Reginal Prejudice: Hollywood's Rape of the South
American films appear to consistently project a pro-bi-coastal prejudice and an anti- regional prejudice against the Mid-West and the South. As an example, negative portrayals of the American South in Hollywood films are particularly offensive and often include the negative or stereotypical portrayals of people, places or things in the Southern U.S. from Texas to Florida. Such portrayals appear to be the result of a form of regional stereotyping, based on the regional prejudice of the filmmakers themselves. The Hollywood film moguls (read bigots) must feel that prejudice based on pre-conceived notions about a group of people from a particular region of the country, is more acceptable that prejudice based on pre-conceived notions about people of a certain race, religion, ethnic group or culture. But in reality, there is no substantial difference. Michael Medved also shows no interest in this blatant Hollywood bias which again, appears to be based on a widespread Hollywood prejudice against people, places and things of the American South.
The negative or stereotypical Hollywood portrayals of the South also started early. In 1928, Steamboat Bill Jr.starred Buster Keaton as " . . . a recent Yale graduate, (who) comes home to find his father, an irascible Mississippi riverboat captain, in deep trouble with a competing big company." Minneapolis-born Charles F. Reisner directed. Tom Sawyer (1930) starred Jackie Coogan, Mitzi Green, Junior Durkin, Jackie Searle and Clara Blandick in a film based on the Mark Twain novel about kids growing up in the South. Ohio-born John Cromwell directed. The film was remade for TV in 1973 (with James Neilson directing) and again in 1973 (UA/Readers Digest). The 1973 version was produced by Los Angeles-born Arthur P. Jacobs. The script was written by Richard and Robert Sherman (both of New York), and was directed by Pennsylvania-born Don Taylor.
The following year, (1931) Huckleberry Finn was released as the " . . . companion piece to 1930's popular Tom Sawyer with some of the same cast reprising their roles." Scheuer calls it " . . . [l]ife on the Mississippi according to Hollywood . . . " Chicago-born Norman Taurog directed.
In 1932, Warners' Cabin in the Cotton starred Richard Barthelmess " . . . as a poor sharecropper who is almost brought to ruin when he starts to run with rich-bitch Southern belle (Bette Davis) . . . " The film was directed by Michael Curtiz (born Mihali Kertesz in " . . . Budapest, of Jewish parentage.") Also, in 1932, Warner Bros. produced I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang an " . . . account of the savage cruelty . . . suffered when (a man was allegedly) wrongly convicted of a crime and sentenced to a Georgia chain gang . . . " The film " . . . made the public aware of the brutality perpetrated by corrections officers. The outcry following the release of the film forced improvements in prison conditions." The film starred the Austrian-born Jewish actor Paul Muni. Steven Scheuer called it a " . . . scathing indictment of life in a Southern chain gang . . . The movie and the book on which it was based caused quite a stir at the time and even led to some investigations." San Francisco-born Mervyn Le Roy (of "Jewish parents") directed.
In 1935, The Little Colonel starred Shirley Temple and Lionel Barrymore in what film critic Steven Scheuer calls a "[c]orny, contrived Temple vehicle of the old South . . . " San Francisco-born David Butler directed. That same year, Butler directed The Littlest Rebel (1935) starring Shirley Temple as " . . . the heroine of the Civil War . . . " Also, in 1935, Mississippi starred Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields and Joan Bennett in a " . . . musical about a young man who refuses to fight a duel and takes refuge as a singer on a showboat." London-born Edward Sutherland directed. Finally, that year, So Red the Rose (1935) starred Margaret Sullavan, Robert Cummings, Randolph Scott and Elizabeth Patterson in a " . . . look at the Southern side of the Civil War . . . " King Vidor, originally from Budapest, directed.
The following year, (1936) Show Boat starred Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Helen Morgan and Paul Robeson in the tale of " . . . two contrasting love affairs on a Mississippi riverboat." Dunne " . . . ends up nursing a broken heart over her errant gambler husband . . . and the tragic mulatto (Helen Morgan) . . . loses the white man she loves." Britisher James Whale directed. Also in 1936, 20th Century-Fox's Banjo on My Knee featured Joel McCrea, Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Brennan in a story about " . . . the folks who live along the banks of the Mississippi." Another non-Southerner, Ohio-born John Cromwell directed. In 1938, Paramount's The Arkansas Traveler was about " . . . a wandering printer (who) comes to a small town and saves the local paper." The film was directed by San Francisco-born Alfred Santell. That same year, Kentucky Moonshine (1938) featured the Ritz Brothers " . . . as Kentucky hillbillies . . . " San Francisco-born David Butler directed. Also, in 1938, Warner's Jezebel starred Bette Davis and Henry Fonda in a story set "[j]ust before the War Between the States, (when) a high-spirited Southern bell (a so-called 'Confederate fallen angel') flouts convention, drives away the stalwart young man she loves with her unladylike behavior, and later redeems herself by risking her life to nurse him when he contracts yellow fever." German-born William Wyler, whose mother was a cousin of Universal's owner Carl Laemmle, directed.
The following year, David Selznick's classic Gone With the Wind did not really explore the reasons for the U.S. Civil War, made several references to the mythical propensity in the South for marriage between cousins, showed a Christ figure blown out of a church window during a Christian worship service, made Southern women appear shallow, self-centered and childish and made the men generally appear as braggarts and inept, except for Rhett Butler who is portrayed as a blockade runner who exploits the war for his own profit. Otherwise, the film was ostensibly about the " . . . siege of Atlanta and the hardships of the South during the Civil War . . . " Although California-born Victor Fleming is credited as director, others who worked on the film at one time or another include George Cukor (New York-born), William Cameron Menzies (born in Connecticut) and Philadelphia-born Sam Wood. Selznick had been born in Pittsburgh. His father was Lewis Selznick (Zeleznik), one " . . . of 18 children of an impoverished Jewish family . . . " from Kiev, Russia. Interestingly enough, the Jewish Rothschilds of Europe also had a preference for marrying within the family, although little is made of that in Hollywood films. Novelist Valerie Sayers even argues that Gone with the Wind (1939) is not a Southern movie at all. Ms. Sayers (born in Beaufort, South Carolina) says that in Gone with the Wind, (the novel) she " . . . read a book suffused with Southern manners, a story narrated by a Southerner who knew all about tradition and exaggerating history so your side comes out noble. The very pace of the book, its careful slow telling of every detail, is part of the South . . . [b]ut Gone with the Wind the movie is not a Southern film at all, no matter how well all those British actors finally speak their parts. It can't be Southern--it has to move too fast, and cover too much ground, and it has to do it without the mediating voice of a narrator, or even a single director." In other words, to Sayers, Gone with the Wind the movie, represents another example of Hollywood retelling a Southern story in the way Hollywood wants it told. It is filtered through the cultural sensibilities of others; not told the way Southerners would want the story told.
In the '40s, MGM released the Sam Zimbalist produced Boom Town (1940), " . . . a rousing tale about a pair of roughnecks who strike it rich in the oil fields . . ." Minnesota-born Jack Conway directed. Zimbalist was originally from New York. Also, in 1940, An Angel from Texas portrayed people from the lone star state as "yokels". Indiana-born Ray Enright directed.
The following year, (1941), the Paramount release Virginia starred Madeleine Carroll, Fred MacMurrary, Helen Broderick, Sterling Hayden and Marie Wilson in what Steven Scheuer describes as "[o]ne of those hush-my-mouth melodramas about a magnolia-drenched heroine. Carroll (suffering from a case of Scarlett O'Hara fever) is forced to give up her plantation in order to make ends meet." The film is actually about a " . . . showgirl (who) goes home to claim her inheritance, but thinks of marrying a rich Yankee." Edward H. Griffith, who was actually born in Virginia produced and directed. On the other hand, he was educated in England and Germany.
Also, in 1941, The Little Foxes starred Bette Davis in a " . . . film based on Lillian Hellman's . . . play about the double dealings of a Southern family presided over by a vixen named Regina . . . " William Wyler directed for producer Samuel Goldwyn. Hellman was the politically liberal playwright, screenwriter, originally from New Orleans, but educated at NYU. Wyler was originally from Germany and Goldwyn was from Warsaw. That same year, in Lady for a Night (1941) the " . . . lady owner of a Mississippi gambling boat is accused of murdering a wealthy socialite." New York-born Leigh Jason (Jacobson) directed. Tobacco Road (1941) starred Charlie Grapewin, Marjorie Rambeau, Gene Tiernery, Dana Andrews and Ward Bond in a film based on the Broadway play about " . . . depravity in the impoverished Georgia farmland." Maryland-born John Ford directed. That same year, Paramount's Louisiana Purchase starred Bob Hope in a comedy " . . . about an attempt to frame a senator down Louisiana way." New York-born Irving Cummings directed.
The following year, (1942) American Empire told the pre-Civil War story of " . . . two pals (who) build up a beef business in Texas . . . " then have a falling out. Harry Sherman produced for United Artists. Pittsburgh-born William McGann directed. Also, 1942, the Warner Bros.' film Juke Girl offers the " . . . sordid tale of conditions among Florida's migratory workers . . . " German-born Curtis Bernhardt directed for producers Jack Saper and New York-born Jerry (Jerome Irving) Wald.
In 1943, Crystal Ball featured Paulette Goddard (New York-born Pauline Marion Levee) as a " . . . gal from Texas (who) takes a job as a fortune-teller's assistant, where she snags her man . . . " Goddard's character is actually a " . . . failed beauty contestant (who) becomes a fortune teller and is involved in a land swindle." Richard Blumenthal produced for United Artist. Ohio- born Elliott Nugent directed.
The following year, the 1944 Universal release Ghost Catchers was about two people who " . . . run a night club next door to a house hired by a southern colonel in town to produce a show, and the house is said to be haunted." As Halliwell's Film Guide explains, the film features " . . . a southern colonel and his beautiful daughters (who) have spooks in their mansion--or bats in the belfry." Wisconsin-born Edward Cline directed. Also, in 1944, Dark Waters was about a " . . . girl (who) returns to her Southern mansion after a shipboard disaster, where she becomes convinced someone is trying to drive her insane." Hungarian-born Andre de Toth directed for producer Benedict Bogeaus.
In 1945, Saratoga Trunk starred Gary Cooper as " . . . a rough-edged Texas millionaire . . . " and Ingrid Bergman as " . . . a Creole beauty from the wrong side of the tracks, (but) bent on achieving a fortune." Philadelphia-born Sam Wood, again directed. Also, that year, the UA release, The Southerner told the story " . . . of a determined sharecropper and his struggle for survival against the cruelties of both nature and his fellow man..." Southerners to be sure. David Loew (the son of the Jewish exhibition executive Marcus Loew) and Egyptian-born Robert Hakim produced with Paris-born Jean Renoir directing. That same year, (1945) The Naughty Nineties starred Budd Abbott and Lou Costello in an invasion of " . . . the old Southern world of showboats and card sharks on the Mississippi." Missouri-born Edward L. Hartmann and John Grant produced for Universal release. Arkansas-born Jean Yarbrough directed. Finally, in 1945, Colonel Effingham's Raid starred Charles Coburn as a " . . . retired Southern colonel (who) decides to use his military background to straighten out a town." Pittsburgh-born Irving Pichel directed.
In 1947, The Romance of Rosy Ridge starred Van Johnson, Thomas Mitchell and Janet Leigh in a story set " . . . after the civil War (with tensions still high). In this film, a " . . . mysterious stranger is looked upon with suspicion by a southern-sympathizing Missouri farmer." New York-born Roy Rowland directed. The following year, (1948) Feudin' Fussin' and A- Fightin' is described by Steven Scheuer as a combination of " . . . a little of 'Hatfield and McCoy Feud' and a lot of 'Li'l Abner', (with) . . . plenty of corn . . . " New York-born George Sherman directed.
Also, in 1948, Two Guys from Texas starred Jack Carson, Dennis Morgan and Dorothy Malone in the story about a "[s]tranded vaudeville team (that) outwits city thugs down in Texas." The film is a remake of Cowboy from Brooklyn. San Francisco-born David Butler again, directed. Another Part of the Forest (1948) told the " . . . story of the . . . Hubbard family, a band of ruthless Southern industrialists who hated each other but loved money." Denver-born Jerry (Jerome) Bresler produced with Maryland-born Michael Gordon directing. That same year, (1948) The Gallant Legion was another western set in Texas. The film is about a " . . . Texas Ranger (who) fights the leader of a powerful group desiring to split Texas into sections." California native Joseph Kane directed.
