Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Recommended Posts

Comments on today's Podcast, Friday 6/15/18 Week 2 1940's Musicals. First, love the course and the Musicals. Today was the first time I was disappointed by something. The podcast was too long, almost 40 minutes; and very disjointed. Sorry to say but Dr. Edwards seemed unprepared or he forgot his notes. He was all over the place and off-topic several times. It started off fine but then went off on a tangent with Dr. Ament trying to bring it back on course. The last five minutes finally wrapped up well.

Just my opinion. Anyone else?

Note: Just to be clear, I had no problem with the content of the Podcast, i.e. the review of the facts we learned. My comments were only on the length of time and the slight disorganization of the presentation of topics. (My mind works like an outline, in order; I can't help it. Sorry friends.) Carry on.  ; ) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Suzy-Q said:

The idea that "blackface" was a way to "unify" America is hogwash. 

 

Our themes this week included nationalism and unity in pre-war, wartime, and post-war America. I encourage you to think about why you disagree with Dr. Ament's interpretation of their usage of blackface in musical numbers of this era, and what you would say was going on there instead.

2 hours ago, MusicalToni said:

It started off fine but then went off on a tangent with Dr. Ament trying to bring it back on course. The last five minutes finally wrapped up well.

I quite enjoy the podcasts. It's difficult to not go off on "tangents" when there is so very much to be talked about. With a condensed course like this, we are only getting a tiny snippet of the plethora of interesting topics and information available to chat/think about when it comes to studying films of these eras. I find the podcasts to be stimulating in terms of reinforcing the week's key themes and films, and perhaps also leaving me with something to think about that I haven't considered before - whether or not that has to do directly with our notes/videos/other work for the week. 

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The themes are not supported by history. Here is another take on this film: 

https://reelclub.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/a-white-christmas-witnessing-racial-intolerance-in-1940s-america-through-holiday-inn/

In summary, the 1940's were a time of extreme racism permeating culture, including this movie and Irving Berlin's lyrics. It is no coincidence that several black performers moved to Europe to avoid racism in the US. 

  • Thanks 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really enjoyed this week's podcast. When I saw the length I thought "oh, no!" but it was interesting and very informational. I had never heard the explanation on using "blackface" scenes before. Whenever I watch Holiday Inn, I think why didn't they just bring in some black performers for that holiday to celebrate Mr. Lincoln and the emancipation. Anyway, I think the 40's have my favorite musicals, too, Richard. One side note for me is that until I caught some Red Skelton films in the last 5 years on TCM, I always thought he was mainly a comedian who had maybe started in Vaudeville but had no clue he had made movies. Also, I had never heard of Cabin In The Sky but knew of the stars. I never knew "Rochester" aside from being on the Jack Benny show though. I didn't think I would like this film but I ended up loving it especially due to Ethel Waters but all in it were good. I am enjoying seeing films and learning about them. Thanks, TCM and Dr. Ament/Ball State!

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I listened to the podcast this morning, unaware of the length.  It was a little bit long; however informative.  And Suzy-Q, I agree with your sentiment on blackface, and also, thank you for the article link.  I just finished watching Holiday Inn and couldn't agree more with the author.  

 

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with NeverGonnaDance - if this were a graduate 15 week  course - then your point might be validate. But these instructors are trying to capture the essence of a complex subject matter by relating to a handful of films.

The podcasts for me are the best part of this course as they provide conjoined perspectives and something more to think about. Just my two cents....

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

RE: Racism. We need to look at this within the context of the time these movies are made. The beauty of this film (Cabin in the Sky) is that it is an all black cast celebrating their own culture during war. Racism, honestly, is not much better today - lets be honest. And certainly "white" films with black cast members (especially Holiday Inn) are significantly more racist in theme as characters take on subservient roles.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I enjoyed the podcast, although they did scramble a bit to squeeze a semester’s worth of ideas into a 40-minute discussion. I was very taken with the concept of “preparedness” in the early 40s which I hadn’t appreciated or really read about before. The point about “folk musicals” completely bypassed me and I never did figure out what was meant by that.

