Black Male Frames
African-Americans in a Century of Hollywood Cinema, 1903-2003
by Roland Leander Williams, Jr.
218 pages, Illustrated
Book Review by Kam Williams PUM Contributor
“Black Male Frames charts the development and shifting popularity of two stereotypes of black male masculinity in popular American film: the shaman and the scoundrel… [The book] identifies the origins of these roles in an
These figures recur in the stories
-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket
In the antebellum era, when minstrel shows took the
That is the contention of Roland Leander Williams, Jr. who teaches English at
He sets about proving his thesis by closely examining the careers of five African-American acting icons, starting with Sam Lucas (1839-1916), the first black film star. He was not only the first black to play Uncle Tom onscreen, but he was also the first to portray the deferential character onstage.
Unfolding chronologically, the opus’ entry about Lucas is followed by a chapter devoted to Paul Robeson (1898-1976) entitled “Renaissance Man.” There, we learn that, in sharp contrast to Lucas, Robeson became typecast in a way which strengthened the “impression of blacks as primitives” gaining popularity in the late Twenties.
That image was reversed a generation later, as personified by Sidney Poitier in his Oscar-winning performance in Lilies of the Field. Then, in response to the Black Power Movement came the return of the relatively-assertive rebel as played by Denzel Washington, who won his first Academy Award for Glory in 1990. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings was Morgan Freeman, who languished in the shadows “until the age of multiculturalism arrived, when he took a role (in Driving Miss Daisy) that once again raised the ghost of Uncle Tom.”
As far as the future, the author concludes that only time will tell
To order a copy of Black Male Frames, visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0815633823/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20
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