The following year, (1949) Roseanna McCoy starred Farley Granger, Joan Evans, Raymond Massey and Richard Basehart in a film that depicts " . . . the legendary feudin' hill families of the Hatfields and the McCoys." New York-born Irving Reis, directed. Also, in 1949, All the King's Men was based on a novel " . . . inspired by the career of (Louisiana Senator) Huey Long, who took a short step from democrat to demagogue and ended up a mirror image of the corrupt men he'd lambasted at the beginning of his career." The film was directed by Robert Rossen, who was born in New York city, the " . . . son of Russian-Jewish immigrants . . . "
That same year, (1949) Pinky starred Jeanne Crain, William Lundigan, Ethel Barrymore and Ethel Waters in a " . . . racial drama dealing with light-skinned Negro girl who comes home to the South." Constantinople-born Elia Kazan directed. Also, in 1949, Streets of Laredo (1949) starred William Holden and MacDonald Carey as "[t]wo outlaws who have gone straight (and) meet up with their former partner after many years, who is still on the wrong side of the law." British-born Leslie Fenton directed.
In 1950, 20th Century-Fox released Panic in the Streets starring Richard Widmark, Jack Palance, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes and Zero Mostel. In this film, a " . . . dead body in New Orleans is found to be carrying bubonic plague." Constantinople-born Elia Kazan, again directed. Jack Palance played the part of " . . . a gangster carrying the bubonic plague . . . " Jack Palance was born in Pennsylvania. New York-born Sol Siegel produced the film. Also, in 1950, the Warner release The Glass Menagerie starred Gertrude Lawrence, Jane Wyman, Kirk Douglas and Arthur Kennedy in the story of a " . . . shy crippled girl (seeking to) . . . escape from the shabby reality of life in St. Louis and from her mother's fantasies." The film was directed by London-born Irving Rapper for producers Charles K. Feldman (Gould) and Jerome Irving "Jerry" Wald, both originally from New York. A 1973 so-called made-for-television sequel appeared in 1973 and the story was described by Steven Scheuer, as a " . . . fading, southern belle (Katherine Hepburn) desperately trying to instill confidence in her sad crippled daughter (Joanna Miles) while steering her poetry-writing son toward a more remunerative career." London-born Anthony Harvey directed . Ohio-born Paul Newman (whose father was Jewish) directed another version of the same film in 1987.
The following year, (1951) Storm Warning starred Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan and Doris Day in a film about a model who " . . . visits her mousy sister in the Deep South and ends up in deep trouble when she witnesses a KKK slaying involving her cretinous brother-in-law." Los Angeles-born Stuart Heisler directed. Also, in 1951, Leonard Goldstein produced Lady from Texas for Universal. The film tells a " . . . yarn about an eccentric old lady who turns a whole town upside down . . . " New York-born Joseph Pevney directed.
In 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter, the film tells the story of a " . . . repressed southern widow (who) is raped and driven mad by her brutal bother-in-law." Constantinople-born Elia Kazan again, directed, this time for New York-born producer Charles K. Feldman (Gould). The film was remade for television with Ann-Margret, Randy Quaid, Treat Williams and Beverly D'Angelo in 1984. John Erman directed. Also, in 1951, 20th Century-Fox released I'd Climb the Highest Mountain which told the " . . . story of a Methodist preacher and his family in the hinterlands of cracker country." Virginia-born Henry King directed for Atlanta-born producer Lamar Trotti.
The following year, (1952) MGM's The Bad and the Beautiful featured Gloria Grahame as " . . . a Southern belle" in a " . . . drama about ambition and success in . . . Hollywood." Chicago-born Vincente Minnelli directed for producer John Houseman (born Jacques Haussmann in Bucharest). That same year, Untamed Frontier starred Joseph Cotton, Shelley Winters and Scott Brady in what Steven Scheuer calls a "[s]prawling western . . . (about) the Texas frontier when cattle barons ran things and range wars were commonplace." Argentina-born Hugo Fregonese directed for producer Leonard Goldstein. Also, in 1952, Feudin' Fools presented the Bowery Boys who " . . . get involved in the hillbilly feudin' of the Smiths and the Joneses." New York-born William Beaudine directed. Finally, in MGM's Holiday for Sinners (1952) the " . . . future plans of a young doctor are changed when a broken-down prizefighter commits murder . . . in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras." Montreal-born Gerald Mayer, " . . . son of an MGM studio manager . . . " directed for producer John Houseman (who, as stated above, was born Jacques Haussmann in Bucharest).
In 1953, Mississippi Gambler starred Tyrone Power, Piper Laurie and Julie Adams in the story of a southern " . . . gambler who plays for high stakes in matters of love, honor, and reputation." Poland-born Rudolph Mate (Matheh) directed. Warner Bros.' A Lion Is In the Streets (1953) starred James Cagney in the story about the " . . . rise of a ruthless Southern politician . . . (and his exploitation of) the local townfolk." New York-born Raoul Walsh directed for producer William Cagney. Also, in 1953, the Paramount release Sangaree starred Fernando Lamas, Arlene Dahl in a film that makes " . . . Sangaree, a Georgia plantation . . . the scene of (a) . . . turbulent drama about pirates and family jealousies." Russian-born Edward Ludwig directed.
The Tall Texan (1953) starred Lloyd Bridges, Marie Windsor, Lee J. Cobb and Luther Adler in a stereotypical western in which a " . . . group of assorted people band together on the desert to seek hidden gold which is cached in an Indian burial ground." Oklahoma-born Elmo Williams directed. That same year, Thunder Bay (1953) starred James Stewart, Joanne Dru, Dan Duryea and Gilbert Roland in an " . . . adventure yarn about oil prospectors and their run-in with shrimp fishermen in Louisiana when an off-shore drilling operation interferes with the routine of a small fishing community." Anthony Mann (born Emil Anton Bundmann in California) directed for New York-born producer Aaron Rosenberg.
The following year, (1954) RKO's The Americano provides another stereotypical portrayal of a " . . . Texas cowboy (who) gets mixed up with bandits in Brazil." Robert Stillman produced with New York-born William Castle directing. That same year, the 20th Century-Fox release The Raid (1954) portrayed a " . . . small group of Confederate soldiers (who) escape from a Union prison and plan the burning and sacking of a small Vermont town as partial payment for the destruction of Atlanta." Argentina-born Hugo Fregonese directed for producer Robert L. Jacks.
In 1955, Yellowneck starred Lin McCarthy and Stephen Courtleigh in a story of " . . . Civil War deserters (who) try to make their way through the Florida Everglades to freedom." R. John Hugh directed. In Paramount's Lucy Gallant (1955) Charlton Heston " . . . strikes oil and Jane Wyman builds the biggest fashion business in Texas but they find that marriage and careers don't mix." Georgia-born Robert Parrish directed for Los Angeles-born producer William Thomas. That same year, (1955), Columbia's Queen Bee starred Joan Crawford as " . . . a Southern socialite whose determination to dominate and rule everyone around her leads to destruction." New York-born Ranald MacDougall directed for producer Jerry Wald (also from New York).
The Phenix City Story (1955) starred Richard Kiley, John McIntire and Edward Andres in a story " . . . dealing with the expose of one of the most corrupt 'Sin-Cities' in the United States: Phenix City, Alabama." Phil Karlson (born Philip N. Karlstein in Chicago, of Jewish-Irish parentage), directed for Allied Artists. The film was produced by Connecticut-born Sam Bischoff and David Diamond. According to the Katz Film Encyclopedia, the film was shot " . . . on location in Alabama while the trial for the murder it depicted was still in progress. During the course of filming . . . " new evidence was supposedly uncovered " . . . that helped convict the murder suspects."
20th Century-Fox's The View from Pompey's Head (1955) starred Richard Egan, Dana Wynter and Cameron Mitchell in the story of " . . . an executive of a (New York) publishing house who goes back home (to the South) to investigate a claim of money due by an aging author who lives in an air of mystery." The film was written and directed by New York-born Philip Dunne. Also, in 1955, Five Guns West was " . . . about five Civil War prisoners drafted into the Confederacy for a perilous mission involving a stolen gold shipment." The film was produced and directed by Detroit-born Roger Corman.
In 1956, Columbia's The Houston Story featured " . . . Gene Barry striving for a top position in the (organized crime) syndicate centered in Houston, Texas." New York-born William Castle directed for producer Sam Katzman, also originally from New York. Allied Artists' The First Texan (1956) starred Joel McCrea in another stereotypical western about Texas, this one during " . . . the days when Texas fought for and gained independence from Mexico." New York-born Walter Mirisch produced and Bryon Haskin of Oregon directed.
20th Century-Fox's Between Heaven and Hell (1956) was a WWII " . . . tale about a group of less than exemplary soldiers . . . " in which Robert Wagner " . . . plays a spoiled Southerner who learns things the hard way." The film was directed by New York-born Richard Fleischer for producer David Weisbart (of California). Also, in 1956, Walt Disney's The Great Locomotive Chase featured Fess Parker as " . . . a Union soldier who leads a dangerous mission behind the Confederate lines in order to destroy strategic railroad bridges." North Dakota-born Francis D. Lyon directed for producer Lawrence Edward Watkin.
The Republic release, Come Next Spring (1956) was about a " . . . drunkard . . . " who " . . . returns home to his wife and family after eight years of wandering." The film was directed by Tacoma, Washington-born R.G. Springsteen. Also, in 1956, Written on the Wind starred Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith and Grant Williams in an examination of the " . . . decline and fall of the oil aristocracy, the film focuses on the sexual problems of a doomed family: the scion who's suffering from infertility and coping with suspicions about his wife's fidelity, and the sister, a nymphomaniac, who, having failed to get the man she loves, proceeds to sleep with every other man in Texas." Douglas Sirk (born Claus Detleve Sirk in Denmark) directed.
In Kettles in the Ozarks (1956) Ma Kettle (played by Marjorie Main) visits Pa's lazy brother, played in the screen hillbilly tradition by Arthur Hunnicutt, and gets in the middle of a heap of trouble with bootleggers and the law." San Francisco-born Charles Lamont directed. Warner Bros.' Giant (1956) starred James Dean, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Carroll Baker and Denis Hopper in an " . . . epic about the death of old Texas and the rise of the oil millionaires." California-born George Stevens directed and co-produced with Henry Ginsburg.
The 1957 Columbia feature, The Strange One starred Ben Gazzara, Mark Richman and George Peppard in the story of " . . . a Southern military academy as presided over by a sadistic upper classman." Jack Garfein, (a " . . . survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp . . . " originally from Czechoslovakia) directed for Polish-born producer Sam Spiegel. Also, Warner's 1957, Band of Angels starred Clark Gable as " . . . a New Orleans gentleman with a past . . . " and Sidney Poitier as " . . . an educated slave." The film was directed by New York-born Raoul Walsh.
That same year, (1957), The Young Don't Cry starred Sal Mineo and James Whitmore in a story " . . . about a badly run Georgia orphanage and one teenager in particular who gets involved with an escaped convict." South Dakota-born Alfred L. Werker directed. Also, in 1957, MGM's Raintree County featured Elizabeth Taylor, playing " . . . a cracked Southern belle, (who) unleashes a few miscegenational skeletons from her closet and goes mad . . . " Canadian-born Edward Dmytryk (born to Ukrainian immigrants) directed for producer David Lewis (born David Levy in Trinidad) . Finally, in 1957, Disney's Old Yeller provides more Texans as stereotypical ranchers. The film was about " . . . a terrific mongrel dog, redeemed from his bad ways by the love of a Texas ranch family." London-born Robert Stevenson directed.
In 1958, 20th Century-Fox's From Hell to Texas is another stereotypical " . . . western drama about a young cowboy, who tries to mind his own business and avoid trouble during a time when gunmen ruled the territory." Henry Hathaway (born Henri Leopold de Fiennes in California) directed for Virginia-born producer Robert Buckner. Also, that year, UA's Terror in a Texas Town (1958) starred Sterling Hayden, Sebastian Cabot and Carol Kelly in the story about a " . . . wayfaring sailor's visit back home (that) proves turbulent for him and troublesome for a greedy land-baron who's been gobbling up the local farmlands." New York-born Joseph H. Lewis directed for producer Frank N. Seltzer.
That same year, (1958), Paramount's Hot Spell was another stereotypical "[f]amily drama set in the South." In this film, Shirley Booth " . . . plays a disillusioned housewife whose family has grown away from her but she refuses to face the brutal truth." Daniel Mann (born Daniel Chugerman in New York) directed for Chicago-born producer Hal Wallis. In Warner's No Time for Sergeants (1958) Andy Griffith and Myron McCormick starred in the story of a " . . . Georgia farm boy who gets drafted into the Army and creates mayhem among his superiors and colleagues . . . " San Francisco-born Mervyn Le Roy (of "Jewish parents") produced and directed.
