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Walter L.

" The Green Pastures ", Sunday

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I see that " THE GREEN PASTURES is showing Easter morning, presumably Easter+inspired. I'm.a bit suprised they feel the can show it at all!

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You mean, like it's too good for TCM to show?  Or is this another one of those baiting posts designed to elicit more of that tired old griping about how movie watching has been ruined by the civil rights movement?

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...More or less s comment. That it might be a disliked/objection registered by many today.

  Wasn't there an early-days-of-TV live production of it (perhaps no kinescopes) too?

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17 hours ago, slaytonf said:

You mean, like it's too good for TCM to show?  Or is this another one of those baiting posts designed to elicit more of that tired old griping about how movie watching has been ruined by the civil rights movement?

As I've never really heard that complaint before, further explanation is requested.  

Sepiatone

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10 hours ago, Walter L. said:

...More or less s comment. That it might be a disliked/objection registered by many today.

  Wasn't there an early-days-of-TV live production of it (perhaps no kinescopes) too?

Yes, I have a 16mm kinescope. Starring William Warfield and Eddie Anderson. Excellent production but not nearly as good as the Warners film, in part due to the Hall Johnson Choir's amazing performances in the 1936 movie.

By the way, Erich Korngold composed music for the flood sequence (uncredited) and later re-used it in THE SEA HAWK.

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...I looked it up and saw that there were 2 59s TV versions, both for Hallmark Hall of Fame, 2 years apart in 1957 and 1959 IIRC. Which one do you have? Is it B&W? That's late enough that I guess, as a " special "show, it could be in color.

 

 

 

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On 4/20/2019 at 1:46 PM, Walter L. said:

I see that " THE GREEN PASTURES is showing Easter morning, presumably Easter+inspired. I'm.a bit suprised they feel the can show it at all!

They can, and do, Show anything they like on TCM (copyright allowing) regardless of how racially dated the original material may be, and for the most part I’m fine with it. In the entire history of my watching TCM, and I’ve seen **a lot** of stuff, there’ve been only two movies that I felt they should either not show or edit them for genuinely hurtful racist content. (CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT and the ABRAHAM “number” in HOLIDAY INN Are the two offenders, just in case anyone is curious)

THE GREEN PASTURES May be dated, and it may understandably make some viewers cringe, but I think it’s actually a lovely film – very well produced and intelligent And it’s heart is absolutely in the right place.. There was a radio adaptation done, I want to say with Paul Robeson, sometime in the 1940s and they played it on Christmas when my father and I were in the car. We both enjoyed it an awful lot, and my father and I rarely find common ground on much of anything.

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...Do you think TCM will ever show 1951's YES SIR, MR. BONES then?

  On another level, if HOLIDAY INN'S blackface number makes it questionable for you - for " A" pictures from the same period, how do you feel about BABES ON BROADWAY and THIS IS THE ARMY?

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I have not seen YES SIR MR BONES or THIS IS THE ARMY, So I can’t really say on either one of those. The blackface number in BABES IN ARMS is bad but it’s nowhere near as DEGRADING and insensitive as the ABRAHAM Number in HOLIDAY INN which just has so much shucking and jiving and grinning and mugging and servers dressed in black face as Mammys and house slaves and the white female lead of the movie has braids that stand straight up like Buckwheat and actual black actors Are forced to smile and look appreciative in the middle of it

But there’s just something so insulting about the Abraham number in Holiday Inn

it is a buffet of offenses for the senses.

 

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4 hours ago, Walter L. said:

...I looked it up and saw that there were 2 59s TV versions, both for Hallmark Hall of Fame, 2 years apart in 1957 and 1959 IIRC. Which one do you have? Is it B&W? That's late enough that I guess, as a " special "show, it could be in color.

 

 

 

As I recall it's the 1959 telecast. Not by anything stated in the show but by the film stock coding. It's B&W. As is my kinescope of THE CAINE MUTINY COURT-MARTIAL. Color kinescopes are extremely rare.

As for THIS IS THE ARMY - yes, it does have the "Mandy" minstrel number done in traditional blackface. But that revival from YIP YIP YAPHANK is blown out of the water by Stump & Stumpy and Company doing "What the Well-Dressed Man in Harlem Will Wear" - a showstopper among showstoppers in that great Curtiz picture.

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And then there's the "Going to Heaven on a Mule" finale of Wonder Bar....

I think the only time I saw it show up on TCM was when Richard Barrios selected it for the "Gay Images in Film" spotlight back in 2007.

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12 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

The Abraham number in Holiday Inn (1942) contains genuinely hurtful racist content.

Later, you said that it was degrading, insensitive, insulting, and offensive.  I couldn't disagree more. 

The song isn't one of Irving Berlin's best, and the lyrics don't rank among his most clever efforts, but it's actually a pretty tame song.  Bing, Marjorie, and Co. are praising the U.S. President who abolished slavery, so it makes sense to me that the performers are dressed like African Americans and celebrate Abe's birth with a joyous song. 

I think it would have been better to have actual African Americans performing the song, but storywise, given the time period in which the film takes place, it made more sense for this inn (patronized and staffed by whites) to feature whites performing in blackface.

I'm inferring that you think grinning, mugging, "shucking," and "jiving" are negative racial stereotypes.  It's a joyful song, so that should explain the grinning.  Mugging may be artistically offensive (a cheap gag), but I've never understood why it's supposed to be racially offensive since there are performers, both white and black, who are guilty of mugging on camera.  I don't see much difference between white mugging and black mugging.

