still and always will be in awe watching it - and after 50 years I know all the steps, hand gestures and facial expressions, up-down-beats, etc. I own that I willfully look past the stereotyping that was ubiquitous in Hollywood and in many of my favorite classic movies (e.g. GWTW, Jezebel). While race/racial issues are ingrained in everyday American life, I'm glad that times and Hollywood has changed in many ways - by choice and by force. 

Love this thread, comments, and sharing resources for an informed learning discussion.

http://dhbasecamp.humanities.ucla.edu/afamfilm/ 

Thanks Brittany Ashley!

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2 hours ago, JVJones said:

Thanks Brittany Ashley!

Yes, thank you, Brittany,  and thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread.  

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