Friday, April 23, 2010

Now Showing - Shirley Temple and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson

At a time when the hysteria over blacks and whites mingling - even socially - was at its most feverish pitch, the notion of America's Sweetheart enjoying the familiarity of friendship with a black man must have frightened and enraged many people in equal measure.

Yet here we see Shirley Temple (who was born on this day in 1928) doing just that with legendary song-and-dance man Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson in the 1935 film The Little Colonel. Admittedly, the setting is a southern plantation in the years immediately following the American Civil War, and Robinson is playing a servant character*, but director David Butler's intention is loud and clear. It turns out any pill, no matter how bitter, will always go down easier with a coating of saccharine... Reports at the time said that many screenings of the film received standing ovations.

*Albeit a fairly docile, elderly 'house-n-word'...
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