But I really question Dr. Ament’s statement that black people were on board with blackface and approved of it because it celebrated aspects of their culture in mainstream white entertainment. (In fairness , the two professors were talking so fast, that maybe that’s not what she intended to say.) But while I think that it’s true that some white people honestly thought blackface was “okay” in that it had a long tradition and was supposedly positive and affirmative and wasn’t inentionally denigrative toward the black culture. That whole idea was an illusion. And even in the 40s i’m guessing some white performers held fast to the illusion more than others. But, my point is, however warm and fuzzy, and normal, blackface numbers may have seemed to a majority of audiences, I doubt that blacks felt good about it. I doubt that they bought into the illusion that they were loved and celebrated in blackface numbers, however much they may have just accepted it as another part of the racist world they lived in. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I personally very much enjoyed the podcast.  I found it insightful and gave me much to think about. I really didn't find it overly long.  Looking forward to next week! ?

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read the article mentioned above before listening to the podcast. I thought the author of the article was reaching to come to the conclusions he did. I tend to agree with Dr. Ament regarding blackface at the time. I believe the thoughts of the article's author are one of the reasons few people who go to Disney World know where Splash Mountain's characters really come from. Song of the South has been blackballed because it has been labeled as racist. 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I enjoyed the June 15 podcast. Maybe the ideas about blackface were a bit of a reach, but maybe they're really just very hard for us to understand today.

I have enjoyed both podcasts and I'm looking forward to the ones remaining. My only wish is that they could be provided earlier in their respective weeks of the course so that I could be weighing the ideas as I watch that week's movies, but it's a minor point really.

I am typing this post on a keyboard, and I have started to hear the click of tap shoes in the the click of the keys!!!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Suzy-Q said:

The idea that "blackface" was a way to "unify" America is hogwash. 

 

I'm curious what African-Americans at the time thought about blackface and how they reacted to it. I did a cursory google search but couldn't find much. But I know that a lot of African-Americans weren't happy with the way they were presented in Gone With the Wind (no character development or depth). They urged Hattie McDaniel to refuse her Oscar and weren't very pleased when she didn't comply. So I'm guessing they probably didn't think too highly of blackface, either. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Suzy-Q said:

The idea that "blackface" was a way to "unify" America is hogwash. 

 

Right. I normally agree with Dr Ament but on this one i gave a big side-eye. The usage of the word "unify" in the context of the very history of blackface minstrely is problematic imo no matter how you slice it. Because the very point of blackface was mean to degrade an entire group of people and make them out to be jokes...how is portraying someone as a joke or degrade them unifying?

 I understand what she means by understanding the cultural context and the fact that "people didn't (necessarily) view things the way we do now" which is true. Critical thinking is important. The obvious question would be, which "people" because even in say 1940 I assume the average black or white movie goer would have come to different conclusions or interpretations about the inoffensiveness or racism etc of an image/portrayal, song lyric, movie line etc. Even today I have seen and felt a marked difference in how something was received when watching a classic film with a predominately white audience. I also wonder where she got her source/citation about that point from because I have never heard of blackface being seen as a way to unify a nation and if it was, I highly doubt the African American audience would have perceived it that way. This is a subject that a black scholar would be good to have on hand to give a difference of opinion or source. 

I tried thinking of a blackface number from this general time period in which it "could have" been seen (by white audiences) as a way to unify people. I can't come up with anything. I haven't seen the movie in a long time and don't remember all the specifics of the scenes and the song, but the blackface number in Babes in Arms is about the closest thing I can think of. The song/number was about paying tribute to the "icons" of minstrelsy since that was something that influenced Vaudeville which the kids-Mickey and Judy and the kids in the town-were children of vaudevillians. Mickey and Judy and the other leads portrayed some of those artists. I remember thinking then that parts of the number and their performances seemed to be saying black people were so cool and funny and entertaining and interesting that those minstrel performers simply had to copy them. Don't get me wrong, any blackface performance is offensive and oppressive but I do remember thinking that seemed to have both an element of making fun of black people while at the same time using blackface to say "being black is fun!" Its weird.

