racism

All posts tagged racism

Music to Make Horror Movies By: Theresa Harris

Published June 15, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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Theresa Harris should reside fondly in the hearts of those who adore classic horror. After making bright appearances in two moody terror fests from legendary producer Val Lewton, Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie, she went on to appear on an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and in such noir-flecked extravaganzas as The File on Thelma Jordan.

Unfortunately, prejudice kept her from ascending to the cinematic heights that she deserved. But those in the know recognize her as a true triple threat – a fine actress, dancer and singer!

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Theresa I Walked With A Zombie

Unsung Heroines of Horror: Theresa Harris

Published June 12, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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Creating as much captivating celluloid magic as Barbara Stanwyck in the 1933 Pre-Code classic Baby Face, actress Theresa Harris would surely have had a much bigger career if she had been born in the 21st century. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and talented Harris, akin to such filmic contemporaries as Nina Mae McKinney and Louise Beavers, often found herself playing maids and other unglorified subservient types for the thirty years that encompassed the entirety of her career.

Theresa ZombieNicely, two of the over 100 credits that distinguish her creative output include Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie. These Val Lewton masterpieces did cast Harris as a happy-go-lucky waitress and a loyal maid…typical, prejudiced fare. But she fills Zombie’s Alma with a sense of beauty and strength even when the character confides her love of domestic duties to the film’s heroine. Harris’ matter of fact essence gives the role a seriousness and sense of class, thankfully eradicating any comic qualities or unceremoniously stereotypical gestures. Theresa Cat

Minnie, the all-night café goddess of Cat People, meanwhile comes off as a friendly companion to the film’s leads when they visit her place of work. With the help of director Jacques Tourneur, Harris brings a sense of humor and equality to her exchanges with her co-stars. In fact, the pure wattage of her star power almost completely eradicates them from the proceedings, making one long for a redo wherein the roles she was given actually reflected the gloriousness of her too often overlooked personality.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0365382/bio

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Louise Beavers

Published June 5, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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Louise Beavers made her presence known in almost 170 celluloid adventures whether she had a dictionary’s worth of dialogue or none at all. For instance, she milks all of the comedy out of her brief bit as a sleeping washroom attendant in the Pre-Code woman’s flick The Strange Love of Molly Louvain. Nobody ever greeted old school leading man Lee Tracy with a wider smile than her cathouse maid in the sepia toned horror classic Doctor X either.

Louise ShriekBeavers, who also appeared in the early Ginger Rogers’ thriller A Shriek in the Night, nicely broke out of the stereotypical roles that Black women were assigned in those years on rare occasions, as well. Of course, the hysteria laced antics she was required to provide as a domestic who stumbles upon a dead body in Shriek were a far cry from progressive despite her animated yet subtle take on the proceedings. (Another saving grace for this particular assignment is that the white maid played by character actress Lillian Harmer here is just as emotionally flighty as Beavers’ fictional concoction.)

But as Nellie LeFleur, the founder of a numbers game, in 1936’s Ballots or Bullets, this fine actress finally played a true contemporary of the leading lady, Joan Blondell, and a very enterprising one at that. Beavers registers with a sincere slyness along the way, providing an appeal that doesn’t diminish even when the writers betray her by making LeFleur, momentarily, long to resign her high stakes position to become Blondell’s hairdresser again. Granted, her most famous role, that of Delilah Johnson in the original version of Imitation of Life, had her back in housekeeping territory, but the film’s look at racism and motherhood gave her a lot to work with, allowing her to create one of early cinema’s most sympathetic characters. Louise Beavers Bullets

In addition to her prodigious acting talent, one has to admire Beavers’ fortitude, as well. The ‘50s found her providing audiences with some of her most prominently billed roles in projects such as My Blue Heaven (with Betty Grable) and Tammy and the Bachelor (with Debbie Reynolds). Granted, one wishes that the parts she was offered afforded her more range and variety. (Harmer, her Shriek counterpart, may have most frequently been cast as landladies, but she also got to play numerous society women, business owners and stage mothers, as well.) Still, despite the racism she experienced in casting, her bright talent and eclectic energy make Beavers a heroine in my book – and truly one of my favorite performers of all time!

Louise Dr X

Beavers greeting Tracy in Doctor X.

For those interested, TCM has a fairly detailed biography of Beavers on their website, as well – http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/person/12301%7C101475/Louise-Beavers/biography.html.

 Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Joan Blondell

Published July 21, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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She was one of Warner Brother’s brightest, sassiest dames in the ‘30s. The distinctive Joan Blondell also found recognition in such ‘70s MFTV horror flicks as The Dead Don’t Die and Death at Love House. Joan Death at Love

But whatever era she found herself in, she was always her simply irreplaceable self…most particularly in this production number by the influential and equally singular Busby Berkeley.