20th Century-Fox's The Long Hot Summer (1958) " . . . spins out a steamy interlude in a Mississippi delta town." Orson Welles plays (the stereotypical tyrannical head of a Southern family) Welles is " . . . a blustery plantation owner, the cigar-chomping widower Will Varner . . . When a young drifter (Paul Newman) comes to town it is a meeting of the minds. 'You're no better than a crook,' Welles says. 'You're no better than a con man,' Newman answers." The action includes "[b]arn burnings, lengthy-seductions, and a lynching party . . . " The film was directed by Martin Ritt (who was born in New York to "Jewish immigrants") for New York- born producer Jerome Irving "Jerry" Wald. That same year, MGM's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was released. The film is described by Steven Scheuer as one " . . . of Tennessee William's most powerful studies of a southern family . . . " which, of course, does not make the portrayal any more accurate or representative. The film features Elizabeth Taylor . . . as the wife of a former athletic hero (Paul Newman), who is dominated by his father and has taken to drink." The wife is constantly " . . . plotting to get her petulant husband Brick back in her bed." The alcoholic former athlete, on the other hand, is " . . . suspected of triggering his dead buddy's latent homosexuality." Philadelphia-born Richard Brooks directed for Chicago-born producer Lawrence Weingarten. Jack Y. Hofsiss directed a remake of the film in 1984 starring Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones.
UA's Thunder Road (1958) starred Robert Mitchum, Keely Smith and Gene Barry in a " . . . drama about a group of people in the Kentucky hills who make moonshine whiskey and sell it." New York-born Arthur Ripley directed. The Connecticut-born Mitchum also produced. That same year, (1958), Elvis Presley starred in Paramount's King Creole, a film about a "[y]oung busboy on the verge of delinquency (who) gets a break when he is forced to sing at a New Orleans nightclub . . . " Michael Curtiz (born Mihali Kertesz in Budapest of "Jewish parentage") directed for Chicago-born producer Hal Wallis. In the 1958 release God's Little Acre (based on Erskine Caldwell's famous novel) is " . . . about dirt farmers in Georgia . . . (and) the head of the Walden clan, whose mad obsession that there's gold on his land leads him to near tragedy." Anthony Mann (born Emil Anton Bundmann in California) directed for producer Sidney Harmon.
In the 1959 UA release, The Wonderful Country (1959) Robert Mitchum, Julie London, Jack Oakie and Gary Merrill star in another stereotypical " . . . western tale with Mitchum cast as a Texan who has a strange allegiance to the Mexicans and consents to buy arms to be used in the revolution." Georgia-born Robert Parrish directed for Vienna-born producer Chester Erskine. Also in 1959, 20th Century-Fox's The Sound and the Fury starred Yul Brynner, Joanne Woodward, Stuart Whitman and Ethel Waters in a " . . . version of William Faulkner's novel of the decadent South . . . the story of a young girl trying to find a life of her own away from the tyrannical rule of her uncle." Martin Ritt (the New York-born "son of Jewish immigrants") directed for New York-born producer Jerome Irving "Jerry" Wald. Paramount's Li'l Abner (1959) was the film version of the " . . . Broadway musical based on the famous cartoon characters of Dogpatch . . . " Melvin Frank directed with co-producer Norman Panama. Both men were originally from Chicago.
As the '60s decade began, MGM's Home from the Hill (1960) starred Robert Mitchum in a " . . . yarn of a southern town, a roistering landowner, his son, and the youth whose relationship to the family causes tragedy." Chicago-born Vincente Minnelli directed for New York-born producers Sol Siegel and Edmund Grainger. Also, that year, 20th Century-Fox's Desire in the Dust (1960) provides another " . . . dose of lust and desire in a southern town . . . " The film is about a " . . . [t]yrannical landowner with skeletons in his closet (who) sees his political ambitions in jeopardy, (and) tries unscrupulous means to rid himself of his troubles . . . " The film was produced and directed by William F. Claxton.
Also, in 1960, Young Jesse James starred Ray Stricklyn, Robert Dix, and Willard Parker in " . . . another version of how Jesse went bad--this time he joined Quantrill's Raiders because Union soldiers killed his father." William Claxton again directed. UA's 1960 release, Inherit the Wind, featured Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Gene Kelly in a motion picture " . . . dealing with the famous trial (the Scopes trial) in the twenties in which a school-teacher was arrested for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution . . . " Halliwell's Film Guide says the film is " . . . enhanced by a realistic portrait of a sweltering southern town." New York-born Stanley Kramer produced and directed.
The 1961 release Shame starred William Shatner, Jeanne Cooper in a " . . . .drama about a racist who visits Southern towns to incite the locals against enforced school integration." Detroit-born Roger Corman directed. Corman also produced and directed The Intruder that same year. That film was about a " . . . mild-mannered stranger (who) arrives in a southern town and stirs up racist trouble." Corman said it was the first film he " . . . directed from a deep political and social conviction (it was about racial-prejudice, busing and desegregation in a small Southern town) . . . " Corman said it " . . . was important to the filmmakers and to me that we have something to say within the film."
20th Century-Fox's 1961 release Sanctuary featured Lee Remick, Yves Montand, Odetta and Bradford Dillan in " . . . Faulkner's seamy tale of the South in the 1920s . . . " the story of a "Governor's daughter (who) is seduced by a Cajun, who returns after she's married, to cause her further trouble." British-born Tony Richardson directed for Los Angeles-born producer Richard D. Zanuck. Also, in 1961, The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come was about the stereotypical " . . . Kentucky mountain boy (who) is a wanderer until taken in by a loving family; but he takes the side of the North when the Civil War begins." London-born Andrew V. McLaglen directed.
Paramount's 1961 release, Summer and Smoke starred Geraldine Page, Laurence Harvey and Una Merkel in a film set in " . . . a small Mississippi town in 1916 . . . " The film focuses on a " . . . minister's spinster daughter (who) nurses an unrequited love for the local rebel . . . " Scheuer says the film is about " . . . a frustrated spinster grappling with the extremes of carnal and romantic love . . . " and that the subject matter is " . . . given a vulgar . . . screen treatment . . . " British-born Peter Glenville directed for Chicago-born producer Hal B. Wallis. The following year, in Young Guns of Texas (1962) James Mitchum, Alan Ladd , Jody McCrea and Chill Wills are featured in a film about a chase " . . . after a group of Confederates as the Civil War ends . . . " Maury Dexter directed. Also, in 1962, Columbia's Walk on the Wild Side starred Laurence Harvey, Capucine, Jane Fonda, Anne Baxter and Barbara Stanwyck in the story of a man who " . . . finds his childhood love working in a New Orleans brothel during the Depression." Canadian-born Edward Dmytryk (born to Ukranian immigrants) directed for producer Charles K. Feldman (born Charles Gould in New York). The script was based on the Nelson Algren novel.
The UA 1962 release Follow that Dream starred Elvis Presley in a " . . . comedy about a group of hillbilly homesteaders who settle in a small Florida town . . . " New York-born Gordon Douglas directed for Los Angeles-born producer David Weisbart. Also, in 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird starred Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Philip Alford and Brock Peters in the film based on Harper Lee's book " . . . about an Alabama lawyer bringing up his two motherless children . . . " and defending " . . . a black man accused of rape." According to Steven Scheuer, the film is " . . . one of the best movies dealing with race relations that the American film industry has ever made." Robert Mulligan directed for Jewish producer Alan Pakula. Both were born in New York. Finally, in 1962, Poor White Trash starred Douglas Fowley, Bill Hays, Peter Graves, Lita Milan and Tim Carey in a film " . . . about a Cajun girl romanced by a northern pretty boy to the jealous outrage of a local he-man, a Cajun suitor who does a sweaty folk dance to express his sex drive . . . " Harold Davids directed.
In 1963, Hootnanny Hoot portrayed a " . . . bunch of college hottenannyans from Missouri (who) take their down-home act to TV-land." Steven Scheuer calls it "[d]rivel about country music." Seattle-born Gene Nelson directed. Also, in 1963, Warner's Four for Texas presents Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Anita Ekberg in another stereotypical Texas " . . . western comedy that pits the two stars against each other until they join forces against a third party." Rhode Island-born Robert Aldrich produced and directed.
MGM's Come Fly with Me (1963) was a U.S./British production " . . . about a trio of attractive girls . . . (who are romantically interested in) a pilot, a titled jewel thief and a Texas millionaire . . . " New Jersey-born Henry Levin directed this additional stereotypical treatment of a Texan for Russian-born producer Anatole de Grunwald. That same year, (1963), Gone Are the Days starred Ossie Davis in a film described by Scheuer as " . . . a brash, satiric swipe at racism and Uncle Tomism in the South by updating Negro folk tales to contemporary struggles." Nicholas Webster directed. The UA 1963 release Toys in the Attic starred Dean Martin, Geraldine Page, Wendy Hiller, Yvette Mimieux and Gene Tierney in the story about a " . . . no-good rover (who) returns to his New Orleans home with his childlike bride, (and) brings trouble for his spinster sisters." Minneapolis-born George Roy Hill directed for New York-born producer Walter Mirisch.
In 1964, It's Alive told the story of "[m]otorists (who) break down in the Ozarks and are imprisoned along with a geologist in the cave of a demented man." Larry Buchanan directed. Also, in 1964, MGM's Kissin' Cousins starred Elvis Presley in a " . . . musical about trying to build a missile site despite resistance from some hicks . . . " in the Smokey Mountains. Gene Nelson (born Gene Berg in Seattle) directed for New York-born producer Sam Katzman. Also, that year, (1964), 2,000 Maniacs starred Thomas Wood, Connie Mason, Jeffrey Allen and Shelby Livingston in the story of a " . . . group of young swingers (that) is held captive and tortured by a warped Southern ghost town, which comes alive every hundred years to avenge the sacking of their village during the Civil War." Hershell Gordon Lewis directed.
The next year, (1965) Nothing But a Man starred Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln in a film " . . . about a Negro couple who strive for dignity in an Alabama town . . . (and) meet with more than their share of opposition as they try to make a life for themselves." German-born Michael Roemer directed. Then in 1966, That Tennessee Beat starred Merle Travis and Minnie Pearl in the story of an "[a]mbitious country singer (who) robs to get ahead, (and) is reformed under sympathetic guidance of a lady preacher after being mugged." Richard Brill directed. That same year, (1966), Las Vegas Hillbillies portrayed a "[c]ountry boy (who) inherits a broken- down salon, (and) turns it into a success by bringing hillbilly music to Las Vegas." Arthur C. Pierce directed.
Columbia's 1966 release, The Chase starred Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in a " . . . story about sex and sin in a small Texas town . . . " Arthur Penn (born in Philadelphia "of Russian-Jewish descent") directed for Austrian-born producer Sam Spiegel. Also in 1966 Paramount released This Property is Condemned starring Natalie Wood and Robert Redford. The film is about the "[s]exual adventures of a tubercular but beautiful girl in her mother's boarding house in a Mississippi town." The film was produced by Ray Stark and John Houseman (born Jacques Haussmann in Bucharest) and directed by Sydney Pollack (who was born in Indiana the " . . . son of first-generation Russian-Jewish Americans . . . ") Also, in 1966, Africa--Texas Style presents another stereotypical " . . . adventure about a cowboy who hunts and tames wild game." Andrew Marton (born Endre Marton in Budapest) directed.
In 1967, the Warner release, Hotel provided more Southern stereotypes in telling about the "[t]rials and tribulations at a posh New Orleans hotel, mainly the efforts made to keep it from falling into the wrong hands." Detroit-born Richard Quine directed for Missouri-born producer Wendell Mayes. Also, in 1967, UA's In the Heat of the Night (1967) was " . . . about prejudice, manners and morals in a small Mississippi town." Film critic Steven Scheuer credits the film's director, Norman Jewison with doing " . . . an outstanding job in creating the subsurface tension of life in a 'sleepy' Southern town . . . " The Toronto-born Jewison directed for New York- born producer Walter Mirisch.
That same year, (1967) the Warner/Seven Arts release Reflections in a Golden Eye starred Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando in an " . . . examination of frustrated passions on a military base . . . " According to film critic Steven Scheuer, the film is a " . . . spirited slice of Southern Gothic . . . (offering) whippings, adultery, fetishism, and nude horseback riding." The plot revolves around " . . . an ineffectual Major who plays soldier with his men, and house with his lusty wife, while sublimating his fierce love for a taciturn private who only has eyes for the Major's wife." Missouri-born John Huston directed for producer Ray Stark. Seven Arts, which owned Warner Bros. for a short period in the '60s was controlled at the time by Elliott and Kenneth Hyman.
