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WhyaDuck

LIttlest Rebel with Shirley Temple makes blacks look stupid

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Sepia: I know that which is why I made the comment about it being more a socio-economic thing than a race thing. But the kids I mentor are black so that was all that I was addressing in my post.

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Andy: I also think a better comparison with Baker would be the career of Katherine Dunham who was her contemporary. Now that's an appropriate comparison. I've always admired Dunham more -- not only because she was clearly the more talented -- because the road she traveled was much more difficult than Baker's. Rather than escape to Europe at 17, and establish a career there like Josephine Baker did she made it happen in the USA which was far more difficult. She traveled in places all over the South in the 30s and 40s and later and performed in places where she couldn't find a hotel that would house her dancers. And she did it with a white husband, John Pratt, which in many places in the South would have been a cause for arrest. Baker never came back to the USA (in fact renounced her USA citizenship in the 30s) until she was an established star in Europe. That, IMHO, was much easier. Dunham really did it the hard way and deserves the credit that I sometimes think is misplaced in Baker's direction.

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I worked on a project with *Katherine Dunham* when she was in her 90s. She was an amazing woman, suffused with palpable spirituality. A great and courageous talent, and an incredibly wise human being.

 

An African-American dancer I know pretty well is *Raven Wilkinson*, whose career was touched by racism:

 

http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/raven-wilkinson-ballet-pioneer

 

Raven's story is part of the Ballets Russes movie:

 

http://www.balletsrussesmovie.com/

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I know Raven. She was subjected to stuff in the South that would make you shudder. She's a beautiful and stunning who never got to make full use of the talent she had. I know, in the end, it was her choice but I somehow think that today things would be different and she'd be a major star.

 

Katherine Dunham was a legend who lived to be close to a few years short of 100. She was truly an extraordinary woman whose influence on black dance in really incalcuable. In her field, she was number one. As Agnes de Mille once said, "oh, Katie, oh Bonnie Katie, we love you."

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I'm still angered at the story about Dorothy Dandridge, booked into a las Vegas hotel/casino as the headlining STAR. yet the casino management refused to allow her to use the pool, and required her to enter the building through the KITCHEN!

 

 

 

Filmgoddess, it seems more apparent to me, in face of the fact provided by Sidney Poitier, Rosco Lee Brown, James Earl Jones, Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman and a whole host of others, poor grammar practiced by many African Americans is more of a CHOICE than anything to do with socio-economic environment. A black co-worker of mine whom I've known for over 30 years bears this out. With very little effort, according to him, he's read the dictionary on a daily basis, practiced grammar excersizes, and purposely took speech classes in his high school. Talking to him, it would be easy to mistake him for a scholar. Yet he was raised in the same level of economic disadvantage many of his ethicity use as an excuse for their level of speech.

 

 

 

I refuse to buy into any of it. I've witnessed too much proof otherwise.

 

 

 

Sepiatone

 

Edited by: Sepiatone on Jan 5, 2013 7:56 PM

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I'm talking about my own personal experience with many young black college students. All of the ones I have encountered who engage in the types of pronunciation issues we've been talking about have come from socio-economic homes that were disadvantaged (lack of parents, poor, you name it). I also have had a number of black students from more middle and upper middle class homes and they have had none of the same pronunciation issues.

 

I have been coaching one young man currently and he has to make a HUGE effort to not say "axe." He said to me in exasperation "I know you're right but I've been saying it this way for 21 years because it's how I was taught, this isn't easy for me."

 

I think anyone who thinks that people are deliberating mis-pronouncing words to sound more "cool" or "hip" is kidding themselves.

 

Unless you're going into sports or music, engaging in this kind of thing is detrimental to your career. No one would purposefully mis-pronounce words unless you're a white boy wanna be from Canada ... but that's a whole different kettle of fish!

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Sepia: you're describing one kid who made the effort to not fall into the trap. That's commendable. If he hadn't made that effort, however, he would be pronouncing "axe" the way others in his family probably do. The only reason is that he made an effort not to. You actually proved my point without realizing it!

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Really? I thought I mentioned at least SIX.

 

 

I'll have to paraphrase Mr. Pitts Jr. again.

 

 

It's NOT that they do so DELIBERATELY. It's that they PREFER not to put in the effort NOT TO. Mr. Pitts once related the claim one young black kid put to him; an honest belief that talking "white" somehow makes one "less black". As the kid said, "It's what's called 'KEEPING IT REAL'". Pitts responded with, "Yeah. Real STUPID".

