White performers in blackface appreciation thread

Of course the whole idea is quintessentially racist, but – taking historical/social circumstances into account – I defy the president of the NAACP to raise any reasoned objection to this uberkewl Eddie Cantor number from Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937). Taking it in context, it’s actually rather respectful of African-American artistic achievements (specifically, those of the Harlem Renaissance).

Got any others?

Flamewar in 5 . . . 4. . . . 3 . . .

Why is everyone here SO wound up about blacks? The flamewar thing at the end…Jesus, it hurts me to see it because it indicates the ridiculously and needlessly volatile nature of any discussion involving race in any way whatsoever. For God’s sake, people - it’s possible to talk about things which involve black people, even things like minstrel shows, without everyone constantly quibbling and bickering and bitching, bitching, bitching!

We are all intelligent people here and there is no reason why someone should have to worry about a “flamewar” just for talking about something that is a part of American historical popular culture in a completely objective and artistic contest.

Some people need to have a thicker skin; and for the record it’s usually the white people who feel the need to come galloping in on their shining steed and smash everyone over the head with the racism hammer.

Sorry for this hijack but that little subscript at the end - which I know was intended as a joke - just made me feel like I needed to put this out there.

I nominate little Joey Lawrence from Gimme A Break.

In Gems of MGM (1930), Benny Rubin does a blackface routine. I’m not bothered by blackface; I just don’t find it particularly amusing. However, there was something about the very Jewish Benny Rubin in blackface that I got a chuckle out of.

Blackface occurred several times in the “Our Gang” shorts, and, at least in the one’s I’ve seen, more or less worked where they were done. And, in one turnabout, in the short “Doin’ Their Bit” (1942), not only does the Gang end up in blackface—but Buckwheat ends up in whiteface.

Yeah, it’s like they were treated like second class citizens for years and now people are sensitive to stuff that happened in recent history! Disgusting.

Judy and Mickey do a blackface routine in Babes in Arms, as part of a minstrel sequence. It’s very cheerful and cornball, unlike Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in *Holiday Inn *only a few years later, in which a musical salute to Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is positively embarrassing. I don’t think it’s entirely that Judy and Mickey are kids; it’s a matter of good will and condescension.

Does this include Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest on Saturday Night Live (the mockumentary of a couple Negro League baseball players reminiscing)?

Sophie Tucker, until the day she ran out of burnt cork and had to go onstage in whiteface. She got more applause that way and never went back.

Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder of course should be on the list. He pretty much stole every scene he was in during that movie.

'Nuff respect for his role in that movie! We were so sure he would mess it up. Me and my husband were just amazed that he killed it like that.

Not a movie, but in one of the Jeeves and Wooster novels–I think “Thank You, Jeeves”–by PG Wodehouse, Bertie Wooster, for complicated reasons, blacks his face to fit into a negro minstrel troupe. Hilarity ensues. Seriously, I think this is one of the funniest novels of one of the funniest novelists of the English language.

They did this in one of the TV episodes that was based on that episode–it really was hilarious. Great stories and great show.

Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane:

(I have a recording of her singing White Rabbit with the Great Society – fantastic!)

In the TV version at least the other minstrels are also all blackfaced (members of Bertie’s *Drones *club), and by the end of the story about the only male member of the cast not wearing black shoe polish on his face, and not subsequently arrested is, unsurprisingly, Jeeves.

In all fairness, perhaps the most exquisite performance in blackface on film is Astaire’s tribute to Bill Bojangles Robinson in Swing Time.

Well, Jeeves would have been happy to have been arrested if it had meant getting away from the banjoleles.

True. Done with reverence and style.

John Howard Griffin (Black Like Me) and Grace Halsell (Soul Sister). Instead of entertainment, they used it as investigative journalists to oppose racism. For me, that—and that alone—makes it OK.

Grace actually gave her life for the cause. The meds she took to turn her skin dark eventually led to skin cancer which killed her.

Why “that and that alone”? I always wondered why blackface is considered so very horrible. I mean, if it is funny, why can’t we enjoy the laughs. I saw Bamboozled, but I still don’t think blackface is never funny.

I agree. Yeah, historically it has been racist and there are some examples that do make my skin crawl (Birth of a Nation, anyone?) but not always. Robert Downey, Jr. may not have been making any great statement with his performance but he was damned funny.

I also have to profess some appreciation for the Rowan Atkinson/Lenny Henry sketch where they’re doing their own version of the Living with Michael Jackson documentary (“Lying to Michael Jackson”). Rowan Atkinson (white) has very dark brown make up on to play Bashir and Lenny Henry (black) has on whiteface to play Michael Jackson.

Here is a kinda homage to the genre.