Also, in 1967 Columbia's The Long Ride Home (aka A Time for Killing) portrayed a " . . . Union officer (Glenn Ford) on the trail of escaped Confederate soldiers." Phil Karlson (born Philip N. Karlstein in Chicago) " . . . of Jewish-Irish parentage . . . " directed for Pittsburgh- born producer Harry Joe Brown. MGM's The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967) starred Roy Orbison and Sammy Jackson as " . . . a couple of Confederate operators . . . out to rob a mint . . . " Michael Moore directed for New York-born producer Sam Katzman.
In the 1967 Warner release, Cool Hand Luke Paul Newman starred as " . . . a prisoner on a southern chain gang . . . " and George Kennedy played " . . . the brutal leader of the chain- gang crew." New York-born Stuart Rosenberg directed for Baltimore-born producer Gordon Carroll. The Cleveland-born Newman was the " . . . son of the Jewish owner of a sporting goods store and a Catholic mother of Hungarian descent . . . " Halliwell's Film Guide claims the film was intended to be " . . . a Christ-allegory . . . "
Movie critic Steven Scheuer calls another 1967 release, Paramount's Hurry, Sundown, a " . . . lurid and laughable tale of passions and predicaments of the black and white inhabitants of a Georgia town. Southern movie cliche's abound, as bad white guys will stop at nothing to acquire land." Vienna-born Otto Preminger produced and directed.
The 1968, Warner/Seven Arts release, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter starred Jewish actor Alan Arkin in a film about " . . . the life of a deaf-mute in a small Southern town . . . (a) story of loneliness, human boorishness and cruelty . . . " New York-born Robert Ellis Miller directed for producer Joel Freeman. Also, in 1968, Journey to Shiloh was " . . . about a group of green young men who set out for Virginia to join up and fight for the confederacy." William Hale directed.
The following year, (1969), Salesman was presented as a " . . . documentary . . . about the lives of several Bible salesmen in the South." Massachusetts-born brothers Albert and David Maysles directed. Also, in 1969, Slaves starred Stephen Boyd, Ossie Davis, Barbara Ann Teer and Gale Sondergaard in a " . . . serving of lust and villainy on the old plantation as a sensitive slave (Ossie Davis) fights for freedom against the dastardly overseer (Stephen Boyd)." Philadelphia-born Herbert J. Biberman directed for producer Philip Langner. UA's Midnight Cowboy (1969) starred Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in the story of a " . . . slightly dim-witted Texan (who) comes to New York to offer his services as a stud for rich ladies, but spends a hard winter helping a tubercular con man." John Schlesinger (born in London, " . . . the son of a Jewish pediatrician . . . ") directed for New York-born producer Jerome Hellman.
In 1970, the MGM release Brewster McCloud told the story of a man who " . . . hides out under the roof of the Houston Astrodome, prepares to learn to fly with man-made wings, and refuses all offers of help; when he launches himself, he falls to his death." Missouri-born Robert Altman directed for producer Lou Adler. Also, in 1970, My Sweet Charlie starred Patty Duke and Al Freeman, Jr. in a film about " . . . a young pregnant southern girl, thrown out by her father (who) takes refuge in a cottage . . . " The film is set in " . . . a remote Louisiana resort area, closed up during the off-season . . . " California-born Lamont Johnson directed. In Last of the Mobile Hot Shots (1970) James Coburn stars as " . . . the last of the Thoringtons, (who) marries a hooker . . . so he can return to his decaying plantation and try to germinate an heir before cancer kills him." Philadelphia-born Sidney Lumet directed.
WUSA (1970) starred Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Laurence Harvey and Anthony Perkins with Newman as " . . . an ex-drunk who gets a job as a disc jockey on WUSA, an all-the- way-to-the-right radio station in New Orleans." Steven Scheuer calls it a " . . . pretentious film with unfulfilled aspirations to dissect the Southern right-wing political ideology . . . " Scheuer also claims Newman was miscast in this film. New York-born Stuart Rosenberg directed. The 1970 Paramount release Norwood starred Glen Campbell, Kim Darby and Joe Namath in the " . . . saga of a country boy, fresh from Vietnam, who sets out from Texas to New York to become a TV singer." Jack Haley, Jr. directed for Chicago-born producer Hal Wallis.
MGM's . . . tick . . . tick . . . tick (1970) starred Jim Brown, Fredric March and George Kennedy in a " . . . drama about a Southern town's sudden shift from a peaceful community to a veritable powder keg. The incident which sets off the situation is the election of the town's first black sheriff, played by Jim Brown." New York-born Ralph Nelson directed and co-produced with James Lee Barrett. Also, in 1970 Columbia's I Walk the Line (1970) starred Gregory Peck and Tuesday Weld in a story " . . . set in the moonshine country of Tennessee . . . about bootlegging moonshiners and their constant bouts with the local law." New York-born John Frankenheimer (born " . . . to a German-Jewish stockbroker father and an Irish Catholic mother . . . ") directed and co-produced with Harold D. Cohen.
That same year, the MGM release, The Moonshine War starred Alan Alda, Patrick McGoohan, Richard Widmark and Melodie Johnson in a story about a time when the " . . . repeal of Prohibition is only a few months away, (and) . . . revenue agent McGoohan is interested in getting the 150 bottles of aged moonshine hidden on Alda's property . . . " in Kentucky. Detroit-born Richard Quine directed for producers James C. Pratt and Leonard Blair.
In the 1971 release, The Scavengers, " . . . renegade Southerners engaged in gang rape . . . " Also, in 1971, Universal's The Beguiled was Chicago-born producer/director Don Siegel's Civil War gothic horror tale about " . . . a wounded Union soldier taking refuge in a (Confederate) girls' school . . . " The " . . . teachers fend for him until he causes trouble among the sexually frustrated women, who eventually kill him." The Peter Bogdanovich film The Last Picture Show (Columbia--1971) starred Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd. It is a depressing tale about the significance of the closing of a movie theatre in a small West Texas town (Archer City) and is intended to represent " . . . a great many things that happened to America in the early 1950s". The people in the town suffer from " . . . a general malaise, and engage in sexual infidelities partly (according to Roger Ebert) to remind themselves they are alive. There isn't much else to do . . . no dreams worth dreaming, no new faces, not even a football team that can tackle worth a damn." The New York-born Bogdanovich directed for producer Stephen J. Friedman.
The Last Rebel (1971) is a Civil War action-pic featuring Joe Namath " . . . saving blacks from lynchings . . . " Denys McCoy directed. In Columbia's Brother John (1971) Sidney Poitier plays " . . . an angel . . . who returns to his hometown in Alabama to see how the folk are faring in this day and age of hate and violence." The Los Angeles-born James Goldstone directed for producer Joel Glickman.
The 1972 film, Boxcar Bertha was about " . . . a woman labor organizer in Arkansas during the violence-filled Depression era of the early '30s." New York-born Martin Scorsese directed for Detroit-born producer Roger Corman. The 1972 20th Century-Fox release Sounder starred Cicely Tyson, Paul Windfield, Kevin Hooks and Carmen Mathews in the story of " . . . a family of sharecroppers in rural Louisiana during the Depression. The father is imprisoned for stealing a ham, and injured at the prison work farm before he returns home . . . " In the meantime, the Tyson character " . . . carries her family through various crises." Roger Ebert explains that the film is about the " . . . trap that Southern society set for black sharecroppers (and) . . . dealing with the white power structure (and) . . . the Southern growth of black pride . . . " New York- born Martin Ritt (the " . . . son of Jewish immigrants . . . ") directed for New York-born producer Robert B. Radnitz. Again, neither this individual film nor its subject-matter is objectionable in and of themselves. It only becomes objectionable when it is realized that this is one of a very long-list of films focusing on the more negative aspects of the South and that there are few, if any, films coming out of Hollywood that focus on the more positive aspects of the South. Such a clear pattern of bias leads to the conclusion that these films taken together are nothing more than Hollywood propaganda regarding the American South.
Interestingly enough, for twelve years after the Civil war (during Reconstruction) the legislatures of the Southern states were run by carpetbaggers and scalawags. On the other hand, Hollywood has chosen to make their activities in the South during this period the focus of few, if any, of its movies.
In The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972) a slave " . . . flees Virginia after murdering an inhuman slave overseer." Martin Goldman directed. This is the kind of film that helps to create the impression that a U.S. film industry controlled by Jewish males of a European heritage are in fact attempting to utilize a "divide and conquer" strategy by stirring hatred among African- Americans in the U.S., hatred directed against whites generally, and White Southern males specifically. Also, in 1972, Columbia's Buck and the Preacher starred Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte as " . . . escaped slaves heading West . . . " Poitier directed for producer Joel Glickman. Poitier was born in Florida and raised in the Bahamas.
Payday (1972) starred Rip Torn, Elayne Heilveil and Ahna Capri in a " . . . film about a second-rate country and western singer (Torn) whose road to . . . Nashville . . . is littered with men and women used and abandoned when he no longer needs them." Daryl Duke directed for producer Ralph J. Gleason. Also, in 1972, the Warner release Deliverance was about "[f]our businessmen . . . (who) set out on a canoe trip down a wild Georgia river and look forward to nothing more hazardous than riding the rapids, but their adventure becomes a nightmare. They encounter two demented hillbillies, one of whom physically violates Beatty, and the nature trek turns into a struggle laced with killing." British-born John Boorman produced and directed. Dear Dead Delilah (1972) featured the " . . . heirs to an old southern mansion (who) are being axed to death over a hidden fortune . . . " John Farris directed. That same year, in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) Paul Newman " . . . postures as the self-appointed Texas judge (circa 1880) . . . " Missouri-born John Milius directed for producer John Foreman. The following year, (1973) The Legend of Boggy Creek was " . . . allegedly based on the true experiences of the residents of Fouke, Ark., terrorized for years by the hairy monster that lived in the woods." Charles B. Pierce directed. More Southern stereotypes were portrayed in 1973's Walking Tall. The film starred Joe Don Baker, Elizabeth Hartman, Gene Evans and Rosemary Murphy in the supposed story of a " . . . real Tennessee sheriff, Buford Pusser, (who took) . . . a stand against his hometown syndicate-owned gambling operations, and one brutal beating from the mobsters almost cost him his life." The script was written by and the film was produced by Mort Briskin. It was directed by Phil Karlson (as noted earlier, born Philip N. Karlstein in Chicago, " . . . of Jewish-Irish parentage.") The sequel Walking Tall, Part II (1975) starred Bo Svenson, Luke Askey and Noah Beery. The sheriff, " . . . now played by Svenson, attempts to track down the man who killed his wife in an ambush which left him severely wounded." Minnesota-born Earl Bellamy directed. Another sequel, Walking Tall: Final Chapter, followed in 1977.
That same year, the UA release White Lightning (1973) starred Burt Reynolds, Jennifer Billingsley, Ned Beatty, Louise Latham and Bo Hopkins in a " . . . melodrama about murder, revenge, and moonshine in the new South. Reynolds is a convict who's released in order to help the Feds nail sadistic-sheriff Beatty." Joseph Sargent (born Giuseppe Danielle Sorgente in New Jersey) directed for the Levy-Gardner-Laven production group. Also, that year, Paramount's Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) was " . . . mostly about baseball and the daily life of a major league club on the road . . . " but the film presents a " . . . dumb (and mediocre) catcher from Georgia . . . who is constantly being ragged by his teammates." The catcher eventually " . . . finds that he is dying of leukemia." Missouri-born John Hancock directed for producers Maurice and Lois Rosenfield.
In MGM's Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973) Rod Steiger, Robert Ryan and Jeff Bridges star in a " . . . family feud in Tennessee . . . " Steiger and Ryan are the opposing fathers who let a small squabble over some disputed land escalate into a bloody war." New York-born Richard C. Sarafian ("of Armenian descent") directed for Rodney Carr-Smith. The 1973 20th Century-Fox release Hard Driver (aka The Last American Hero) starred Jeff Bridges as a stock-car racer in North Carolina . . . " who started out as " . . . a young moonshiner, running whiskey past the revenuers . . . " California-born Lamont Johnson directed for producers John Cutts and William Roberts.