I think the "shucking and jiving" is actually a genuine attempt to mimic a dance style that was created and made popular by African Americans in the late Nineteenth Century.  I don't think I would be promoting a negative racial stereotype if I attempted to break dance in public, especially if I wanted to pay tribute to a dance form created and made popular by African Americans.

And I love the verse Louise Beavers sings to the actors playing her children in the film.  She is teaching her kids about the emancipation of African Americans that Abe Lincoln helped make possible.  How is this a negative portrayal of blacks?  I'll bet in 1942, there were theaters in the South that excised Louise's verse from the film (or possibly excised the entire Abraham number) because of its sympathetic portrayal of African Americans and the fact that it celebrates the liberation of blacks.

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The donning of blackface by white (and sometimes black) actors was and remains a hateful and racist act.  It brought with it a set of understood demeaning stereotypes about African-Americans.  While it is true a lot of the gyrations and contortions of whites in blackface are derived from African-Ameircan dance and performance, they were depicted as exaggerated caricaturizations, meant to portray it as buffoonery, and ludicrous.  And while it is also true whites appearing as whites also were shown as buffooons and mugging caricatures, it was meant to mock these individuals only, whereas the pejorative depictions of African-Americans was an indictment of the entire population.

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Green Pastures was first a successful Broadway play (1930-1931), I believe the first Broadway show with an all black cast.. The huge cast featured the Broadway debut of Juanita Hall, who years later would play Bloody Mary and introduce "Bali Ha'i" and "Happy Talk" to audiences in South Pacific.

https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/the-green-pastures-11064

Mansfield-Theatre-Standard-Cover-Playbil

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1 hour ago, slaytonf said:

The donning of blackface by white (and sometimes black) actors was and remains a hateful and racist act.  

Sounds like you're reading that straight out of an NAACP pamphlet.  I prefer to think for myself and reject such inflexible and inalterable language which allows no room for interpretation.  I too am occasionally offended by racist themes and portrayals in older Hollywood films, but I can find nothing hateful about the musical comedy number Abraham in Holiday Inn.

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23 minutes ago, Wayne said:

Sounds like you're reading that straight out of an NAACP pamphlet.  I prefer to think for myself and reject such inflexible and inalterable language which allows no room for interpretation.  I too am occasionally offended by racist themes and portrayals in older Hollywood films, but I can find nothing hateful about the musical comedy number Abraham in Holiday Inn.

I'll bet Kate Smith believed this, too.

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7 hours ago, Wayne said:

I can find nothing hateful about the musical comedy number Abraham in Holiday Inn.

Your reaction, or lack thereof, is immaterial.  Just as your indifference to vivisection, or the use of animals in testing cosmetics would be.  What is important is the effect on the subjects of these scenes.  And though it might be possible to find an example in history, the reaction of African-Americans on an individual, community, and institutional level has been a continual and consistent repudiation and rejection.  They were identified as part of a larger practice in our, society, and government of repression that involved economic deprivation, physical intimidation, and murder.

I suggest you look beyond your narrow considerations to include those of others.  You would find a better understanding of the world, the people in it, and yourself, perhaps.

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17 hours ago, slaytonf said:

The donning of blackface by white (and sometimes black) actors was and remains a hateful and racist act.

Not in Silver Streak.

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6 hours ago, Fedya said:

Not in Silver Streak.

There is a maxim among anthropologists that goes:  "They always do it different in Bongo Bongo."  Meaning that if an anthropologist works up the courage, or is reckless enough to make a far-reaching proposition about human behavior, some other, playing the contrarian game, is sure to chirp up, "but they do it different in Bongo Bongo."  

As if the one instance of Silver Streak (1976) means that blackface is no longer hateful and racist.  But I maintain that the blackface scene in that movie is just as hateful and racist and wrong as any other.  It doesn't matter that it was done with the 'approval' of an African-American (Richard Pryor).  Of course it was done as a sarcastic condemnation of the practice in other movies.  But's no more appropriate for a member of a persecuted group to use a slur against that group than anyone else.  Richard Pryor exemplifies this better than anyone else.  He used the n-word in his routines, trying to own it, and drain the word of its toxic power.  But he realized its inappropriateness and stopped using it.

There is another example from a movie of the studio era which might also be mentioned as an unobjectionable blackface scene.  It's the dance Fred Astaire does in Swing Time (1936), 'Bojangles of Harlem' in honor of Bill Robinson.  Artistically and technically it's one of the best he ever did.  Now nobody I think will say it is anything but a sincere tribute to a great man and dancer, and an acknowledgement by Astaire of the debt he and other dancers owed to him.  Something rare, perhaps unique for movies of that era.

But was it necessary to do it in blackface?  Of course not.  I know what some people will say:  "It was the times." No one thought it was wrong, it was just the way things were.  That's the unvarying rationale.  Or rationalization.  That phrase is used to excuse so much that is offensive in studio movies.  But I don't buy it.  People making movies knew blackface, and the general depiction of African-Americans was wrong and offensive.  Just as when you hit an animal and it cries out, you know you hurt it.  The African-American community made clear their condemnation of the way they were portrayed in movies through many avenues.  But their voices were disregarded.  So it was not that people didn't know, they just didn't care.

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