Category Archives: Controversy

Black Legion

Cover of "Black Legion"

Cover of Black Legion

Directed by Archie Mayo & Michael Curtiz (uncredited)
Produced by Robert Lord
Written by Story: Robert Lord
Screenplay: Abem Finkel & William Wister Haines
Starring Humphrey Bogart
Dick Foran
Erin O’Brien-Moore
Ann Sheridan
Music by W. Franke Harling, Howard Jackson & Bernhard Kaun (all uncredited)
Cinematography George Barnes
Editing by Owen Marks
Studio Warner Bros.
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) January 17, 1937 (NYC)
January 30, 1937 (US)
Running time 83 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Black Legion is a 1937 film that depicts an offshoot of the notorious Ku Klux Klan. Many of the messages contained in the film are just as poignant today as they were 70+ years ago, that is that in times of trouble that it is easy to blame and scapegoat migrants. Having recently read the ramblings of a Melbourne white supremacist who among other things labelled me a ‘race traitor’, shows that despite what some people say, deep racism is still around. Just by browsing the Anti-Bogan website you can see just how warped some people still are about these things.

In Black Legion Humphrey Bogart plays Frank Taylor, a factory worker who gets passed over for a promotion at his job, which goes to Polish American Henry Brandon. Taylor ends up falling for the propaganda of the Black Legion, a clandestine white supremicist organisation. Thanks to the ideas promoted by the Legion, Taylor begins to blame foreigners for his woes. There are consequences for Taylor as he loses his wife and child and then murders his best friend after letting slip his membership of the Legion.

The film is very well acted and the young Bogart is great. This was still a year or so before he became a big star. The film is a little preachy, but it is still totally absorbing.


Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Cover of "Borat - Cultural Learnings of A...

Cover via Amazon

Directed by Larry Charles
Produced by Sacha Baron Cohen & Jay Roach
Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham & Dan Mazer
Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham & Todd Phillips
Starring
Sacha Baron Cohen
Ken Davitian
Luenell
Pamela Anderson
Music by Erran Baron Cohen
Cinematography Luke Geissbuhler & Anthony Hardwick
Editing by Craig Alpert, Peter Teschner & James Thomas
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date November 3, 2006
Running time 84 minutes
Country United States
Language English, Hebrew & Armenian

Borat is lewd and crude but it is also very funny. Some of the scenes in the picture had me laughing hysterically whilst others had me scratching my head.
I laughed at how Borat could make some really offensive remarks about all sorts of issues and the unsuspecting Americans that he met just agreed and expanded on those views. This was especially when he was at the rodeo, the gun shop and the bus with the frat-boys.

Also funny is the naked wrestling/fight scene between Borat and Azimat which really has to be seen to be believed.


The Defiant Ones

Cover of "The Defiant Ones"

Cover of The Defiant Ones

Directed by Stanley Kramer
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Written by Nedrick Young (story)
Harold Jacob Smith
Starring Tony Curtis
Sidney Poitier
Theodore Bikel
Cara Williams
Cinematography Sam Leavitt
Editing by Frederic Knudtson
Distributed by United Artists
Release date July 1958
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Defiant Ones is a brilliant film featuring great performances by Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. The premise of the film is that two prisoners, one black and one white, have escaped from a chain-gang whilst still chained together. The film examines the issues of race and racism in 1950s America. Both actors are in fine form and the movie is quite entertaining and interesting.


Song Of The South

Directed by Harve Foster (live action)
Wilfred Jackson (animation)
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Dalton S. Reymond, Morton Grant, Maurice Rapf, Bill Peet, Ralph Wright & George Stallings
Joel Chandler Harris (original stories)
Starring Ruth Warrick
Bobby Driscoll
James Baskett
Luana Patten
Lucile Watson
Hattie McDaniel
Glenn Leedy
Johnny Lee (voice)
Nick Stewart (voice)
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof, Paul J. Smith (score), Edward Plumb (orchestration)
Cinematography Gregg Toland
Editing by William M. Morgan
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Release date(s) November 12, 1946 (U.S. release)
Running time 94 minutes
Language English

Usually when you think of movies that have been banned the name Walt Disney doesn’t spring to mind. Most Disney films are sweet as saccharine but there is indeed one Disney classic that has been banned for the last two decades and has caused more controversy and differing opinions than any other film that I know of. There are many theories as to why Disney has imposed a ban on this film being released onto DVD  and I really don’t understand most of the speculation. Then again I am neither an American or an African-American and am not fully aware of the issues involved and so can only judge the film on its entertainment value and not its cultural or racial undertones. I will say that I don’t understand why a film such as Birth Of A Nation can be freely available to buy on DVD and shown (as of last Saturday on ABC2) on television yet Song Of The South is not, other than the fact that some people automatically associate the Disney brand name with entertainment for children. (Won’t we think of the children!)

Having watched Song Of The South I have to say that I really do wonder what all the fuss is about. I don’t think that it is blatantly racist at all. I know that the argument that African-Americans who don’t like the film use it that the film is set just after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery and that the black people seem to be happy to work for the whites and that their characters are mere stereotypes but then again that’s the way Hollywood does things. It could also be argued, I guess, that Disney’s films are set in an alternate reality where live action humans and cartoon characters interact. Everyone is happy in the Disneyverse despite what is happening in the real world. However the whites and blacks in this film are not equals and there is a clear line of power that is implied here. The black people are clearly subservant to the whites, except in the eyes of the children who treat everyone with respect.

One thing that I think is the real shame of this film not being able to be viewed is that now no one gets to see Jame Baskett’s performance as Uncle Remus. His performance exudes a warmth that is contagious. His role is also important in another way in that this would have been one of (if not the) first times that a black man had the main role in a film not targeted specifically to a black audience.

I think that Song Of The South is a typical Disney live action film in much the same vein as they would make a decade later, focussing on the lives of some kids and the trials that they have to face. The three animated scenes featuring Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear are brilliantly done too. I don’t think that it makes any sense Banning Song Of The South, especially if more blatantly racist films are freely available to be released onto DVD or shown on TV. Then again this is my opinion.