In 1974 The Virginia Hill Story was a so-called made for TV movie starring Dyan Cannon, Harvey Keitel, Allen Garfield and Robby Benson (born Robert Segal), with Cannon starring in this so-called " . . . true-life tale about a poor Southern girl who hits the big time as the girlfriend of (Jewish mobster) Bugsy Siegel, who was murdered in Beverly Hills back in 1947." New York-born Joel Schumacher directed. Interestingly, Cannon, Keitel and Garfield are identified as Jewish actors by the respective Lyman, Ebert and Katz publications (see bibliography) making this film a predominantly Jewish production about a girl from the South.
Also, in 1974, Where the Lillies Bloom (1974) starred Julie Gholson, Jan Smithers, and Harry Dean Stanton in a story " . . . about four (North Carolina) children orphaned when their father dies. The plucky 14-year-old daughter (Gholson) assumes command of the household and conspires to keep the news of her father's passing from their neighbors for months." William A. Graham directed.
The 1974 Disney release, The Castaway Cowboy featured James Garner as another Texan who is a cowboy, this time the " . . . Texan . . . finds himself in Hawaii in 1850 where he gives in to the pleadings of a widow and her charming son to turn their farm into a cattle ranch." The film was directed by Vincent McVeerty and produced by Los Angeles-born Ron Miller and Winston Hibler. UA's Thieves Like Us (1974) was " . . . about a gang of fairly dumb bank robbers, and about how the youngest of them falls in love with a girl, and about how they stickup some banks and listen to the radio and drink Coke and eventually get shot at." "They play out their sad little destinies against . . . the pastoral feeling of the Southern countryside." Roger Ebert describes them as " . . . are small people in a weary time." Missouri-born Robert Altman directed for producer Robert Eggenwiler.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) starred Marilyn Burns, Allen Danzinger and Paul A. Partain in the story of a " . . . group of young people (who) ventur[e] into the Texas desert (and) run afoul of a demented family who use human flesh in the meats that they eat and sell." As Roger Ebert reports, the film is " . . . as violent and gruesome and blood-soaked as the title promises . . . It's also without any apparent purpose, unless the creation of disgust and fright is a purpose." Texas-born Tobe Hooper directed. Of course, in an industry with as many struggling directors as the film industry, it is not difficult at all, to find someone from the South who is willing to make a thoroughly disgusting movie about the region.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2 was released in 1986. It is often true that some people cannot see the forest for the trees. With these movies, more negative portrayals of people, places and things from the South are added to that long-list of movies exhibiting such a Hollywood bias. If a film critic is merely evaluating the specific films and is not sensitive to the views of much of the population of an entire region of the country, it is easy to see why such a critic would overlook the larger "purpose" (or effect) to which this movie contributes, a cumulative negative perception of people, places and things in the American South.
Columbia's Buster and Billie (1974) was " . . . about high-school students in rural Georgia, circa 1948. Joan Goodfellow (plays) . . . the acquiescent town tramp who finally falls for Buster (Jan Michael Vincent)." The film was directed by Canadian-born Daniel Petrie. Also, in 1974, Thomasine and Bushrod starred Max Julien, Vonetta McGee and George Murdock in a so-called "blaxploitation" film; a " . . . comedy-adventure about a black outlaw duo cutting a swath through Texas in the early 1900s." Kansas-born Gordon Parks, Jr. directed. Roger Corman's New World Pictures produced and distributed Cockfighter (1974), a story " . . . about a Southern man who owns a stable of fighting cocks . . . " The Detroit-born Corman considered the picture " . . . an interesting, commercial film about the dark side of rural America . . . a fascinating look at a subculture of American life . . . " Isn't it odd that Corman could not obtain Hollywood financing for and find any dark and fascinating "subculture" in his hometown of Detroit about which to make an "interesting" film.
Universal's The Sugarland Express (1974) starred Goldie Hawn and William Atherton in " . . . story of a young Texas couple . . . running from the law, trying to regain custody of their baby, who has been farmed out to a foster family while they were in prison for some petty thefts." Ohio-born Steven Spielberg ("of Jewish descent") directed for producers Richard Zanuck (born in Los Angeles). and New York-born David Brown. Goldie Hawn was " . . . born of a Jewish mother and Protestant father in Washington, D.C . . . " Thus, this film appears to be another in a long series produced by non-Southern and Jewish filmmakers who provide another negative or stereotypical portrayal of people, places and things from the American South.
Macon County Line (1974) is about " . . . a vengeful southern sheriff who is out for blood after his wife is brutally killed by a pair of drifters." Richard Compton directed for Nebraska- born producer Max Baer. Also, in 1974, The Godchild was a " . . . remake of the 1948 John Ford-John Wayne film Three Godfathers, which told the story of three Civil War prisoners who are running from the Confederates and Apaches, and come across a dying woman about to give birth." John Badham (British-born, but raised in Alabama) directed. Lovin' Molly (1974) was about " . . . a Texas lass who wouldn't let convention stand in the way of loving two men at the same time, for a period covering four decades . . . " Philadelphia-born Sidney Lumet (son of Yiddish stage actors) directed for producers Stephen Friedman and David Golden.
The 20th Century-Fox feature Conrack (1974) starred John Voight and Paul Windfield. The film tells the " . . . story about a young white school teacher who goes to help a group of culturally deprived black youngsters on an island off the coast of South Carolina." New York- born Martin Ritt ("son of Jewish immigrants") directed and co-produced with New Jersey-born Irving Ravetch. One of the questions that may be asked about his movie might be: "Are there isolated groups of culturally deprived black youngsters anywhere else in the U.S.?" And, if so, why did Hollywood choose to make a movie about such children in South Carolina? In the meantime, that same year, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974) told the story of " . . . a 110-year old woman who was an ex-slave, and lived to take part in a civil rights demonstration in 1962." The film uses extensive flashbacks " . . . depicting various episodes in the life of Miss Jane, a fictional character, but the incidents (according to Steven Scheuer) are based on real incidents that happened throughout the South after the Civil War." The film was directed by Indiana-born John Korty.
Paramount's 1974 feature, The Klansman starred Lee Marvin, O.J. Simpson and Lind Evans in a story " . . . about racial tensions in the big bad South. Marvin's the sheriff who's got to put a lid on the brewing hostilities after Evans gets raped and the KKK get their sheets in an uproar." Terence Young (born to British parents in Shanghai) directed for producer William Alexander.
In 1975, The Deadly Tower was a " . . . dramatization of the chilling tale of a young sniper, who climbed up the tower at the University of Texas (at Austin) and fired upon innocent passersby, killing 13 people and wounding 33 others." Jerry Jameson directed. That same year, in Return to Macon County (AIP--1975) Nick Nolte and Don Johnson portray " . . . a pair of itinerant drag-racing bums . . . as they again get in trouble with the law." Richard Compton directed for producer Eliot Schick. Also, in 1975, "[t]he old Hatfield-McCoy feud is trotted out again (the tale of feuding Kentucky clans) in the so-called made for TV movie The Hatfields and the McCoys. Clyde Ware directed.
Red Neck County (1975) starred Leslie Uggams, Shelley Winters and Michael Christian. According to Steven Scheuer, the film was based on the racist premise that "[t]hey don't cotton to wealthy Yankee ladies, especially black ones, way down South. But they pick the wrong rich black northern chick to pick on when they mess with Leslie." Richard Robinson directed. That same year, (1975) The Moonrunners starred James Mitchum, Waylon Jennings and Joan Blackman in what Steven Scheuer refers to as a "[s]our-mash action-comedy about a band of bootleggers, (supposedly) based on the real-life exploits of Jerry Rushing, a North Carolina celebrity." Gy Waldron directed.
Columbia's Hard Times (1975) starred Charles Bronson as a " . . . bare-knuckle street fighter slugging his way to a couple of paydays in New Orleans during the Depression era of the 1930s . . . " James Coburn plays " . . . an on-the-make small-time hustler and boxing promoter." California-born Walter Hill directed for Mississippi-born producer Lawrence Gordon. Also, in 1975, Murph the Surf (aka Live a Little, Steal a Lot) was supposedly " . . . based on the real-life crimes of two Florida ne'er-do-wells who figured a way to steal the 'Star of India' gem from New York's American Museum of Natural History." Marvin Chomsky directed for producer Dominick Galate.
Mandingo (1975) starred James Mason, Ken Norton, Susan George and Perry King in a film about " . . . a hard-lovin', hard-fightn' stud-slave . . . (on) a slave-breeding plantation in Louisiana circa 1840 . . . " New York-born Richard Fleischer directed for producer Peter Herald and Dino de Laurentiis from Italy. Steven Scheuer describes Paramount's Nashville (1975) as a film " . . . commenting on the American dream, while focusing on Nashville, the dream center and cultural capital of country music." On the other hand, the film actually provides a rather absurd portrait of " . . . the losers and the winners, the drifters and the stars in Nashville . . . " Missouri-born Robert Altman produced and directed.
In 1976, Scalpel starred Robert Lansing, Judith Chapman and Arlen Dean Snyder in a " . . . Georgia-made thriller about a "[p]lastic surgeon (who) . . . makes the face of go-go dancer Chapman to resemble his missing daughter so that he can get his hands on the latter's inheritance." John Grissmer directed. Also, in 1976, Columbia's Drive-In portrays " . . . various illicit activities (that) find their climax at a (Texas) drive-in movie." Rod Amateau directed for producer George Litto. Nightmare in Badham County (1976) was about "[t]wo college girls driving through the South during their summer vacation . . . " They are " . . . railroaded by a vicious sheriff and a corrupt judge, and sent to a prison farm." British-born John Llewellyn Moxey directed.
Hawmps (1976) presents a story set before " . . . the Civil War, (when) the Texas Calvary Corps experimented with camels rather than horses for desert duty." According to Seven Scheuer, this " . . . historical incident was treated dramatically in Southwest Passage (1954) and comically (read: silly) here." The film was directed by Missouri-born Joe Camp. That same year, (1976), Creature from Black Lake portrayed " . . . two Chicago anthropology students who journey to a Louisiana swamp to search for an 8-foot 400-pound creature . . . " Joy Houck, Jr. directed.
The 1976 20th Century-Fox release Moving Violation was described by Steven Scheuer as a " . . . terror-on-wheels action . . . " picture about " . . . a beleaguered couple (who) is pursued by a Southern sheriff." Charles S. Dubin directed for Detroit-born producer Roger Corman. Also, in 1976, The Macahans told the story of " . . . scout Zeb Macahan . . . (who leads) his brothers' family west from Bull Run, Virginia, in time to avoid the Civil War." Bernard McEveety directed. Also, in 1976, Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys was set in " . . . Alabama back in 1931." The film was about " . . . nine poor young black men (who) were arrested and tried for the alleged rape of two promiscuous white women. Despite compelling evidence proving their innocence, they were convicted." Scheuer, says, this " . . . disturbing, absorbing history lesson about racial bigotry in the South at that time focuses on one courageous white judge, who reversed the jury's verdict and may well have saved the young men from being hanged." Georgia-born Fielder Cook directed.
In the 1976 film Ode to Billy Joe Robby Benson (Robert Segal) and Glynnis O'Connor star in a film that explains " . . . why Billy Joe jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge . . . " Steven Scheuer calls the film an " . . . adolescent romance about youngsters coming of age in the South." Nebraska-born Max Baer directed. Also, in 1976, Up offered another stereotypical and negative portrayal of a Southern sheriff. California-born Russ Meyer directed. In Warner's The Drowning Pool (1976) Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward starred in a " . . . film about murder and corruption in the deep South." New York-born Stuart Rosenberg directed for producers Lawrence Turman (originally from Los Angeles) and David Foster. In the 1976 Warner Bros. film The Outlaw Josey Wales San Francisco-born Clint Eastwood portrayed " . . . an unreconstructed Southerner, bitter about the atrocities he's witnessed, refusing to surrender . . . in the unsettled post-war West." Eastwood himself directed for New York-born producer Robert Daly. Also, in 1976, the UA release Stay Hungry featured " . . . Jeff Bridges (as) . . . an Alabama blueblood of uncounted generations of aristocracy . . . " and " . . . Sally Field . . . " as a " . . . simple country . . . " girl. According to Robert Ebert, the movie makes " . . . a subtle comment on Southern class structure." The film was directed by New York-born Bob Rafaleson (born into a middle-class, Upper West Side, intellectual Jewish family . . . ") who co-produced with Harold Schneider.
