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WhyaDuck

LIttlest Rebel with Shirley Temple makes blacks look stupid

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It just hits me in the face the way blacks are shown in this movie. They are just stupid, plain out and out stupid, not even as smart as this little pre school girl......and not only do they make the slaves stupid, but the slaves hate the Northern Yankees and just love the southern plantation owner masters. ...Of course we see this in other movies including Gone With The Wind and how Mammy stays a slave long after the Civil War.....But this Littlest Rebel takes it to the point of just stupid.

 

Now in all fairness, World War II had yet to happen when this movie was made. Also, major league baseball was all whites only, blacks forced to have the Negro League. This movie is not unlike the times, I'm just amazed at how much this Shirley Temple movie got by on on scenes where blacks act stupid. It makes up at least half of the movie.

 

So I will say that when Marlon Brando refused his Oscar and the Indian woman said because of how Indians and blacks have been depicted in movies ....well, heres a movie that is a good example.....We can say it's just a cute little Shirley Temple movie, and maybe in it's day it was OK, but today it is just amazing how racist it is is. Again, it was of it's day and 30 years later blacks would still be fighting for the right to vote in the South, and 80 years later a right wing party would hold up signs of the first black President depicted as a monkee or hung by the neck from a tree.....So I don't completely blame the movie or it's time and certainly not little Shirley Temple....

 

Just saying that in some of these good old movies, it's hard not to see what Marlon Brando meant. Some of these old movies are pretty racist in their scenes. Typical is a scene where a black person thinks he sees a ghost, his eyes get big and roll around, good old movie humor. ....They give no reason in this movie why the black slaves hate the North and just love being slaves in the South, perhaps little Shirley is just soo cute.

 

Edited by: WhyaDuck on Jan 3, 2013 9:30 PM

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After Brando's portrayal of a Japanese in TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON, he was in no position to comment on racist depictions. Or at least he should have apologized but to my knowledge, he just took the money and ran. I didn't find him convincing as a Mexican in VIVA ZAPATA either. His "if I screw my mouth up as if I just swallowed a lemon" expression is about as convincing as Wallace Beery's portrayal which isn't saying much.

 

I've seen shots of Brando in blackface from the point at which he was trying to convince Stanley Kramer to hire him for what became the Poitier role in THE DEFIANT ONES. Kramer wanted him for the part that Tony Curtis played.

 

While I can agree to some point with the other points that you've made, I don't see Brando's Oscar-refusal as anything more than grandstanding. I may be wrong, but I call 'em as I see 'em.

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The difference being that, notwithstanding the aping, his characters were intellegent, capable, and in the case of Teahouse, got the better of the whites, not shufflin' shuck-and-jive homeboys.

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As I recall, the woman who accepted the Oscar in Brando's stead didn't turn out to be Native American after all.

 

I have noticed with this movie and with a recent airing of Babes in Arms in which Mickey and Judy perform a number in blackface, Robert Osborne has made a point in his prefilm commentary of warning their viewers that there's going to be racist content that doesn't reflect contemporary views. I've been watching TCM for many years and have cringed every time I've seen such films aired, but I can't recall any such pre-film disclaimers ever being issued before now. I always figured at some point TCM would have to start issuing disclaimers.

 

TCM, of course, has a policy of showing all its films "uncut and uncensored", as they often say. So, you're left with a limited number of options: do you never show these films again? If so, you're depriving people of the cultural and historical significance they provide outside of the racist depictions. Do you show them but delete any scenes that might be deemed offensive? That would violate TCM policy and also open up a messy can of worms where maybe you ultimately have to scan all films for any content that's potentially offensive to anybody.

 

Personally, I feel sweeping these films under the rug as if they never existed is doing a disservice to film history and American history in general. Hopefully, viewing these shameful reminders of our past promotes discussion and helps ensure that such behavior isn't repeated in the future. I would like to think most TCM viewers are too open-minded to actually find humor in these crude depictions of perceived racial inferority, although, sadly, a certain small percentage of them probably do.

