Thursday, January 25, 2007

Paul Robeson's Big Hollywood Moment

Paul Robeson was the first Black American actor to make films where his characters had dignity and intelligence. He was also one of the first actors of any background to have final cut approval on a film. After inadvertently making a pro-colonialist film in Great Britain for the Korda brothers called "Sanders of The River aka Bosambo" (!) Robeson had tired of playing stereotypes. So why then did he agree to do Show Boat (1936) for legendary director James Whale? He had asked for a huge sum of money thinking they would balk which they did not. More importantly it gave him a chance to define, for cinematic history, the words to Jerome Kern's "Old Man River." This song would follow him his entire career as he changed the lyrics from one of indolence and stereotypes (the original lyrics from the 20's actually feature the 'n' word) to defiance. The changes in Robeson's concert renditions of the song shift the portrayal of Joe away from a resigned and sad character who is susceptible to the forces of his world, to one who is timelessly empowered and able to persevere through even the most trying circumstances.

All politics aside, I'm glad Robeson had an Olympian moment like this on the silver screen with his friend Hattie McDaniel. We have the benefit of hindsight and so did Robeson who would play Othello three times and who's great legacy will never vanish.

"Paul Robeson stood for everything I believe in."
-Tony Benn

Robeson's changes in the lyrics of the song are as follows:

1. Instead of "There's an ol' man called de Mississippi, / That's de ol' man that I'd like to be...", Robeson sang "There's an ol' man called the Mississippi, / That's the ol' man I don't like to be"..."

2. Instead of "Tote that barge! / Lift that bale! / Git a little drunk, / An' you land in jail...", Robeson sang "Tote that barge and lift dat bale!/ You show a little grit and / You lands in jail..."

3. Instead of "Ah gits weary / An' sick of tryin'; / Ah'm tired of livin' / An skeered of dyin', / But Ol' Man River, / He jes' keeps rolling along!" , Robeson sang "But I keeps laffin'/ Instead of cryin' / I must keep fightin'; / Until I'm dyin', / And Ol' Man River, / He'll just keep rollin' along!"

In recitals and in several of his many recordings of the song, Robeson also omitted the controversial section "N words all work on de Mississippi...", etc., with its middle portion "Don't look up/ An' don't look down/ You don't dast make / De white boss frown", etc., as well as its concluding "Lemme go ' way from de Mississippi/ Lemme go ' way from de white man boss, etc." . However, Robeson did include a portion of these lyrics in the 1932 4-record 78 RPM album of selections from Show Boat.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Super Amanda After Pilates?

(O Lucky Man, Lindsay Anderson 1970)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Heads Up on all the Fun

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    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    Supermodel Gisele Bundchen's Bogus Advice

    I'm always on about how the truly amazonian beauty of Anita Ekberg, Jane Russell, Pam Greir and Sophia Loren and replaced it with, among other things, these fake retouched photos of very thin runway models hyped to look stately and voluptuous. The only tall, naturally statuesque women we see in the media are photographers creations and now this pretty but fraudulent millionairess is trying to speak out about eating disorders?

    This is what I find very vexing about capitalism and post-modern airhead pop culture:

    "Everybody knows that the norm in fashion is thin. But excuse me, there are people born with the right genes for this profession," Gisele said.

    "Right" genes? So are you a "Klaus Barbie doll" too?

    It also helps that your waist, ass and tits are photoshoped so you look like you have unattainable natural curves. Some retouching makes sense but come on? That's why the beautiful Gisele reeks of sour grapes because she's passing herself of as curvy AND giving out this bogus advice.
    Take it from Super Amanda, Gisele couldn't be curvy if she swallowed a Rand McNally road atlas.

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