In 1977, The Town that Dreaded Sundown starred Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells and Charles B. Pierce in a supposedly "[r]eal-life tale of a lonestar looney terrorizing a town in Texas." Charles Pierce directed. Minstrel Man (1977) focuses " . . . on the efforts of a group of post-Civil War black minstrel performers to form their own troupe and to present material that would be less degrading to blacks." William A. Graham directed. Also, in 1977, The Lincoln Conspiracy alleged that " . . . Lincoln's assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, was in cahoots (involved in a conspiracy) with some members of the U.S. Senate in trying to get rid of the Great Emancipator." James L. Conway directed.
That same year, (1977), Moonshine County Express starred William Conrad and Susan Howard in the story of "[m]oonshiners-three sexy sisters--(who) try to outrun the law and a big moonshiner who is after a valuable cache of prime drinking 'likker'.' Gus Trikonis directed. Also, in 1977, Murder at the World Series starred Bruce Boxleitner, Hugh O'Brien, Michael Parks, Lynda Day George and Janet Leigh in a story about the " . . . Houston Astros . . . pitted against the Oakland A's at the Houston Astrodome. A young man, bent on revenge for not making the team in the tryouts, kidnaps a top player's wife--but he gets the wrong girl." British-born Andrew McLaglen directed.
Thunder and Lightning (1977) starred David Carradine, Kate Jackson and Roger C.Carmel in what Steven Scheuer calls "[r]ubbish about moonshiners a-cussin' 'n' a-fightin' in the Everglades." Corey Allen (born Alan Cohen in Cleveland, Ohio) directed. That same year, Greased Lightening (1977) starred Richard Pryor in a film about " . . . the first black professional racing-car driver, who started out running moonshine before WWII and battled prejudice for many years before being allowed to race against whites." Wisconsin-born Michael (or Michel) Schultz directed for producer Hannah Weinstein.
As mentioned above, Final Chapter--Walking Tall (1977) continued the stereotypes and the saga " . . . of real-life Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser, who died under mysterious circumstances after crusading against vice and corruption . . . " Texas-born Jack Starrett directed. That same year, Universal's Smokey and the Bandit (1977) starred Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed and Jackie Gleason in a film about "[t]wo oddly matched Texas millionaires who commission ace driver Smokey to race from Georgia to Texas with a load of illegal beer." Tennessee-born Hal Needham directed for producer Robert L. Levy. Needham also directed Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and Gleason reprised " . . . his role as the sheriff spreading Southern discomfort along the highways . . . " in Smokey and the Bandit III (1983), a film that Dick Lowry directed.
In 1978, A Small Town in Texas starred Timothy Bottoms, Susan George and Bo Hopkins in another " . . . cops-and-corruption saga . . . " Texas-born Jack Starrett directed for Samuel Z. Arkoff's company AIP. Also, in 1978, Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold featured Kim Basinger as " . . . Katie, a Texas lovely . . . " who is not very bright. Her " . . . modeling career turns sour in Hollywood after an assignment as a centerfold piece for a girlie magazine." Robert Greenwald directed. Paramount's Days of Heaven (1978) portrayed " . . . the story of a group of farmworkers (in Texas) and their relations with the sickly owner of the land." As Roger Ebert describes the movie, it is " . . . about a handful of people who find themselves shipwrecked in the middle of the Texas Panhandle--grain country--sometime before World War I." Ebert says the film " . . . is an evocation of emptiness, loneliness, desolation, the slow accumulation of despair in a land too large for its inhabitants and blind to their dreams." This movie follows the time honored Hollywood tradition of making most movies about the South, movies about despair. Illinois-born Terrence Malick (raised in Texas and Oklahoma) wrote and directed for producers Bert and Harold Schnieder.
Also, in 1978, 20th Century Fox's A Wedding includes a negative portrayal of a Southern family of " . . . new Southern money . . . " The bride's parents are Carol Burnett, all sweetness and convention . . . and Paul Dooley, vulgar, hard-drinking, with a tad too much affection for his youngest daughter . . . (who) is pregnant--by her sister's new husband, perhaps, or (it develops) by any other member of his class at military school." Missouri-born Robert Altman directed and co-produced with Tommy Thompson. That same year, Convoy (1978) was " . . . about a trucking caravan that keeps on the move after insulting a sheriff." The film stars country- western singer Kris Kristofferson as the leader of " . . . a tri-state protest (by cowboy truckers) over police brutality, high gas prices, and other complaints." The film features "[l]ots of smash- ups as the trucks fight the National Guard and head for Mexico." California-born Sam Peckinpah directed for producer Robert M. Sherman.
Five Days from Home (1978) featured George Peppard as " . . . an ex-lawman convicted of manslaughter for killing his wife's lover. With only six days left on his sentence, he breaks out of a Louisiana prison to see his critically injured son." Detroit-born Peppard also directed. More Southern stereotypes appear in Disney's The Million Dollar Dixie Deliverance (1978), a pre-Civil War tale about a man who " . . . helps five Yankee school kids who have been kidnapped for ransom cross the battle lines." Russ Mayberry directed. The Summer of My German Soldier (1978) was a so-called made for TV movie starring Kristy McNichol in the story of " . . . the relationship between a Jewish teenager, luminously played by McNichol, and an escaping anti- Nazi German POW . . . " The film is set in a small town in the deep South during WWII (and) . . . deals with the hatred of the townsfolk for the German POW's interned in their midst, and the bonds of friendship that develop between the girl, rejected by her father, and the young man." Michael Tuchner directed.
In 1979, John Huston directed " . . . the searing satire of Southern-style religion, Wise Blood (1979)." The Missouri-born Huston directed for producers Michael and Kathy Fitzgerald. Also, in 1979, The Great Bank Hoax concerns " . . . the bumbling officers of a small- town Georgia bank, who stage a fake robbery to cover up their embezzlement." Joseph Jacoby directed. Also, that year (1979) Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (1979) was " . . . set in a Dixie roadhouse . . . " The film " . . . focuses on the crowd that hangs out there and the help that serves them booze and small talk." New York-born Joel Schumacher directed. Murder in Music City (1979) was " . . . about a snoopy song-writer who drags his mate into a whodunit in Country Music Land." Leo Penn directed.
Paramount's North Dallas Forty (1979) starred Nick Nolte and Mac Davis in a " . . . comedy about the battered lives of pro footballers." Canadian-born Ted Kotcheff directed for Jewish producer Frank Yablans Also, in 1979, the 20th Century-Fox feature Norma Rae starred Sally Field as " . . . the plain-spoken, spunky Southern textile worker . . . (in) . . . a film about labor unions or mill working conditions . . . (and) . . . a woman of thirty-one learning to grow into her own potential." The film was produced and directed by Martin Ritt (New York city born, the "son of Jewish immigrants") Finally, in 1979 Love's Savage Fury starred Jenniefer O'Neill as a " . . . Southern belle fallen on hard times . . . " Joseph Hardy directed.
As the '80s decade began, Paramount's Urban Cowboy (1980) hit the screens. It starred John Travolta, Debra Winger, Scott Glenn, Madolyn Smith and Barry Corgin in the story of " . . . a young oil-field worker who goes looking for love in Gilley's country-and-western bar and falls hard for Debra Winger, only to find the romance fading as their marriage begins." The film is described by Steven Scheuer as "..a honky-tonk revision of Saturday Night Fever . . . " Arkansas-born James Bridges directed for the New York-born Jewish producer Robert Evans (Shapera) and Irving Azoff. Winger is also identified in Daniel Lyman's book Great Jews on Stage and Screen as Jewish.
Also, in 1980, Pleasure Palace starred Omar Shariff, Hope Lange, Jose' Ferrer, Victoria Principal, J.D. Cannon and Gerald S. O'Loughlin in the story of " . . . a gentlemanly high roller, invited to Las Vegas to save casino owner Lange from a crude Texan and his associates." Walter Grauman directed. Universal's Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) starred Sissy Spacek in what is promoted as the life-story of country singer Loretta Lynn. Halliwell's Film Guide says the film is about the " . . . wife of a Kentucky hillbilly . . . " British-born Michael Apted directed for producer Bob Larson.
The 1980 Warner release Honeysuckle Rose featured Willie Nelson as " . . . the married, traveling music legend who can't help straying while off the homestead . . . " New York-born Jerry Schatzberg directed for producer Sydney Pollack, who was born in Indiana the " . . . son of first-generation Russian-Jewish Americans . . . " Also, in 1980, Georgia Peaches was what Steven Scheuer called a " . . . down-home adventure with car chases and country music . . . " California-born Daniel Haller directed.
In 1981, the film Vernon, Florida supposedly provided " . . . a profile of a small Southern town that exposed the eccentric side of seemingly ordinary people." The film was made by Errol Morris who was born on Long Island. Also that year, Mistress of Paradise (1981) starred Genevieve Bujold and Chad Everett in what Steven Scheuer calls a " . . . claptrap drama about the turbulent love affair between a wealthy Northern heiress and a sophisticated Louisiana plantation owner." Peter Medak (born in Budapest) directed.
Murder in Texas (1981) starred Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott and Farrah Fawcett in another supposedly " . . . true story . . . " this one about " . . . a modern-day Bluebeard, an egomaniacal plastic surgeon who thinks disposing of wives permanently is preferable to divorce." Bill Hale directed. Also, in 1981, Hellinger's Law starred Telly Savalas as " . . . a Philadelphia attorney out in Houston, Tex., to defend an accountant who has infiltrated the Mafia." Leo Penn directed. That same year, Callie & Son (1981) told the story of a " . . . naive waitress who becomes a Dallas power broker . . . " The film features the " . . . Dallas rich, Mom's obsession with her son, murder under the oaks, and a dramatic courtroom trial." The film was directed by Waris Hussein, born in India.
Return of the Beverly Hillbillies (1981) " . . . revolves around the President's request to solve the energy crisis with Granny's moonshine." Robert Leeds directed. Also, that year, Coward of the County (1981) starred Kenny Rogers " . . . as a country preacher who sins on the side . . . " Rogers' " . . . nephew Tommy . . . (is) labeled a small town coward for being a pacifist during World War II. The film was shot on location in Georgia and according to Steven Scheuer, " . . . has an authentic rural feel . . . " Dick Lowry directed.
According to Roger Ebert, Universal's Raggedy Man (1981) was a film that " . . . remembers the small-town years of World War II . . . Sissy Spacek stars as the sole switchboard operator of a small-town telephone company somewhere in the wilds of Texas . . . " In addition to the relationship between Spacek and a visiting sailor (Eric Roberts), the film features " . . . town gossips . . . the town louts, who inhabit the beer hall and lust after the slim, young telephone operator . . . (and) . . . a strange, scarecrow character who hangs about in the background of several scenes and has a disconcerting way of disappearing just when you want to get a closer look at him." The film was directed by Illinois-born Jack Fisk for producers William Wittliff and Burt Weissbourd. Also, in the 1981 film Back Roads, Sally Field " . . . plays a streetcorner hooker (and), Tommy Lee Jones (portrays) a footloose guy she takes up with on a journey from Mobile to California." The film was directed by Martin Ritt (New York-born " . . . of Jewish immigrants") for producer Ronald Shedlo.
In The Killing of Randy Webster (1981) a " . . . teenager steals a van in Houston, Texas." He gives " . . . the cops a wild chase, and winds up with a bullet in his head." Chicago-born Sam Wanamaker (described by Katz as a political leftist) directed. Southern Comfort (1981) was " . . . set in the Cajun country of Louisiana, in `1973, and it follows the fortunes of a National Guard unit that gets lost in the bayous . . . " and become involved in " . . . a life-and-death struggle with the Cajun inhabitants." Ebert calls the film a " . . . metaphor for America's involvement in Vietnam." California-born Walter Hill directed for producer David Giler.
The 1981 feature Crisis at Central High was a "docu-drama" re-creating " . . . the events at Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., during the school year 1957-58 when the governor of Arkansas, was bitterly opposed to the integration of black and white students at that school in the state's capital . . . " California-born Lamont Johnson directed. Also, in 1981, the Avco/Embassy release The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia starred Kristy McNichol and Dennis Quaid in a story about " . . . a sister tagging after her country singing brother as they try to crack the recording business in Nashville." Libyan-born Ronald F. Maxwell directed for producers Elliot Geisinger, Howard Kuuperman, Rondal Saland and Howard Smith. Ruckus (1981) was a " . . . tale of a Vietnam soldier, Dirk Benedict, who escapes from an army psycho ward in Mobile and ends up in a little southern town where he is harassed by the locals . . . " (these "locals" are referred to as "rednecks" in Steven Scheuer's description of the same film). Max Kleven directed.