 

 

Pitts regularly railed against the belief among too many young African Americans that appearing to be "too smart" is somehow detrimental to one's being "black". He doesn't know who to blame, IF anyone, for this belief, and claimed to honestly not know how to change that tide.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Universal's *The Mummy's Curse* (1944) contains one of my least favorite movie lines --- "The Devil's on the loose, and he's dancin' with the Mummy!" What makes this line so bad is that it's repeated throughout the film by wide-eyed African-American actor Napoleon Simpson, portraying "Goobie." The character of Goobie is presented in the typical negative stereotype of the era --- simple-minded **** who cowers to all whites. He refers to his fellow townsmen as "Massa'," ("Massa' Joe," "Massa' Walsh") in the same way that Dooley Wilson's Sam calls Humphrey Bogart's Rick "boss" in *Casablanca* (1943). Must've been an unwritten Hollywood law that no black character could call their white counterparts by name unless preceding it with "Massa'," "Mister," "Ms.," or "Boss."

 

Anyway, Universal's portrayal of Goobie in this film is very typical and very disappointing.....until the film's climax, where something very interesting happens. Goobie is shown hunting the Mummy with a GUN! The fact that an African-American character is carrying a firearm proves to me that the film's white characters are treating him as a trusted member of the community.

 

So...for all the derogatory myths that old Hollywood used to perpetuate about African-Americans, occasionally, the old studio system could surprise you with a promising, progressive idea. In fact, the "Abraham" musical number from *Holiday Inn* (1942) was not intended to ridicule African-American culture but to CELEBRATE it!

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But on the plus side, The Mummy's Curse has the wonderful *Ann Codee* as Tante Berthe, although the Mummy bumps her off early in the film. But not before she gets to sing one of horror film's best musical numbers: "Hey, You."

 

 

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That was a semi-facetious response to those who think "political correctness"

stands in the way of showing films. Go ahead, show them. I realize it's not

TCM's purpose to show the racism of the period as it is reflected in the movies

of the period. It's by default.

 

Absent opinion polls from the 1930s, I'd take an educated guess and say that

most white Americans of the time were racists, while keeping in mind that racism

covers a wide range of behaviors from mild every day forms to the string 'em up

approach.

 

The contented happy slave just satisifed to while away the cotton pickin' hours is

mostly a part of the old Confederate Lost Cause mythology, self-serving fables

taking the place of history so the sore losers don't have to feel so bad. There likely

were a few slaves who fought for the Confederacy, just as there were a few Jews who

served in the Wehrmacht. The problem with the former is to separate those slaves

who were there as personal servants to their soldier/master or those who might have

fought by misadventure on the battlefield from those who were there to fight on purpose.

The last group would be very small in number.

 

 

 

 

 

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Andy: I think we're saying similar things in different ways because I don't really disagree with anything in your posts on this subject.

 

I remember, as a white American, growing up in the 50s and 60s discovering the Harlem Renaissance authors that I was otherwise unfamiliar with. As someone who grew up in a rather sophisticated NYC atmosphere I was stunned to discover that there is this whole "other" -- many others -- aspect to black life in America. I daresay, that the vast majority of Americans don't know about it. That's why just referring to "black" society or culture is so inaccurate. There is no onen black society or culture, there are many. Many still don't know that black America is still fairly divided by depth of black skin tone. I'm not sure that that subject has EVER been addressed in mainstream American film. Or that there is a whole level of upper-class Black society that has nothing to do with sports or rap stars and that it has existed for over 200 years. That has rarely if ever been portrayed in a mainstream American film.

 

There's still a lot, even today, that is completely unknown to most white Americans.

 

Excellent summary, and this is the exact reason that I wish that TCM would show at least a mini-festival of "race" movies that illustrate some of the variety that you mention, in addition to foreign films like Zouzou that depict blacks in a way that's far more complex and interesting than the typical 1930's Hollywood product.