 

 

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Shirley Temple dod not made blacks look stupid, the era in which they live did. The 1930's, the time before civil rights and segregation was the rule. If one lived during the Civil War, how do you *think* they would had been portrayed.

 

I beleive the charactor that stood out in "The Littlest Rebel" is Willie Best who was cast in such stereotypical roles. He had a long career in film.

 

Bill Robinson was portrayed in a more gentleman type of charactor. He was a very close freind of Shirley Temple and became concerned for her well being when marrying John Agar, went as far as to threaten him. In his own words if you ever hurt her, I will cut you.

Imagine a black during that time period making such a threat with no repercussions.

 

*Willie Best*

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Best

 

1477.gif

 

Edited by: hamradio on Jan 3, 2013 11:07 PM

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Well it does make me cringe when I see Shirley in black face etc.... but no more so than Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's. But I don't think TCM should hesistate to show them. They are what they are.

 

 

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I was thinking at the time of my post, Shirley playing army in "The Littlest Rebel", drilling her troops with Willie Best taking up the rear. :^0

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You can read the article posted at the TCM page for the film:

 

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/81612/The-Littlest-Rebel/articles.html#00

 

It's written by Donald Bogle from "Blacks in American Films & Television: An Illustrated Encyclopedia."

 

You can also read about the film in Donald Bogle's book: "Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films" (Bogle, Donald. "Toms, coons, mulattoes, mammies, and bucks: An interpretive history of Blacks in American films." Continuum, 2001.). A good place to start would be on page 48 of this book but there are also many other references to the film in it:

 

http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Sz7K1c9QSoMC&oi=fnd&pg=PR15&dq=thelittlestrebel+1935&ots=xL2MXMsvkP&sig=zOZNEvR-FV5N_bAhVjnvsgbdxLw#v=onepage&q=the%20littlest%20rebel%201935&f=false

 

Interesting to note that Morgan Freeman helped Mr. Bogle write the book above, as the author writes about in his preface.

 

Another is an MA dissertation that discusses "The Littlest Rebel" and is titled "'Tap Dancing on the Racial Boundary': Racial Representation and Artistic Experimentation in the Films of Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson." The chapter starting on page 19 is about the Shirley Temple film and is titled

""I don’t know what it means myself": Emasculation, Miscegenation and Stair

Dancing in 'The Little Colonel' and 'The Littlest Rebel'":

 

http://edissertations.nottingham.ac.uk/2089/1/Durkin_Dissertation.pdf

 

The dissertation above is full-text in PDF. The reference is here:

 

Durkin, Hannah Kate. "'Tap Dancing on the Racial Boundary': Racial Representation and Artistic Experimentation in the Films of Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson." Diss. University of Nottingham, 2008.

 

Hope the above helps.

 

And you may be able to find the two books above at your local library or ask them to do an interlibrary loan and get it/them for you... I'm sure they'd be happy to help you.

You could also ask the librarian for help finding other books and articles.

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful post Meingast, full of direct information.

 

I am often offended by portrayals in older films too but I try to remember historical context. Yeah, people laughed at the rolling eyes and mispronunciations of Willie Best, but they also found El Brendel, Fanny Brice & Chico Marx antics funny too. Same thing, different accent.

 

I was surprised to hear Mammy say "axe" in GWTW instead of "ask". It was pointed out to me that English would be a second language for Mammy and her mispronunciation would be typical for her time. Not unlike Maureen O'Hara who pronounces "Tanks" for "thanks".

 

Portraying blacks as dumb is demeaning to us today, but realize their knowledge came from observation, not books. There was no education opportunity for slaves.

 

We are lucky enough here to have a PBS station that shows vintage "black cinema" - these are movies made by black directors for a black audience in the south where theaters were segregated.

Although mostly in terrible condition they are an amazing window to the other side of classic film making we'll never see on TCM. Most are simple westerns or Abbot & Costello level comedies and you'll see Willie Best bugging his eyes out in those too.

 

So this humor obviously was funny to all back then.

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TikiSoo--TCM used to show a lot of the early "race" films during February before the Oscars got moved up a month. So it's not like they've ignored that realm of classic films.