Now BIA was 1939 so the US wasn't even involved so I don't know how much it counts. Its interesting that the next  great big production number in that movie is the "God's Country" finale which is totally and overtly patriotic and pro-American as anything I've seen during the war. If not moreso. Its actually my favorite musical number from the '30s to unpack and discuss, especially in the context of the blackface number preceding it  in the same film.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, BlueMoods said:

But I know that a lot of African-Americans weren't happy with the way they were presented in Gone With the Wind (no character development or depth). They urged Hattie McDaniel to refuse her Oscar and weren't very pleased when she didn't comply. So I'm guessing they probably didn't think too highly of blackface, either. 

This has always been interesting to me. I do know the Oscar was donated to the historically black university Howard University in DC in the 70s (I think it was the 70s; I know it was after McDaniel had passed) and was allegedly tossed in the Potomac River by activists. Make of that what you will. 

I have also seen vintage/archival photographs of black students protesting that movie shortly after the movie was released. This was also in Washington,DC. I also would like to assume these students would not have perceived blackface numbers as unifying or any other racist imagery in the movies of their day.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Brittany Ashley said:

; I know it was after McDaniel had passed) and was allegedly tossed in the Potomac River by activists. Make of that what you will. 

 

Do you know who did the tossing? Obviously activists, as you stated. But white supremacist activists or civil rights activists? And do you know if it was retrieved?

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, BlueMoods said:

Do you know who did the tossing? Obviously activists, as you stated. But white supremacist activists or civil rights activists? And do you know if it was retrieved?

These would have been student activists. This allegedly happened in the 70s so it would have been in the middle of the black power, post-civil rights era. I do not know individual names. To this day, the location of McDaniel's Oscar is unknown and its not quite clear what happened to it.

As far as white supremacists go, I have read there were protests against the movie because McDaniel and Vivien Leigh appeared to be to close/comfortable with each other and their chemistry together appeared to be too natural and that the Mammy/Scarlett character dynamic seemed to be also too familiar and easy and close or warm for their liking. 

Sidenote, Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel befriended each other on that set and continued a friendship until McDaniel passed.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Suzy-Q said:

The themes are not supported by history. Here is another take on this film: 

https://reelclub.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/a-white-christmas-witnessing-racial-intolerance-in-1940s-america-through-holiday-inn/

In summary, the 1940's were a time of extreme racism permeating culture, including this movie and Irving Berlin's lyrics. It is no coincidence that several black performers moved to Europe to avoid racism in the US. 

Thanks for the article, I read that. While I do think that diversity (to an extent, lets be real) did factor into films in the 1940s and that the inclusion (again to an extent) was part of a larger American/patriotic identity is true, it has to be said that there were many instances of the same old same old. The Abraham number in HI is the perfect example. Granted this course is very abbreviated and you do need to spend more than a week delving into the themes. It was have been nice to have included mention of this scene as to how diversity and equality were not the case in films. The ways black Americans were still marginalized in the movies as in real life even though there was a push for more positive representation of minorities and cultural awareness. Because just like in real life, the armed forces were still deeply segregated and oppressive just like all facets of American society at that time. Yet-and this is where the nuance comes in-black Americans and other minorities did contribute and were patriotic and there was a greater feeling of unity and togetherness. 

I'm not saying this week has sugarcoated things, but perhaps there is more nuance and circumstances that existed than we have the time to dive into.

