PAUSE IT: What do you see? A victorious Robert Townsend hoists a golden statuette high into the air in his classic send-up of Tinseltown race politics, Hollywood Shuffle (1987). In his directorial debut, the multi-talented producer-actor-writer-director pulls no punches for what is a semi-autobiographical tale about his time in Hollywood as a working black actor. Hollywood Shuffle is noteworthy for its ability to mix both comedic and dramatic tones as it tackles what has always proven a difficult subject. Noted theorist and author Donald Bogle in his now seminal book, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, identifies five problematic character archetypes which have far too often typified the roles that African-American actors have been permitted to play in Hollywood. Townsend’s take on the same subject matter, though decidedly more comedic than academic, is no less serious. While much progress has been made in the years following Hollywood Shuffle’s release, the film remains relevant today because of the journey we have yet to travel.
Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
Director: Robert Townsend
Cinematography by: Peter Deming
Cast: Anne-Marie Johnson, Helen Martin, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Robert Townsend
Available From Olive Films on DVD and Blu-ray.
Pause It Archive:
February 9, 2017