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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Racial casting in the movies

In the bad old days, black people in America were forced to endure demeaning minstrel shows and watch sheepishly as singing star Al Jolson performed in blackface. He wasn’t the only one. Other big-name white stars working in burnt cork included Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Ava Gardner, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. In more recent years, even the likes of Gene Wilder, Billy Crystal and Robert Downey Jr. have corked-up to the consternation of millions of black folks who love movies. And some readers may recall Burt Reynolds playing an Indian in TV’s “Gunsmoke” in the 1960s. Hard to believe? Maybe not.