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Race in film

Race in Film: Shanghai Express

**I’m a little sick. Please excuse the stuffed nose voice** As evidenced by this very Race in Film series, color is a large part of my life. This is frequently not by choice, as was certainly the case when I was a child. It is 1993. I wear turtlenecks under Champion sweatshirts like on TV. I feel proud about this, my first deliberate sartorial decision. I sit at my desk and quietly enjoy the feeling. The room is hushed. We scrawl on a worksheet. The substitute teacher calls me to her desk. We all look up. “Kartina,” she says. “What are you?” Her eyebrows draw together in the middle. “Are you Eskimo?” She must find out. She must know. Unfortunately […]

Race in Film: Tammy & the Bachelor

In elementary school, my desire to be white was so strong, I created two imaginary sisters. They were both older and white with red hair and lived in California. One’s name was Gina, and the other’s was Tammy. I named her Tammy after the character in the 1957 film Tammy and the Bachelor directed by Joseph Pevney. Who could be whiter than Tammy? Tammy is not a good movie. It isn’t even a “bad” movie that amuses its way to being “good” (Frankie & Annette have a special place in my heart). It’s just bland and uninventive. I know the Beach Party movies aren’t winning any medals for innovation, but they at least possess a certain stupid energy. Tammy is […]

Race in Film: Paisá (Paisan)

Paisá directed in 1946 by Roberto Rossellini is, in my most humble opinion, one of the greatest films ever made. After watching neo realist films I often wonder how different American movies would have been then and now, had WWII been fought on US soil. I’m not saying Best Years of Our Lives (released the same year) isn’t good, but it’s certainly no Paisá. Paisá is the second film in Rossellini’s “War trilogy”, films made during and after the war (preceded by Open City, followed by Germany Year Zero). Though Open City is generally more critically acclaimed, I find Paisá to be more moving. The film consists of six episodes set during the liberation of Italy at the end of […]

Race in Film: Meet Me in St. Louis

As you have learned in the previous post, I adore Meet Me in St. Louis. I adore the Trolley Song and I adore many of the other musical numbers the film offers. This is one of them. Margaret O’Brien plays Tootie, the mischievous baby of the Smith family, who wishes to show off for her sister Esther’s (Judy Garland) party guests. The song, “Under the Bamboo Tree” is fabulous and allows the audience to fawn all over O’Brien. This is her scene. Garland is simply supporting. However, if we listen closely to the lyrics of the song they sing, we may pause in our enjoyment:

Race in Film: Hold That Ghost

This clip is from Abbott and Costello’s 1941 film Hold That Ghost directed by Arthur Lubin, who also directed several other of the duo’s films including Buck Privates and In the Navy (also excellent). In the movie Bud Abbott and Lou Costello play waiters Chuck and Ferdie respectively at the Chez Glamour nightclub. Due to a series of circumstance they become the beneficiaries of a gangster’s will and inherit a haunted house. For those of you unfamiliar with this brilliant duo, Abbott and Costello were a comedy team in the tradition of Laurel & Hardy, or Martin & Lewis. Budd Abbott was the straight man who frequently took advantage of of the baby faced Lou Costello, the idiot with the […]

Special Series I : Race in Film

Oh man are we gonna have a ball. This series looks at representations of people of color (POC) in films that do not explicitly deal with race. This means that although I love Mr. Tibbs, In the Heat of the Night will not be featured. Instead, we will look at images of POC, references to race, racism, and race relations (positive and negative) that pop up in unexpected places. Such un-race related films like Hold That Ghost, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Paisan and even Meet Me in St. Louis. The movies in this series are primarily ones I grew up watching and have viewed hundreds of times. The majority of them will be from the 1930’s-60s*. My love […]