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I don't mind drawing viewer's attention to such things but I'd object if it is referred to by the presenter as "racist" because they're leaving out the intent behind the number. "Racism" was almost never intended in films like HOLIDAY INN or BABES IN ARMS. And we sometimes forget that some of the most popular "black face entertainers" were actually black themselves!

 

The NAACP has kept Amos and Andy off of TV for years despite the fact that studies showed it was the most popular show among black audiences during the 1950s.

 

I think all this banning and censoring is completely ridiculous.

 

Sometimes the numbers make you cringe, sometimes you want to turn away. But they exist in certain films and TV programs and trying to excise them or warn people or just dismissing them as racist is really a "head in the sand" approach which basically denies history. Put them in their historical context don't try to ban or censor them.

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I mentor a lot of young college students and 70% of the young black students I encounter say "axe" instead of "ask." I always patiently try to explain to them not just the correct pronunciation of that word but the connotation that it has in broader society. I often get stiff resistance but, more often than not, I get understanding that wasn't there before. The reality is that most of the America that does the hiring in this country finds the use of "axe" cringe-inducing. I've interviewed a lot of hiring managers and, when being completely candid, they tell me that they simply won't hire anyone who pronounces that word that way (and by the way, it isn't necessarily a color issue but a socio-economic class issue). Whenever I ask why, there response is "I associate mispronunciation of that word with laziness."

 

Now, that may not be fair but it certainly is reality. As I say to my students, we have to deal with things as they are, not as we wish them to be.

 

It's often an eye-opening experience for all concerned, including me.

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A bit of historical trivia, the staircase dance scene in "The Little Colonel" with Shirley Temple and Bill Robinson was censored out in many southern theatres during the 1930's. Not because they were dancing together but they were *holding hands.*

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I tend to cringe a bit when I see an old film with a Swedish character going yoodie hoooo. But I take it with a grain of salt. It's the way people were perceived in those days.

 

Oh, and BTW, I lived down south for a time and they ALL hate yanks!

 

 

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That was true of many sequences in films of that period where black performers had featured roles. It seems so ridiculous to us today. I sure hope I would have found it ricidulous had I been alive back then!

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I know I've told this story before, but here goes again. In 1971 I was hired as film editor at Ch. 52 in L.A. a TV station owned and operated by Kaiser Industries. They also had stations in San Francisco, New Jersey, Philly and Boston. My first job was to get "The Our Gang" comedies back on the air. The Kaiser stations had to pull them due to pressure from the NAACP over derogatory content. My job was to view the shorts and edit out any thing I deemed racist . They sent a small group in once a week to view the shorts and give the OK to air them or make more cuts. Once they said OK, I then sent my notes to the other stations and to King features who owned them and they would make the edits according to my notes,

One day while I was editing them I get a call from the lobby and they said a Matthew Beard would like to see me, I said I did not know anyone by that name and then she said "He's Stymie" My reply as "I'll be right there". I bought him up to my editing bay and we talked for quite a while. He said he was glad the shorts were being aired again. He also stated the in his opinion they should not be touched. That was the way things were back then and we should not try to hide it or edit it out like it never happened. He also said the the important thing to remember about the "Our Gang" or later at MGM "The Little Rascals" were the the kids never saw black or white, they were just kids playing with their friends and he though those were some of the best race relations of those trying times. I found him to be a warm and friendly person, he visited me a few other times just to say "hello" and he was always welcome. I also got to meet Darla Hood and Tommy Bond {Butch } worked next door at MetroMedia as a stagehand.

Yes, I cringe now a days and feel uncomfortable when I see those scenes, but I remember Stymie's words also....

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Note that the Kaiser stations did NOT have to pull them due to pressure. Instead they DECIDED to pull them. Big difference there.

 

 

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I just put it in my Netflix queue and can't wait to see it again.

 

Thank You TCM for not bowing to the Gods of Political Correctness.

 

Jake in the Heartland

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Would those be the Gods of Political Correctness in favor of racially stereotyped depictions, or the Gods of Political Correctness against racially stereotyped depictions?

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