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Discussion in 'The Moving Picture' started by Benzadmiral, Jun 1, 2016.
Butch Cassidy ought be on it...
The Right Stuff (1983)
There was a radio show in the thirties in which a little white guy named Eddie Holden played a Japanese houseboy named Frank Watanabe, who was sort of a Jeeves-like character who was always getting his dopey English master out of trouble. Eddie Holden's portrayal of this character was far, far less obnoxious than that of Mickey Rooney thirty years later. "Progress.'"
Out of the Past
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Caine Mutiny
The African Queen
Some Like it Hot
A Letter to Three Wives
The Great Race
Away All Boats
Flight of the Phoenix
+1 for The President's Analyst. I honestly thought I was the only person living who liked that flick.
Rooney's character is so slapstick, so obnoxious, so racist that he feels more like a 1930s character than an early 1960s one. That said, nice to hear that there were some 1930s minority characters that were not pure stereotype.
I hope and pray I don't get misunderstood on this one, but I've always thought that Sam from "Casablanca" was a character that the writers made better than his surface role - helper / second to Rick - in that he keeps his head about him - and calmly gives Rick smart advice - when Rick is falling apart (on the Train out of Paris, in the bar when Ilsa comes back) and, I believe, Sam has an ownership interest (or gets a percentage of the profits) in the bar.
So while his surface role is stereotypical of the period, how it is written and how he plays it strikes me as a form a under-the-radar protest against the stereotype.
There were a lot of characterizations like that in the Era, if you know what to look for. The mid-forties, especially, were a period highly conscious of stereotyping, and it was seen as important to the war effort to minimize or subvert it in the name of national unity. Entertainment producers were hamstrung by the need to sell their product in the South, where the emotional color line was even more strictly drawn than the literal one, so the subversion of the stereotypes had to be kept subtle. But it was definitely being done.
It makes sense they'd do that in the context of Casablanca especially; bearing in mind it was designed as a morale-boosting, propaganda piece*, protesting Hitler's Germany and those who sympathised with it, it makes sense that it would be progressive in the sense of racial politics - another one in the eye for the Aryan so-called supermen.
Willie Best always broke my heart for all the Yessum etc they put him through...
Bringing Up Baby
Mark of Zorro (Tyrone Power)
Adventures Of Robin Hood
It Takes a Thief
Never On A Sunday
Pink Panther (Sellers)
It Happened on Fifth Avenue Victor Moore)
North By Northwest
American In Paris
Midnight (Ameche and Colbert)
Fletch (and Fletch lives) He cracks me up
Bridge Over River Kwai
Lavender Hill Mob
Many of my favorites have been mentioned but I'd add The Wind and the Lion, as just a general favorite with a great combination of qualities, an adventure you can take seriously but with great humor and a very nice romance between two characters who barely touch each other. A beautiful film.
I would add The Usual Suspects simply because it fits the initial criteria ... it cannot be changed. Just about the slightest difference and it wouldn't work at all. I'm sure there are a few more of those out there, Galipoli is another that fits in that category but in a much more subtle way; muck around with it much and all you have is an incomprehensible pile of reasonably good scenes.
A couple of other films that over the years have shown their ability to collapse when material is altered or removed are The Wild Bunch (not a favorite of mine but the restored version makes sense, though it requires knowledge of where the Western was at in the 1960s, and the ones that were edited for running time or violence are junk) and Apocalypse Now. As a kid I saw a sneak of AN that was nearly 4 hrs and with only temporary effects and music ... my fading memory says "not good" though it was stunning looking. More recently there has been the "Redux" version that was interesting but not nearly as good as the final 1979 theatrical cut. Kingdom of Heaven, a Ridley Scott pic from 10 years ago, again makes sense and has purpose in the full length DVD cut but was a stupefying mess in the shortened theatrical version.
Another film that qualifies and has been mentioned by many is Jaws. Personally, I think there are other ways it could have been made that would have been just as effective BUT there is something so elegant about all of those perfectly interlocking master shots, it's like Spielberg was channeling John Ford. Amazing.
"She is not a toy, Mr. Townes, she is an aeroplane!"