Also of significance here are the haunting vocals of Etta Moten. Moten appeared in a number of fun Warner Brothers pictures, including the WIP epic Ladies They Talk About, but was never allowed to reach her full potential, cinematically, due to the racism inherent in that (and, unfortunately, every) decade.

Etta

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Lena Horne

Published June 9, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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She is the essence of smooth cool… a proud performer whose reign at MGM in the ‘40s was compromised by racism. She held her head high, though, and after tiring of being used predominantly in specialty numbers (that were often cut out of the pictures in the southern states), she triumphantly returned to concert halls and cabarets to make her living.

 

Simply stated, Lena Horne is a goddess and while her connection to horror films is limited to the use of her music in an episode of American Horror Story, her uncompromising stance in the face of adversity is something that every genre lover can admire.lena motion

 

 

Her take on The Beatles’ Rocky Raccoon also points out the fact that no style was immune to her charms. She most definitely would have made a sophisticated yet sassy rock n roller!

She would have punked out with a humanitarian edge, though. In one of her final interviews before her death in 2010 at the age of 92, Horne kept on insisting that the way to true success was to “Just be nice to people”…”Just be nice to people!” Let’s take her advice and keep her magnetic spirit alive for decades to come!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Nina Mae McKinney

Published March 3, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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Best known to old school horror and jungle movie fans for playing the revenge fueled Isabelle in 1939’s The Devil’s Daughter, the glorious Nina Mae McKinney was originally supposed to be MGM’s first black female superstar. Despite a glorious debut in King Vidor’s Hallelujah, the prejudice of the time cancelled out McKinney’s obvious appeal. The five year contract with Hollywood’s glossiest studio only led to a few loan out roles and an opportunity to provide the singing voice for Jean Harlow in the musical melodrama Reckless. Nina Devils Daughter 1

 

Thankfully, McKinney’s contribution to that picture is not lost to time.

 

McKinney, who died of a heart attack at the age of 54 in 1967, has been, thankfully, regaled by cinematic historians like Donald Bogle. But one still wishes that her potential could have truly been met. A role playing Harlow’s rival, instead of one behind the scenes, would have truly been a breathtaking addition to her legacy.

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Hattie McDaniel

Published November 25, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

 

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After Hattie McDaniel won her Oscar in 1940, it was 24 years before another black performer received the statuette. While criticized for taking on stereotypical roles in her lifetime, McDaniel is now often praised for being a pioneer in the entertainment industry and for her commanding performances under frequently humbling circumstances. Nicely, the fun revue Thank Your Lucky Stars allowed her majestic personality to fill the frame as something other than a domestic and she appears to truly be enjoying herself as the neighborhood gossip in the number below, Ice Cold Katie.

Granted, McDaniel’s connections to the horror genre were small as she was mainly cast in comedies. But she did appear alongside terror icon Bela Lugosi in 1935’s Murder By Television. As the cook Isabella, she provided the studio mandated, over exaggerated comic relief, but she is eventually given a couple of more level headed moments. In one more progressive segment, she even interrupts a murder scene intruder and helps throw him out, proof positive of her power and strength as a performer.

Hattie Murder shots

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Review: Fort Doom

Published November 16, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

 

debbie fort doomPost-election week there may, surprisingly, not be a more appropriate horror film to watch than 2004’s Fort Doom. A low budget, seemingly home grown effort, this feature stars the always compelling Debbie Rochon and the eternally gothic Billy Drago, who gives a very disturbing, leveled performance as one of the production’s not so red herring villains here.

The film itself follows the Southern adventures of Lacy Everett (Rochon) and her group of working girls as they set up shop in a seemingly idyllic community. The Civil War has been recently fought and lost, and while there is emotional fallout to be found everywhere, hope abounds, as well. That is until Everett and her ladies discover that a serial killer is loose in their new tightly locked home base. As folks begin to disappear and it looks like all evidence points to the demented town mortician (Drago), it soon appears that a deeper, more deadly conspiracy at hand.

As with many indie terror efforts, there are many passages of stationary dialoging here. One also almost wishes that the producers had picked a different period of time to recreate due to the college theater costuming alone. While some of Rochon’s outfits have a bit of a stream punk effect, more than anything it is obvious that the budget did not allow for a real life recreation of the clothes that the characters would have actually worn in this era. Kind viewers will find that this gives the enterprise an enjoyable silliness, though. Others, well…Fort Doom.jpg

Surprisingly, what is not silly here is how accurately screenwriter Matthew Howe, who developed the story with the film’s director J. Christian Ingvordsen, seemingly predicated our current misogynistic and racist government controlled by powerful white men. Willing to do anything to stay in power, the vengeful founding father types in this film ultimately serve as a chilling prophecy and a reminder of how this destructive mindset has always existed in our culture.

That Rochon, who has survived her own share of personal hardships over the years, is our stand-in here, supplying strength and resolve and sassiness, is also a plus and an assurance that perhaps, like her Lacy, we will truly rise above this current regime, as well.

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