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Friday, July 24, 2009

PC would not accept this today

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is buying a used car in an early scene from Psycho (1960). As she hesitates, the salesman sarcastically says, "Typical woman, can’t make up her mind." (OUCH!!!)

In Footlight Parade (1933), dancer-singer Ruby Keeler replies to someone who does her a favor with, "Thanks, that was ‘white’ of you." (Say, what?!!!)

In another movie the children of a black family are endearingly referred to as "pickaninnies." (Huh?!!)

Many black male actors in the Hollywood of the 1930s and 40s played ignorant or shiftless types and had names that reflected their roles. There was "Stepin Fetchit" (Lincoln Perry) of the movies and "Lightnin’" the janitor (Nick Stewart) from the Amos and Andy show. Black valets and butlers often had names like "Snowflake" or "Mantan". When a black character would be frightened, often they would make him turn white with fear. It took until the end of the 1940s before black male actors like James Edwards and Sidney Poitier began the reversal of that trend.

Eddie Anderson was a fine black actor who played comedian Jack Benny’s "man" Rochester on radio in the 1930s and 40s. In one scene Jack and Eddie are heading west on the train and when it stops in Albuquerque, Eddie says he thought he was in Harlem because he saw an Indian eating a pork chop. Benny asks what the big deal was since Indians were allowed to eat pork chops. Eddie replies: "I know, but he had it between two slices of watermelon." Try saying that to an audience today.

Gay people have received their share of abuse over the years too; a situation that would not be as overt now. Franklin Pangborn was a comic actor from the era of the 1930s and 40s and portrayed the gay stereotype to the hilt. In those days, gays were referred to as "lavender" or "musical." Pangborn and a few others made careers playing the roles with as limp a wrist as they could.

From 1975 to 1982, actor Jack DeLeon played a gay character named "Marty"on the popular Barney Miller series on ABC-TV. DeLeon was totally over the top in his gay portrayal from his clothes to his physical and vocal inflections. There must have been some complaints from the gay community since in later shows he toned it down a bit.

Times have changed. Political correctness has kicked in and it would be unusual to see any of the above happening today. In most cases that is probably good but I think it is a shame that a lot of people have forgotten the importance of loosening up a bit and being able to laugh a little at themselves.

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