Here Comes Mr Jordan
Funny Girl ( sorry... Babs was great)
The Lady Eve
Smokey and the Bandit
An addition to the "war movie" category:
"Eight Iron Men" with Lee Marvin and Richard Kiley and an excellent set of character actors
It's somewhat obscure but worth seeing if you get a chance.
Mister Smith Goes To Washington
The Princess Bride (Yes, THAT movie.)
The Return of the King (I can only say this as I hadn't read any of the books until after having seen the movies.)
And many other movies already mentioned.
Miss Golightly, I protest! Having lived in Japan, you might think I would agree with you, but my Japanese wife was very entertained by Rooney's performance and didn't feel it was racist at all. She thought he was spot-on with the accent, too.
There is someone in every ethnic group who is a comical goofball. No one thinks the eccentric Caucasians in the party scene represent ALL white people; just show a comical Asian and you're thought to be making a "statement" about a group. Jerry Lewis has been just as goofy and no one says he is offensive to Jews.
You hit on several interesting points such as your comment about every ethnic group having a comic goofball. I'd go even further and say different ethnic groups do have characteristics that seem more prevalent in that group than others that are - and here is the rub - both positive and negative. The question is if it is acceptable to point out the negative ones anymore or is that racists?
An off shoot of that is your comment about the eccentric Caucasian being fair game - is that a double standard or because Caucasians have been, as I've been told, "the dominant power group" it is okay to highlight negative aspects of Caucasians but not other groups as those other groups have to overcome unfair historical representations. My view is it is either fair or not fair to point these things out for all groups, regardless of past history - but that is not the majority view today.
As to whether or not Rooney's portrayal is accurate, I fully defer to you and your wife, but say, even if it was, it is still, at minimum, out of place in a movie that otherwise does very little slapstick and is dealing with some very harsh realities. His character undermines the tone and thoughtfulness of the movie.
And I felt it was racists because my impression of America in the early '60s is that it didn't respect Asians, so Rooney's character perpetuated a - at the time - prevailing racist attitude. If we have evolved to a state where we can make fun of foibles and common quirks within different ethnicities without racial asperity, I think that would be great progress as it would show an indifference to race as a defining characteristic but recognize that groups do have common cultural behaviors (both favorable and unfavorable).
As to Jerry Lewis, I fully accept and respect his longevity, his success and his advocates' passion for him, but I just don't get his success at all. It has nothing at all to do with his ethnicity as, until you said it, I didn't even know (or if I did, I forgot) he was Jewish, I just thought he was grating and annoying. But I know he is a very kind and generous man who many love - so that I do respect.
The Thing, the original in B/W with James Arness
Sahara w/Humphrey Bogart
Treasure of Sierra Madre
Wages of Fear
My Darling Clementine
Zulu has already been mentioned, but, simply great.
The thing there is that "white" remains the default in American popular entertainment. There's a lot more, and more varied, representation of other ethnic groups than there used to be -- but it's still largely white stories told from a white point of view for white audiences. In such cases, a ridiculous white character isn't seen as a ridiculous *white* character, he's simply a ridiculous character. To have a comparable situation to what non-white ethnic groups have criticized in the past you'd need to have a culture in which whites not only weren't the default, but had never been the default.
I agree 100 percent with your views on Mr. Lewis. I'm pretty broadminded when it comes to comedy, and I like rowdy slapstick as much as the more refined stuff, but Jerry Lewis has never, not even once, done anything to make me laugh, not even back to the Martin & Lewis days. He always strikes me as the most annoying kid at the birthday party, going out of his way to draw attention to himself by smearing cake on his face and jumping up on tables ooking like a monkey.
My Dad did not say a lot about, well, anything - not that he lacked an opinion (had those about everything), but just didn't care if anyone else knew his. However, he could not stand Jerry Lewis' humor at all, in any way, ever. He said at the time, that he thought Martin was the only thing of value in Martin & Lewis and scoffed at those who thought Martin would fail without him.
Mickey Rooney's character is based on the interesting early 20th-century New York artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi:
Rooney's performance in Breakfast at Tiffany's is not just racist, it's personally insulting. Character assassination!
Not a perfect film.