TCM Eyes Hollywood in Black and White

Turner Classic Movies will look at Hollywood's historical treatment of blacks in a month-long film festival (in May), Race & Hollywood: Black Images on Film.

TCM senior VP, Programming, Charlie Tabesh, assembled the films, more than half of which are not part of the Turner library. Tabesh says that film historian Donald Bogle gave him a wish list and he tried to get rights to as many as possible.

Tabesh expects some viewers to be offended by some of the films. But then, part of the point of the festival is to show Hollywood's sometimes offensive treatment of blacks in the context of a nation that, generally, tolerated the practice.

Tabesh notes that when Turner has run Jazz Singer in the past, which features Al Jolsen in black face, it gets complaints.

The point of the series is to look at the sterotypes and celebrated depictions of African Americans, as well as try to get a sense of how some of the films played to black audiences.

The film list includes classics like the controversial Birth of a Nation, Jazz Singer, Gone Wth the Wind, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, as well as less well-known films like Haunted Spooks, the Amos and Andy film,Check and Double Check, and, if Tabesh can line up the rights, cartoons and short subjects.

But Tabesh says that some studios are reluctant to allow the films, shorts, and cartoons to air. He said he would have liked to run Disney's Song of the South (Uncle Remus), but that Disney "won't put it out."

By way of viewer warnings, each film will have extensive intros in which Bogle and host Robert Osborne will talk about the films and put them in the context of the times. Among those also weighing in on the films and their impact are Bill Cosby, Charles Dutton, James Earl Jones,  Richard Roundtree and Cicely Tyson.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.