 

Two mainstream movies that kind of skim along the edges of your observation about skin tone division in the black community are Imitation of Life, in particular the 1934 version with Fredi Washington and Louise Beavers; and Pinky, the 1949 film with Jeanne Crain and Ethel Waters. Of course these films both deal with the practice of black people "passing" for white in an attempt to evade Jim Crow laws and customs. This is (or better put, was) a fairly widespread phenomenon widely known among blacks but naturally almost a complete blank to whites, since they weren't "in on the secret". IMO Imitation of Life (at least the 1934 version) does a better job of dealing with this than Pinky, in part due to the casting of Fredi Washington rather than a white actress, but both movies are among the few that give us a rare glance at the sort of internal tensions within the black community that usually pass completely over the heads of most whites. Movies like these, and the far better Intruder in the Dust (which had nothing to do with "passing") were the first bursts of a more realistic consciousness from our Hollywood studios, however imperfect.

 

To make a more general point of this, I think that one of the main reasons I love TCM so much is that by showing us a nearly limitless number of movies from well before "our time", we begin to learn by a sort of gradual osmosis what it "felt" like to live in those long gone decades. If "the past is a foreign country," then many of these films are our passports and time travel tickets.

 

I only wish that that vision could be expanded a bit more than it is now, with the inclusion of more movies that represent "other" perspectives. It's a call for more *inclusion,* not a call to *exclude* any movies that are being shown on TCM now. It's the complete opposite, in fact, from any kind of "politcal correctness", which to me means a one-sided depiction of reality that only allows for that one main perspective. That sort of misguided mentality should be anathema to all of us, regardless of our personal political views.

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Many still don't know that black America is still fairly divided by depth of black skin tone.

 

Well, I'm just a rube who lived in New Orleans for many years.

But then again, I'm not a sophisticated person from New York

City like you, golly.

 

Jake in the Heartland

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Good point, db. Henry Higgins would have as much fun in New York City as he had in London. Accents and usages vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. I'm a native New Yorker. I went to a Jesuit college locally. I remember a college housekeeper named Betty -- a lovely woman of Irish or Italian New York working-class background -- saying to me and my roommate, concerning some housekeeping issue: "Yizzle have to do that yourself." My roommate, who was not a local, had never heard our local expression "Yizzle" for "You'll," or "You all."

 

Language lives, and changes. I wouldn't get my panties in a wad (as a Southern friend of mine likes to say) about a few issues of pronounciation or usage. Or at least don't assume that these variations are more prominent in one group than they are in another.

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About Astaire's and Baker's legacies, they're like apples and oranges. I have little interest in Astaire's movies, or dancing in general, and I'm perfectly willing to accept the idea that he was the greatest dancer of them all, although I'm not sure that that view is quite as universal among all races as you imply.

 

But that's neither here nor there. In any event, the only thing that makes Astaire transcendent in any way is the degree of his physical talent. That's hardly a backhanded compliment, but it illustrates the limitations of his accomplishment. There were many, many other hardscrabble stories like his in our country's history, but up until fairly recently, unless you were white you were never allowed to rise to the height that your talent and ambition could take you. If Fred Astaire had been black, he would have been a variant of Bill Robinson. He most certainly would not have been making movies with Ginger Rogers as his dance partner.

 

You ask if Baker ever could have been a star in America. Of course not, at least not in any broad sense of the word. No black person back then, *by definition,* even Joe Louis, could have been seen remotely in the same light as Fred Astaire or Joan Crawford or Babe Ruth or Jack Dempsey or any other white celebrity entertainer. This is why Baker and many others in her situation wound up going overseas in order to escape the racial boundaries here.

 

Well, then, if Baker had been white, could she have risen in America as she did in France? Almost certainly not. Without her "exoticness" that came in great part from being black, her effervescent personality might have made her into a beloved performer of sorts, but let's face it, by conventional standards she was far from a beauty queen, and as a chanteuse she wasn't anything more special than the young Ethel Waters: Pretty damn good, but not someone who today would be any better known than (say) Jo Stafford or Lee Wiley, at best.

 

No, what makes Josephine Baker historically significant is that she was one of *the* first pioneers in bringing black culture to mainstream white (French) audiences (not just select Harlem nightclub hoppers) *on her own terms.* Of course she was typecast by the French, but within that framework, she was allowed to blossom in ways that would have been utterly scandalous over here, such as openly having French lovers and more important, *acting as a free person* and showing the world by example the absurdities of racial pigeonholing. A handful of blacks like Jack Johnson tried that over here, and look where it got them.

 

And the fact that Baker may be more or less forgotten today by the general public is also irrelevant. IMO that speaks far more to our lack of interest in the past that goes beyond a handful of certified "iconic figures" than it does to the lack of significance of Josephine Baker's accomplishments. Give her the Ken Burns treatment, though, and we'll start remembering her soon enough.

