Work of the Fellows: Monographs

Making Movies Black: The Hollywood Message Movie from World War II to the Civil Rights Era

Cripps, Thomas (Fellow, 1980-81)

New York: Oxford University Press, 1993

From the publisher's description:

This is the second volume of Thomas Cripps's definitive history of African-Americans in Hollywood, covering the period from World War II through the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Examining this period through the prism of popular culture, Making Movies Black shows how movies anticipated America's changing ideas about race. Cripps contends that founded in the liberal rhetoric of the war years--with the catchwords brotherhood and tolerance--came movies which defined a new African-American presence both in film and in American society at large. Focusing on popular film culture--from classic Hollywood films and black musicals, like Gone with the Wind and Cabin in the Sky, to war movies and government propaganda films, like Bataan and Wings for this Man, narrated by Ronald Reagan, to the first bold strides toward a humane portrayal of interracial comradeship in The Breaking Point--Cripps documents the ever fluctuating African-American presence in Hollywood. Delving into previously inaccessible records of major Hollywood studios, among them Warner Brothers, RKO, and Twentieth Century-Fox, as well as federal records of the Office of War Information, the N.A.A.C.P., and interviews with survivors of the era, Cripps reveals the struggle of black actors like Sidney Poitier, leading the way in liberal racial casting as cops and judges, fishermen, and wounded veterans, yet marginalized behind the scenes within the racial ferment of cultural politics. More than a narrative history, Making Movies Black reaches beyond the screen itself with sixty photographs, most never before published, which visually illustrate the mood of the time. Revealing the reflective power of American popular film, Making Movies Black is the perfect book for those interested in the changing attitudes toward race in post-World War II society.

Subjects: History; Film and Media;; African American History; American Civil Rights Movement; Film Industry; Cultural History;