Controversial Films

Controversial Films
ESSENCE.COM Dec, 08, 2009

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Gone With the Wind, the 1939 epic adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War themed novel, still makes many of us cringe, especially the infamous scene where Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) slaps slave girl Prissy (Butterfly McQueen).

By: Patrik Henry Bass

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The fascinating new book Race Results: Hollywood vs the Supreme Court; Ten Decades of Racial Decisions and Film by California Appellate Court Justice Eileen Moore offers readers a decade-=by-decade study of racism in film starting with Birth of a Nation in 1915 and continuing through today.

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Imitation of Life, a 1934 adaptation of Fannie Hurst’s three-hankie novel about the friendship between a white woman (Claudette Colbert) and the black maid (Louise Beavers) that helps her to become a millionaire through her pancake recipe, was a box-office smash, but largely criticized by black audiences.

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Pinky,the 1949 feature starring white actress Jeanne Crain (here with screen legend Ethel Waters) playing a black woman passing for white, was banned from many Southern movie theaters.

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Richard Pryor hit a rare sour note with audiences with his 1982 flop The Toy. The former box-office champ portrayed an adult playmate hired by Jackie Gleason to entertain his spoiled son.

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D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent epic about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, which featured white actors in blackface, has been the target of numerous boycotts by civil rights activists for more than a century.

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Now considered a modern classic, the big screen adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel, featuring the film debut of Oprah Winfrey as Sophia, hit a sour note with some branches of the NAACP. The group boycotted the film’s negative portrayal of Black men.

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Mandingo, the 1975 low-budget antebellum sex and slavery melodrama starring boxing champion Ken Norton and Perry King, has become a DVD cult classic.

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