Bogle on Kazan

August 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Donald Bogle:  Most notable Black Historian, NYU and University of Pennsylvania film professor, and author,  speaks about world reknown film and theatre director Elia Kazan.  During Kazan’s career, he won three Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, and five Tony awards. His most notable films: “Gentleman’s Agreement”, “On the Waterfront”, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, “East of Eden”, and “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

Donald Bogle:  Author:  “”Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in Films”, “Brown Sugar: Eighty Years of America’s Black Female Superstars”, “Blacks in American Film and Television”, “Biography of actress Dorothy Dandridge”, “Primetime Blues”, “Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood”.

Bogle on Kazan:  Kazan’s “Pinky”, starred Ethel Waters, Ethel Barrymore, Jeanne Crain, and was a 1949 landmark in the history of images. In 1949 many motion pictures dealt with race, dilemma, and African Americans, ie. Mark Robson’s, “Home of the Brave”, addressed racism in Military, while Kazan’s “Pinky” looked at racism in the deep South.

“Pinky” is about a young woman who struggles to come to grips with her race. Most African Americans during the 30’s and 40’s mostly had supporting roles, rigidly stereotyped roles.  They performed funny lines, comic antics, or supported the stars. They came on as entertainers, dancers, would do one spectacular number.  The film, “The Imitation of Life”, told the struggle of a light skinned black woman, however, much changed after World War 2 filmmakers tackled more adult themes.”

“Kazan was not the original director of “Pinky”.  Darryl Zanuck actually hired John Ford to direct the film, however, Ethel Waters, Pinky’s granny in the film, and famous blues singer, known for singing, “Stormy Weather”, and “Am I Blue”, clashed with Ford.  Kazan was then asked to travel out to the West Coast to direct the film.  He went not knowing what he was getting himself into. Kazan looked at Ford’s footage, and said he wouldn’t use any of it.  Kazan felt that Ethel Waters wasn’t the problem, it was just that she had to be treated as though she were intelligent and as though she had talent.”

“Kazan did have a difficult time working with Jeanne Craine, however.”  She was a Caucasian actress playing a black woman, involved in an interracial love story, where she was involved with a Caucasian male.”

“When ‘Pinky’ was released it did well, but it didn’t get the Oscars like “Gentleman’s Agreement”, although, Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore, and Ethel Waters were all nominated.”

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