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Miscegenation in Hollywood


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Seeing references to Love ia a many splendored thing in Distant Voices, Still Lives last night, I wondered when Hollywood movies about miscegenation actually had couples who were of the races in question. And also, when these affairs actually worked, and didn't collapse or conveniently collapse because of the Hays Code.

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One of the earliest examples of interracial couples that comes to mind is the independent film from the early 60s, *One Potato, Two Potato*, which I have not seen. Should we include *A Patch of Blue*? The ending of that film leaves it open whether the couple will eventually become romantic after the girl is at the school for the blind for a year, although it seems unlikely to most viewers. There's the English film *All Night Long* (dir. Basil Dearden) where *Othello* is given a modern London setting with jazz musicians. That film also makes the Cassio/Bianca relationship interracial, which is a nice twist. *The World, the Flesh and the Devil* also has an interracial theme, though Inger Stevens and Harry Belafonte don't get together. I haven't seen *Island in the Sun*, where it's Harry Belafonte and Joan Fontaine.

 

Though Harry Belafonte isn't interested, there's a moment in *Odds Against Tomorrow* where the gangster's obviously gay white sidekick cruises Belafonte. Eye contact only, but the meaning is clear. Perhaps we should also mention the gay bar scene in *Anatomy of a Murder*, where the presence of one African-American customer may be the most progressive thing about the whole film.

 

If we're talking about implied sexual interest rather than explicit statements, there's *Princess Tam-Tam* from France much earlier, where regardless of race, the men in a bar are clearly attracted to Josephine Baker.

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Perhaps we should also mention the gay bar scene in *Anatomy of a Murder*, where the presence of one African-American customer may be the most progressive thing about the whole film.

 

Are you sure about that or are you thinking of Preminger's "Advise and Consent?"

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I think "The Great White Hope" Biography Movie about the Boxer Jack Johnson starring MV5BMTcwNTg1MzMwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTQy[<img height="44" width="32" alt="James Earl Jones" title="James Earl Jones" src="http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTcwNTg1MzMwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTQyMDgyMg@@._V1._SX32_CR0,0,32,44_.jpg" class="" />|http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000469/][James Earl Jones|http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000469/] ...

 

MV5BMTgzODYyMTc0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDc4[<img height="44" width="32" alt="Jane Alexander" title="Jane Alexander" src="http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTgzODYyMTc0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDc4NzU0._V1._SY44_CR0,0,32,44_.jpg" class="" />|http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000737/][Jane Alexander|http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000737/] would've been controversial had it been made in the 30's-50's instead of the 70's. Great acting.

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> I haven't seen Island in the Sun, where it's Harry Belafonte and Joan Fontaine.

 

They only hug, not kiss. I believe the same holds true for the Dorothy Dandridge character and her English boyfriend, whose name escapes me at the moment.

 

The cinematography is better than the rest of the movie.

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> {quote:title=Fedya wrote:}{quote}Pepe Le Pew consistently lusted after a cat. That's much more than just different races. ;-)

AH! But Fedya, have you forgotten that those cats ALWAYS are playing their parts in "White-tail"?!!!

 

(...that would, of course, be the feline equivalent of a human playing a role in "Black-face"!) ;)

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The attitude towards miscegenation is shown in *Circus* (1936). A popular American white actress must literally flee an angry mob because her lover and baby are not white. She finds acceptance in a Soviet circus. The movie is a propaganda piece of Stalin's Soviet. It is however true that there was much more acceptance of such things under the Soviet than in America.

 

The movie can be seen at:

 

 

I have read that the first on-screen romance between races that Americans saw was in a French movie. I do not remember the title as it was not a good movie.

 

I believe the first kiss between races on television was in the series: Star Trek

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There are the Showboat movies in which Julie has a black mother and white father and is married to a white man. Oddly enough, this is shown quite plainly in the Production Code era versions of the movies in 1936 and 1951, but not in the pre code era part-talkie version in 1929. In that version Julie is just someone that Magnolia is very fond of, and Magnolia's mother basically throws her off the boat very early in the film because she is jealous of their relationship.

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Why are we using the term "miscegenation?" Is it a matter of what love between two people of different races were referred to at the time the movie was made, or just talking about that term in modern context? I know people today still have a hard time believing that people of two different races could find love successfully as much as they have a hard time believing people of the same gender could find love successfully too.

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> {quote:title=hepclassic wrote:}{quote}Why are we using the term "miscegenation?" Is it a matter of what love between two people of different races were referred to at the time the movie was made, or just talking about that term in modern context? I know people today still have a hard time believing that people of two different races could find love successfully as much as they have a hard time believing people of the same gender could find love successfully too.

 

I don't think the author of the thread meant any disrespect. I just think an archaic term is being used for archaic attitudes, since we are talking about very old films and the times they reflected.

 

 

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The World of Suzie Wong, 1960, is a beautiful love story set Hong Kong between a Caucasian American (William Holden) and a Chinese prostitute (Nancy Kwan). The relationship blossoms with a bittersweet ending. But the couple are deeply in love and committed to each other.

 

http://fan.tcm.com/_William-Holden-38-Nancy-Kwan-The-World-of-Suzie-Wong/video/1640403/66470.html

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*...WE HAVE MET THE REAL SAVAGE, AND HE IS US.*

 

 

 

 

 

 

> Why are we using the term "miscegenation?" Is it a matter of what love between two people of different races were referred to at the time the movie was made, or just talking about that term in modern context? I know people today still have a hard time believing that people of two different races could find love successfully as much as they have a hard time believing people of the same gender could find love successfully too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This brings up an important point: at the time the films in question were made, they were exactly that -- films about miscegenation, an act and topic about which American society was profoundly uneasy, if not downright antagonistic. In looking at a film like THE SEARCHERS, the modern take on it is that Ethan Edwards is an Indian-hating racist in the broadest and most abstract sense, but he's not. Unfortunately, that view tends to obscure that the film really is about miscegenation, a topic toward which 1950's audiences were acutely sensitive. They knew one when they saw it, without having to be told that's what it was, though viewers today may need to be reminded.

 

 

Looked at from the perspective of what we at least like to think of as a mult-cultural society (though one merely has to look at all the Republican and Tea Party race-baiting disguised as mere political "disagreement" directed toward President Obama to know that true multi-culturalism is still a long, long way off), the term "miscegenation" seems quaint and unnecessary, but the film, and current events, show it to be as relevant now as it ever was.

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There's a great line near the start of the Mae West film *Klondike Annie*, after Mae sings "I'm an Occidental Woman in an Oriental Mood for Love" to an audience composed partly of leering Chinese men. Mae is "kept" by Chan Lo (played not by a Chinese but by Harold Huber.) Nevertheless, the lines between them are priceless:

 

Mae to Chan Lo: "Why won't you let me mix with men of my own race?"

 

Chan Lo: "There are only two good men, one dead, the other unborn."

 

Mae: "Oh yeah? Which one are you?"

 

And when Mae sings, "And I feel the thrill of China when I see a yellow Buddha moon above...," it ain't the moon in the sky she singin' about!

 

 

Klondike Annie was made after the Code kicked in, but Mae knew how to sneak the lines in!

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