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Very true, Swithin. In fact, this ol' native Californian here(that would be me) who otherwise sounds like your average everyday radio announcer, would for years say the word "heighth" for the word "height". I suppose my excuse was that without that added "h" at the end of the word, there would no continuity in the phrase, "length, width and..ahem..heighth", RIGHT?!

 

(...yeah, what WAS I thinking there all this time, huh?!..."continuity" in the ENGLISH language???...I mean, that right THERE is a freakin' oxymoron, RIGHT?!) ;)

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But Dargo, if you said "heighth," then you could never be mistaken for certain New Yorkers, primarily of an earlier Irish-American generation, who, referring to a certain intersection, would say "Toid Avenue and Toidy-Toid Street," largely because they didn't or couldn't pronounce "th." I think Barry Fitzgerald had that lovely affectation. I miss it. When I was growing up, there were alot of people who talked like that; there are still some, but everything is being homogenized.

 

On the other hand, there used to be something in the UK called "BBC British," when newsreaders, etc., were encouraged to spout a kind of posh English/Mid-Atlantic accent. That's changed, and now UK radio and television encourages regional accents.

 

And if it weren't for all these variations in speech, we might not love Kay Fwancis as much as we do!

 

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LOL! Yeah, or Ba-ba Wa-wa...OR good ol' Elmer "Be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits" Fudd for THAT matter!

 

Btw, as you might also know, it's NOT just the Iwish...errr..IRISH(now SEE what you've done?!!!) who have trouble with the English "th" sound. One of my old co-workers by the name of Werner Strauss(yeah, you guessed it, as German as they come and with the accent to prove it) would often(btw, speakin' of the word "often" here...do YOU pronouce the "t" in the word or not?...sorry for the digression here ;) ) ANYWAY, ol' VERner would often say stuff like, "I sink I'm going to go out for lunch today".

 

Well, of COURSE I had to occasionally kid him about "sinking" things.

 

And as I recall, he didn't ever find much humor(spelled withOUT that superfluous British "u" here, btw) in it!

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""You vill give me zat tool."

 

LOL

 

That's a great story there, dark. And yeah, I suppose IS kind of a decent demonstration of the "Matter of Fact" Teutonic culture, isn't it. ;)

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>I particularly remember the spelling of "furniture:" "foinichuh!"

 

Okay, Swithin ol' buddy. Now fess up here. With you bein' a native "New Yawkah", I'm gonna guess you may NOT say "FOIN-ah-chah", BUT I'll bet if I heard you say that word, you'd probably pronounce it, "Furn-a-chah", now wouldn't you?!

 

'Cause I have yet to meet ANY native "New Yawkah" who would pronounce the the second "r" in a word such as that.

 

(...YOU know what I'm sayin' here, right?!...it's NOT a "cab drivER", it's a "cab drivah"...yep, your "R"s there are ALMOST as nonexistant as those folks livin' up north of the Atlantic seaboard from ya) ;)

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Well, I may not totally pronounce the final "r," but I come close. As I said, Prof. Higgins would be happy here, because NYC is not any ten accents, but hundreds. Also I spend a lot of time in London, and if I really started pronouncing final "r's," it would take me down a notch in Kensington, where they don't fully pronounce their final r's either.

 

I love the way my New England friends say "oysta!"

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Very true about the British pronunciation(or I suppose, lack there of) of the letter "r".

 

Yep. where as we Yanks would probably say, "I would like a glass of WA-ter, the Brits would say, "I would like a glass of WO-tah".

 

(...yep, it sure is kinda strange how those folks over there on that li'l ol' island who started this crazy ol' language, have the most UNUSUAL manner of pronouncing it, huh!) ;)

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Yet in the SW of England (Cornwall and environs), they would pronounce the final r. So, as one of my neighbors might say, "Go Figga!"

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> {quote:title=Filmgoddess wrote:}{quote}...

>

> ...Unless you're going into sports or music, engaging in this kind of thing is detrimental to your career. No one would purposefully mis-pronounce words unless you're a white boy wanna be from Canada ... but that's a whole different kettle of fish!

>

? ? ? I can't figure out what you're trying to say here.

 

edit: Oh, wait a minute, I think I get it. You're referring to Justin Bieber? Yeah, what was he thinking?

ok, folks, let's return to our usual programming. Nobody here wants to talk about the Biebs, least of all me (or should I say "myself" ?)

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jan 6, 2013 3:37 AM

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