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Old 22 April 2014, 01:49 AM
garyrc garyrc is offline
Join Date: 20 April 2014
Location: Corvallis, OR
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Originally Posted by RCIAG View Post
We own a bootleg copy we bought a few years ago & it has Korean subtitles on the songs & after watching it I'd say it was on par with the racism in Gone With The Wind. That whole "Mammy" & as you said "Magic Negro" thing. Both were period pieces too & fairly consistent with portrayals of the time.

I've seen far worse portrayals then & now.
I, too, have seen the Korean release. The net impression Song of the South leaves is pro-African American. Uncle Remus is the smart and wise one, and the whites range from so-so to dumber-than-dirt. If anything, it has a little less devotion to stereotypes than Gone with the Wind, and, if anything is a warmer and more uplifting film, although it, appropriately, lacks the epic sweep of GWTW. Those who remember the racism of the '40s, and even the '50s, in the North, will find less in Song of the South. I was a child in the '40s, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and simply loved Uncle Remus, as well as the wisdom (often the archetype of the trickster) of the "Little Guy" as represented by Brear Rabbit. When I heard racist comments from adults, and, alas, children, I wondered "What are they talking about?"

There are two moments that may cause a slight cringe. One is a single shot about 2 seconds long, in which there are three children skipping, one falls (then comes right up) and one may wonder "Why is it always the black guy who falls (or falters). Well, in the films of the time, it "always" was. The other is a moment of realism, in which Uncle Remus is deferential to Bobby Driscoll's mother. while at the same time defending him. As James Baldwin pointed out, even African American taxi drivers in NYC were studiously polite to whites, even later (e.g., in the '50s), and even if another driver had cut them off. The film is a product of its times, rather than of any particular racism on the part of the filmmakers.

We should note that the animation sequences are highly praised by critics. The live action was shot by Greg Toland, perhaps the best cinematographer that ever lived (Citizen Kane, many Wyler films).

As to Walt, I would guess he had the same amount, or less, prejudice, than most WASPS working in the film industry at the time. As to his politics, he was raised a Socialist, as an adult, voted for Franklin Roosevelt (like any good Democrat) at least once, but became embittered during the Studio strike, made friends with many of the Power Elite, and then converted to Republicanism a little more than halfway through his life. Like so many others he was very anti-communist mid-century, but described himself as a "Conservative Citizen," and was infuriated when people (a few) said he belonged to the John Birch Society. He was an intuitive, had marvelous ability to craft films in a way that would reach and move millions (if not billions, by now) of people, but was not a noted political thinker. When Ray Bradbury suggested he run for Governer of California, he immediately and firmly declined.
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