Speaking of Irving Berlin, the film This is the Army includes  blackface too. But, that movie was based on Irving Berlin's real WW1 experience where he was involved in a production number in a show that the soldiers appear in blackface and so there is blackface in it. As they march off the stage and into the aisles, the audience realizes they are actually marching off to the war. This same instance is played in Alexander's Ragtime Band from 1938 which is loosely based on Berlin.The movie's take on this is interesting because the real blackface number wasn't actually filmed and doesn't happen in the movie but you can see some actors in blackface briefly milling around backstage behind Tyrone Power who waits in the wings but the focus is not on them. Its as if you would have had to know about Irving Berlin and his WW1 career to know about the blackface. 

For what its worth, I know he wrote a an anti-lynching song in the early '30s for a Broadway show As Thousands Cheer (its musical numbers and plot linked together stories ripped from the headlines or what we would call "trending topics" today). The song was called "Suppertime" and was basically about a black family realizing and grappling with the fact the father had been lynched. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, BlueMoods said:

I'm curious what African-Americans at the time thought about blackface and how they reacted to it. I did a cursory google search but couldn't find much. But I know that a lot of African-Americans weren't happy with the way they were presented in Gone With the Wind (no character development or depth). They urged Hattie McDaniel to refuse her Oscar and weren't very pleased when she didn't comply. So I'm guessing they probably didn't think too highly of blackface, either. 

Frederick Douglass was one of the first African Americans on record to speak out against blackface. However, there were also some very popular blackface minstrel shows in which the players were all African American.  Complexions were darkened and features were outlined. The whole era of minstrelsy and its move into vaudeville is a complex and fascinating period of American history and our history of entertainment. I don't intend to sound glib and light- hearted about images and acts that were hurtful and insulting, but rather to encourage people to look into the somewhat "hidden" early history of African Americans in entertainment. 

University of South Florida library exhibit: http://exhibits.lib.usf.edu/exhibits/show/minstrelsy/jimcrow-to-jolson/african-american-performers 

NAACP website:  Oscar Micheaux, early African American film maker:  http://www.naacp.org/oldest-and-boldest/naacp-history-oscar-micheaux/

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thoroughly enjoyed the podcast and once again learned so much from it. When I saw the length I at first also cringed but only bc I had company yesterday and couldn't do my usual weekly review. I crammed it all this morning! But once I began listening the time flew by. I remember thinking I wished I could sit in the classroom of either professor's and be able to listen to their lectures in person three days a week. True, the conversation does go here and there but there is always something interesting to hear and learn. Plus, I agree with what another student said that it's difficult not to go off on tangents when there is so much material to be covered in such a short time.

As well, each instructor is trying to cement a point or points but must share their time with one another so Dr. Edwards appropriately yields to Dr. Ament, the lead instructor so his thoughts are at times cut off before he can fully make his point. The 40s were such a dynamic period in not only the movie musicals but in our countrys very identity. The way ppl perceive themselves as Americans which will filter down into the ensuing decades. It's all so intertwined and not always easy to present in neat bullet points.

As far as blackface goes, it's difficult to say how black Americans of that time perceived it without more concrete literature or interviews of this eras population. I can imagine how they felt but isn't that a bit presumptuous of me? To assume I know how they felt? And no population is wholly one way or another, there are gradients within every population, extremes on both ends and moderation sandwiched between.

I have read that despite what many individuals think nowadays of Al Jolson who performed extensively in blackface, that he did so to show his, "brotherhood" with black Americans who he credited with being the originators and innovators of the songs and dances he performed. I have also read (I wish I could recall where) that most blacks at the time understood this and thanked him. Many were his greatest supporters. Because at the time, the 20s and 30s few ppl were treating minorities with equality and respect. But Cantor was a great champion of racial equality.

Also, it is important to remember that though patriotic and nationalistic at this critical time of world war, the studio heads and many actors and others, "above and below the line" were liberal minded. So their actions to perform and present, "blackface" must be viewed as well through that lens, of liberal Hollywood in the 40s.

These are just my musings. I do not doubt that many in the black community failed to see such performances as unifying but I agree with Dr. Ament that the hope was that it would so serve this end and work to unify the races.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


© 2019 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
×
×
  • Create New...