In 1982, Tootsie starred Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work New York actor who " . . . dresses himself as a woman . . . " in order to get work. The rather ridiculous character is portrayed with " . . . a Southern accent . . . " Indiana-born Sydney Pollack (son of first- generation Russian-Jewish Americans) produced and directed. Also, in 1982, The Universal/RKO release Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was a film " . . . about efforts to close down the Texas institution known as the Chicken Ranch . . . " Colin Higgins (born in the South Pacific to Australian parents) directed for producers Thomas L. Miller, Edward K. Milkis and Robert L. Boyett. That same year, Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) portrays a " . . . worn-out Woolworth's in a small Texas town . . . (and) . . . a reunion of the local James Dean fan club." Missouri-born Robert Altman directed for producer Mark Goodman.
The Kevin Kline character in Sophie's Choice (Universal--1982) repeatedly made disparaging remarks about people from the South, including a remark by the Jewish character played by Kevin Kline referring to "Nigger lynching" as a Southern sport. In addition, the "Stingo" character played by Peter MacNichol, was portrayed as weak and naive. Further, a Nazi concentration camp official is seen stating that " . . . all people who live in southern climes suffer from a dullness of mind . . . " According to the Katz Film Encyclopedia, Dallas native Peter MacNicol a " . . . [s]lightly built . . . " actor was " . . . suited for his . . . screen role as Stingo, the Southern writer who finds himself involved in a love triangle when he moves to Brooklyn, in 'Sophie's Choice' (1982)." The film was written and directed by Alan J. Pakula (born in New York " . . . of Polish-Jewish parents . . .") for California-born producer Keith Barish.
Also, in 1982, the Warner release Honkytonk Man was a movie about a " . . . Depression- era loser (played by Clint Eastwood) who drifts through the South with his young nephew, aiming eventually to get to Nashville and maybe get on the Grand Ol' Opry." Move critic Roger Ebert suggests that the movie is somewhat biographical since Eastwood a " . . . child of the Depression . . . spent his early boyhood trailing a father who pumped gas along dusty roads . . . " The only problem is that Eastwood was born in San Francisco and the dusty roads he toured as a child were on the West Coast. So why set this depressing Warner Bros. movie in the South? Eastwood also produced and directed the film. Finally, in 1982, Waltz Across Texas provided more Texas stereotypes and starred Terry Jastrow, Anne Archer, Noah Beery, Mary Kay Place, Josh Taylor, Richard Farnsworth and Ben Piazza in the story of a " . . . romance between an oil man and a fetching geologist." Ernest Day directed.
48 Hours (1982) with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy included a portrayal of a " . . . redneck country joint, the kind where urban cowboys drink out of longneck bottles and salute the Confederate flag on the wall . . . " The California native Walter Hill directed for producers Lawrence Gordon (originally from Mississippi) and New Jersey-born Joel Silver.
The year 1983 may have provided one of the few partial exceptions to the Hollywood bias against the American South with Paramount's Terms of Endearment. The film is set in a contemporary urban environment (Houston) and portrays some fairly likable characters from the South. The movie was " . . . about two remarkable women, and their relationships with each other and the men in their lives." The men are all somewhat flawed, however, (Jack Nicholson is an "animalistic . . . swinging bachelor . . . a hard-drinking, girl-chasing former astronaut . . . ", Danny Devito is somewhat ridiculous as an admirer of Shirley MacLaine, who " . . . only asks that he be allowed to gaze upon her . . . " and Debra Winger's husband played by John Lithgow is a college professor " . . . who has an eye for the coeds." It may be accurate to report that never in the history of the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry, has a movie been produced or released by a major studio/distributor that portrayed a White Anglo-Saxon male, set in a contemporary urban environment in the South as a hero, without serious character flaws. Is the Hollywood failure to provide positive movie role models for the white youth of the South a mere oversight, coincidence or natural result of the prejudices held by the specific subset of Jewish males of European heritage who control Hollywood? Terms of Endearment was written, directed and produced by New Jersey-born James L. Brooks.
Tender Mercies (1983) takes us back to the small towns in the South. The film was " . . . about the rhythms of a small Texas town, and about the struggle of a has-been country singer (played by Robert Duvall) to regain his self-respect." The movie also " . . . tells the story of the relationship between the singer and the young widow (played by Tess Harper). Australian Bruce Beresford directed for producers Horton Foote (from Texas) and California- born Robert Duvall. Also, in 1983, Stroker Ace starred Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson, Parker Stevenson and Jim Nabors in a film that features (according to Steven Scheuer) "[r]acecars, chicken suits, fat sheriffs and lame virgin jokes . . . in another of Burt Reynold's endless attempts to trade on the popularity of the 'good-ole-boy' character he established in Smokey and the Bandit." Tennessee-born Hal Needham again directed. Maybe Scheuer has it turned around, and the truth is that Hollywood, because of its own prejudices, would not allow Burt Reynolds to appear in anything very far afield from this "good-ole-boy" character.
In any case, the assault on Texas continued in 1983 with The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, a film about " . . . a Mexican cowhand who becomes the victim of prejudice in Texas . . . " Robert Young directed. Also, in 1983, Orion's Lone Wolf McQuade starred Chuck Norris as " . . . a renegade modern-day Texas Ranger who walks alone, likes to work with machine guns, deals out justice on the spot, and hardly ever says much of anything." The film was directed by New York-born Steve Carver who co-produced with Yoram Ben-Ami. Local Hero (Warner--1983) portrayed " . . . a small Scottish town and its encounter with a giant oil company . . . " intent on buying the entire fishing village and its shoreline and constructing " . . a North Sea oil-refining complex." The villainous oil company is based in Houston. Peter Reigert stars as the " . . . young executive with a Texas oil company run by a slightly batty tycoon more interested in astronomy than making money."
Scottish-born Bill Forsyth wrote and directed. British-born David Puttnam produced. Last Night at the Alamo (1983) depicts " . . . a run-down Houston saloon about to be razed to make room for a modern skyscraper, and the local denizens (are) taking a stand against the inevitable." Eagle Pennell directed. That same year, Kentucky Woman (1983) starred Cheryl Ladd down in the coal mines with rats and jeering miners." Walter Doniger directed. Murder in Coweta County (1983) starred Andy Griffith, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash in a story about an " . . . influential businessman who commits murder." The film is supposedly based on " . . . a real case in '40s Georgia." Gary Nelson directed. Finally, in 1983, The Grand Babywas about " . . . a withdrawn boy (who) . . . after his mom dies . . . must cope with a move to a hostile Southern neighborhood . . . " Henry Johnson directed.
The following year, (1984), River Rat starred Tommy Lee Jones, Martha Plimpton and Brian Dennehy in a " . . . drama about an ex-convict (Jones) who returns to his Mississippi River home only to encounter difficulty with his plucky daughter (Plimpton) and to receive threats from his underhanded parole officer (Dennehy). Tom Rickman directed. Also, in 1984, The Bostonians portrayed a Southern lawyer (Christopher Reeves) who opposes the desires of a woman to work in the suffragette movement, to vote and to live a more complete life. The film was directed by Oregon-born James Ivory for producer Ismail Merchant (from India).
TriStar's Places in the Heart (1984) starred Sally Field, Lindsay Crouse, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, John Malkovich and Danny Glover in a " . . . Depression-era tale . . . " set in 1935 Texas. The film was largely shot on location in Waxahachie, Texas. The story revolves around " . . . the efforts of a recently widowed woman (Field) to hold onto her home and two children by farming cotton. A tornado, Ku Klux Klan threats, and an extramarital affair subplot are thrown into the narrative . . . " Texas-born Robert Benton wrote and directed for producer Arlene Donovan. As noted earlier, it would seem that the Ku Klux Klan appears in a disproportionately high number of films about Texas and the South. I grew up in a small town in Southeast Texas, went to undergraduate and law school in Texas and worked in the state for a number of years as an attorney, association executive and lobbyist, but during all of that time, never came into contact with the Ku Klux Klan or any of its supposed members. Hollywood's consistent association of the Ku Klux Klan with the South thus appears on the surface to be somewhat puzzling. On the other hand, this Hollywood preoccupation makes more sense when viewed as one of the many prejudices expressed through films by their makers.
According to Steven Scheuer, A Flash of Green (1984) captured " . . . the sleepy tempo of a small Florida town . . . (in which Ed Harris accepts) a bribe from a local politician fighting environmentalists over proposed use of the local bay . . . " Victor Nunez directed. The 1984 Columbia release, A Soldier's Story, starred Howard E. Rollins, Jr., Adolph Caesar, Denzel Washington, Larry Riley and Art Evans in the story of the murder of " . . . the Negro manager of a crackerjack black Army baseball team . . . in a redneck Louisiana town in 1944 . . . during WWII . . . (and a) black Army captain, a lawyer, is sent from Washington to . . . " investigate the crime. Canadian-born Norman Jewison directed and co-produced with Patrick Palmer.
Also, in 1984, Paris, Texas was a film mostly set in desolate sections of Texas and partly in the urban canyons of Houston. It is " . . . about loss and loneliness and eccentricity (and about) . . . vast, impersonal forms of modern architecture; the cities seem as empty as the desert did in the opening sequence." The film starred Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassia Kinski, Dean Stockwell, Hunter Carson, Aurora Clement and Bernhard Wicki in a story set " . . . against sun- baked landscapes . . . (about a) man, missing for several years, (who) is reunited with his brother's family, who've been raising the son he abandoned when his wife ran off . . . (and their subsequent) search for the free-spirited woman who walked out on them." Wim Wenders (from Germany) directed. The film was actually a West German/French co-production, but was filmed in English and released in the U.S. Boggy Creek II (1984) was a " . . . fictional story of a college professor who takes three students into Southern swampland to search for the half-human Boggy Creek monster." Charles B. Pierce directed.
The general Hollywood pattern of bias against the South continues in the 1984 release Tightrope, although with a twist. The movie is similar to other Hollywood films in that it contained an anti-Southern bias. It stars " . . . Clint Eastwood as a New Orleans homicide detective . . . " He is " . . . a good but flawed cop, with a peculiar hangup: He likes to make love to women while they are handcuffed. The movie suggests this is because he feels deeply threatened by women . . . " The film is unusual, however, and breaks out of the more typical anti- Southern genre, in that it features a major star " . . . in a commercial cop picture in which the plot hinges on his ability to accept and respect a woman." Eastwood produced with Fritz Manes. Richard Tuggle directed.
The following year, Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful (1985) presented another supposed " . . . slice-of-life from Texas . . . " another movie about loneliness and despair. The movie tells the story of an elderly woman who " . . . wants to leave her miserable life in the city and pay one last visit to her childhood country home . . . " The film starred Geraldine Page, John Heard, Carlin Glynn, Richard Bradford, Rebecca De Mornay and Kevin Cooney in the story of a " . . . fiesty old lady (from Texas) . . . [h]emmed in by life with her weak-willed son and his high-strung wife . . . (who) dreams of revisiting the family home." So, she " . . . takes a bus to the town where she was raised." Texas-born Peter Masterson directed for producers Foote and Sterling Vanwagenen.
Also, in 1985, TriStar's Alamo Bay provides a rather " . . . slanted examination of a Texas community unable to cope with Vietnamese refugees who outdo the locals in the fishing industry. The refugees are saintly; the red necks are beastly . . . " French-born Louis Malle directed and co-produced with Vincent Malle. That same year, Fool for Love (1985) portrayed " . . . a cowboy who drives through the empty Texas reaches in the obligatory pickup truck with the obligatory rifle rack behind his head and the obligatory horse trailer behind . . . " in a story involving " . . . redneck passion . . . " and incest. The film is described by Roger Ebert as a " . . . classic tragedy, set there in the Texas badlands." Missouri-born Robert Altman directed for Israeli-born producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus.
Warner's 1985 release, The Color Purple portrayed " . . . the growth of a southern black family during the first half of the century." The story focuses on a " . . . black woman, who's cruelly separated from her sister and who endures a lifetime of brutalization by men before finding the courage to free herself." Ohio-born Steven Spielberg ("of Jewish descent") directed and co-produced with Los Angeles-born Frank Marshall, his wife Kathleen Kennedy and Chicago- born Quincy Jones. Also, in 1985, The New Kids (1985) was " . . . about two orphans who move to Florida, only to be picked on beyond belief by sadistic bullies." New York-born Sean Cunningham directed.
Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985) was about Pee Wee's search " . . . for his beloved stolen bicycle last seen en route to Texas." California-born Tim Burton directed for producer Robert Shapiro. In TriStar's The Legend of Billie Jean (1985) when " . . . dirt poor but scrupulous Billie Jean is unjustly implicated in a shooting, she goes on the lam (in Texas) with her kid brother and friends. Overnight, she turns into a full-fledged media event, righting wrongs, greeting throngs of adoring teens, and imitating Joan of Arc all over her backwater country while miraculously evading the police." Matthew Robbins directed for producers Rob Cohen, Jon Peters (born in California to a Cherokee Indian father and a mother of "Neapolitan descent") and Peter Guber (born in Massachusetts " . . . into an upper-middle-class Jewish family . . . "
In 1986, Hard Choices was set in the " . . . backwoods of Tennessee . . . " and presents a movie about " . . . a fifteen-year-old kid with good prospects for making something out of his life . . . (but his) . . . older brothers are into drugs and robberies . . . " and the kid gets dragged into that scene. Rick King directed. Also, in 1986, the Island Pictures release Down by Law tells the story of " . . . two people who choose to be losers and a third who has bought the American Dream . . . They meet in the same Louisiana jail cell through a series of misadventures in which two of the guys are framed and the third is severely misunderstood . . . the three prisoners escape, and the movie follows them through the swamps as they slog through every cliche' (the film's writer/director Jim Jarmusch) . . . can remember . . . " from other movies he has seen. Jarmusch was born in Ohio "of Czech-German-French-Irish extraction".
In A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986) country western singer Dolly Parton is featured as " . . . a big movie star returning to her Smoky Mountain origins for the holidays, when she encounters a mountain witch, a mean sheriff, seven runaway orphans, and a bonafide hero called Mountain Dan." New York-born Henry Winkler (of German-immigrant parents and Jewish descent) directed. That same year, the TriStar release No Mercy (1986) starred Richard Gere and Kim Basinger in the story of " . . . a Chicago detective who goes to New Orleans to investigate the murder of his partner, and ends up protecting a beautiful woman (Basinger) from the vicious kingpin who 'owns ' her." California-born Richard Pearce directed for producer D. Constantine Conte.
On Valentine's Day (1986) was based on another of Horton Foote's plays. This one takes place in Harrison, Texas, where Horace and Elizabeth Robedaux are moving up in the world in 1917, and several other townspeople--including Elizabeth's wastrel brother and the town eccentric . . . are losing their social . . . " footing. Ken Harrison directed. Also, in 1986, Resting Place starred John Lithgow, Richard Bradford and Morgan Freeman in a " . . . drama about a deceased black Vietnam War hero whose family is barred from burying his body in an all-white cemetery in the South." Indiana-born John Korty directed.
That same year, (1986), the DeLaurentiis release Crimes of the Heart portrayed three " . . . attractive, eccentric Southern sisters (who) are reunited by their grandfather's failing health and a shooting incident involving the youngest . . . " Australian Bruce Bereford directed for producers Freddie Fields (born in New York) and Burt Sugarman. Also, in 1986, Getting Even (aka Hostage: Dallas) was about " . . . an enterprising Texan who pinches a deadly chemical from the Commies in Afghanistan for Uncle Sam, only to have a rotten U.S. chemical king steal the poison gas for his own monetary purposes." Dwight H. Little directed.
Also, in 1986, As Summers Die " . . . plays like a seamy B movie about Southern decadence from the fifties . . . " and deals with " . . . a black woman's fight to hang onto her land." Jean-Claude Tramont directed. The 1986 Warner's release True Stories starred David Byrne, Swoosie Kurtz and Spalding Gray, among others, in what Steven Scheuer calls a " . . . condescending New Yorky view of small-town life in a Texas community." Scottish-born David Byrne directed for producers Edward Pressman (originally from New York) and Gary Kurfirst.
The 1986 De Laurentiis release Maximum Overdrive, starred Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington and Yeardley Smith in Stephen King's " . . . brutal hodgepodge of attacks by killer machines and hysterical attempts by a group of rednecks to avoid being splattered on the grilles of eighteen-wheelers . . . in a corner of North Carolina . . . " Stephen King (born in Maine) wrote and directed for producer Martha Schumacher. Also, in 1986, The Supernaturals starred Maxwell Caulfield, Michelle Nichols and Talia Balsam in the story of a " . . . modern-day bivouac (during which) . . . the ghosts of Confederate soldiers come back to avenge themselves on visiting Yankees in order to settle a century-old score." Armand Mastroianni directed. The independently produced film Belizaire, The Cajun (1986) is described by Steven Scheuer as a " . . . thick, atmospheric chunk of Cajun folklore . . . " a movie about " . . . a cagey Cajun who defends himself and the rights of his people against their Louisiana neighbors." Glen Pitre directed.
The following year, (1987), Guilty of Innocence: The Lenell Geter Story (1987) was about an " . . . up-and-coming Texan (who is) railroaded on an armed robbery charge." The film is purportedly based " . . . on the real-life 1982 Dallas case of an engineer wrongly accused and sentenced to life imprisonment . . . " Chicago-born Richard T. Heffron directed. Also, in 1987,Orion's House of Games included a scene in which a psychiatrist specializing in addictive behavior helps a gambler to " . . . fleece a (stereotypical) high-roller Texan in a big-stakes poker game . . . " Chicago-born Jewish writer/director David Mamet wrote and directed for producer Michael Hausman. That same year, Roses Are for the Rich (1987) portrayed an " . . . Appalachian girl who vows to settle a score with . . . the man she accuses of killing her husband and destroying her family." Michael Miller directed.
Tri-Star's 1987 release Extreme Prejudice featured Nick Nolte as a " . . . Texas Ranger . . . (who) wears a mean . . . squint as he battles seedy drug trafficker (Powers Boothe) . . . " California-born Walter Hill directed for producer Buzz Feitshans. This film represents one of the more recent of a long line of Hollywood produced movies relating to the theme that there is a great deal of "extreme prejudice" in the South (specifically in Texas). However, the real "extreme prejudice" can be seen in the minds of the people who have created this long line of anti-Southern films.
Square Dance (1987) starred Jane Alexander, Jason Robards, Jr., Winona Ryder (Horowitz) and Rob Lowe in the story of " . . . an ugly duckling (who) blossoms into woman- hood without the support of her irresponsible mother and manages to retain her purity of spirit despite the tawdriness of her surroundings . . . " in rural Texas Canadian-born Daniel Petrie produced and directed. The 1987 Kings Road release The Big Easy included portrayals of three Southern males as a " . . . dishonest cop . . . a defense attorney (who talks with) . . . a shrill Cajun shriek . . . (and) a slick . . . police captain . . . " who cannot do the right thing. New York-born Jim McBride directed for producer Stephen Friedman.
TriStar's Angel Heart (1987) was about " . . . an ex-lounge singer . . . " whose search for a missing debtor " . . . takes him to Louisiana voodoo country where he discovers some unsettling truths about his client, his quarry, and ultimately himself . . . " The film was written and directed by British-born Alan Parker for producers Alan Marshall (born in London) and New York-born Elliott Kastner. Also, in 1987, Hunter's Blood was about some " . . . urbanites (who) got to the woods (in Arkansas) for rest and relaxation and instead encounter crazed hillbillies who don't cotton to outsiders." Robert C. Hughes directed. A Special Friendship (1987) starred Tracy Pollan, Akousa Busia, LeVar Burton and Josepf Sommer in a " . . . Civil War drama about a bond between a Virginia plantation owner's daughter . . . and her intellectual slave . . . " Georgia-born Fielder Cook directed.
In A Gathering of Old Men (1987) after " . . . the shooting of a racist Cajun farmer, Richard Widmark's sheriff expects a lynch mob, but it doesn't turn out that way. Louis Gossett, Jr. leads a band of prideful old blacks in this adaptation of Ernest Gaines' novel." German-born Volker Schlondorff directed. A film like this raises the question as to how many Cajun's were involved in the production. Also, is it likely today that a Louisiana Cajun filmmaker would be allowed to make a Hollywood film about a racist Jew? Such questions, point to the problem with the U.S. film industry today. Some people, like the Louisiana Cajuns, are the consistent targets of negative and stereotypical portrayals in Hollywood films, while others (specifically, the Jewish males of European heritage who control Hollywood) escape relatively unscathed. At least there are few, if any non-Jewish Hollywood outsiders, portraying Jews in U.S. films in a negative manner. Such consistent prejudice and discrimination in movies may inevitably lead to bitter hatreds in real life.
In 1988, Talk Radio was inspired by " . . . the murder of Alan Berg . . . a Denver talk radio host who was murdered on June 18, 1984 . . . [w]hen the members of a lunatic right-wing group gunned him down in the driveway of his home . . . " In the movie the talk show host " . . . works in a studio in a Texas high-rise . . . " Unfortunately, the New York-born Oliver Stone directed, and his choice of Texas for this movie (as opposed to all the other states that could have been chosen) suggests that the " . . . lunatic (and murderous) right-wing group . . . " were from that state; another example of the Hollywood choices that consistently portray people and places in the American South in a negative manner. Also, in 1988, D.O.A. starred Dennis Quaid as a University of Texas at Austin English professor who " . . . learns he has been poisoned, and has twenty-four hours to live--twenty-four hours to find his killer." He is aided in his quest by the Meg Ryan character who is rather unbelievably portrayed as a college freshman. This very confusing movie offers, bad acting and two killers with numerous and overlapping victims but very slight motivation on the part of each. The movie supposedly " . . . plays sly variations on the theme of 'publish or perish.'" But, this movie asks its viewers to believer that college professors, even in the South, are under so much pressure to publish that they would actually kill three people just to steal a student's unpublished novel. The film was directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel and produced by Ian Sander and Laura Ziskin.
The 1988 Warner Bros. release Bird included a portrayal of the time Charlie Parker's band " . . . toured the South with a band including Red Rodney, a white sideman who was passed off as "Albino Red" because integrated bands were forbidden." San Francisco-born Clint Eastwood produced and directed. I have no argument with the truth of this specific portrayal. I simply ask, where are the positive portrayals of the South in American movies? It appears that the U.S. motion industry is primarily populated with people who suffer from a case of severe regional prejudice. Also, in 1988, Orion's Mississippi Burning takes place in and around a " . . . small Southern city . . . (in) rural Mississippi . . . " in 1964 and is allegedly " . . . based on a true story . . . " although a story involving the same basic facts can clearly be portrayed in a number of different ways.
As told in the film, the story involves " . . . the disappearance of . . . three young civil rights workers who were part of a voter registration drive in Mississippi. When their murdered bodies were finally discovered, the corpses were irrefutable testimony against the officials who had complained that the whole case was a publicity stunt, dreamed up by Northern liberals and outside agitators . . . " The movie is also about the efforts of two FBI men to lead an investigation into the disappearances." One of the keys to solving the case turns out to be a southern " . . . woman who had been raised and trained and beaten into accepting her man as her master, and who finally rejects that role simply because with her own eyes she can see that it's wrong to treat black people the way her husband does . . . .she represents a generation that finally said, hey, what's going on here is simply not fair." In addition, to saying: "Hey, what's going on here is simply not fair . . . " about prejudice and discrimination in the South, it is time the current generation said the same thing about the prejudice and discrimination ongoing in the U.S. film industry. Mississippi Burning was directed by London-born Alan Parker and produced by Frederick Zollo and Robert F. Colesberry.
The Cannon 1988 release, Shy People is about a " . . . sophisticated Manhattan magazine writer, who convinces her bosses at Cosmopolitan to let her write about her family roots . . . Barbara Hershey plays (Jill) Clayburgh's long-lost distant cousin, who lives in isolation in a crumbling, mossy home in the heart of the (Louisiana) bayou. The movie is essentially about the differences between these women, about family blood ties (and) . . . suggests that family ties are the most important bonds in the world . . . " another favored Hollywood theme. The film was directed by Russian-born Andrei Konchalovsky and produced by the Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus.
The following year, the 1989 Warner/Touchstone release Blaze told the story of the relationship between a " . . . boozy, wheeler-dealer governor of Louisiana . . . and . . . (a) hillbilly girl who became a famous stripper . . . " The governor is also presented as a pragmatist " . . . who contributed to the progress . . . " of a " . . . segregated South . . . " by favoring the "votin' rights bill" for blacks. The film was directed by California-born Ron Shelton for producers Gil Friesen and Dale Pollock. Also, in 1989, the Columbia/TriStar release Steel Magnolias " . . . takes place down in Louisiana during . . . the 1980s and involves a tightly knit group of women . . . " who gossip. " These six women are the steel magnolias of the title . . . " They are portrayed as "dippy . . . Southern Belles . . . " The film was directed by New York-born Herbert Ross for producer Ray Stark.
In 1989, Miss Firecracker starred Holly Hunter, Mary Steenburgen and Tim Robbins suggesting that one of the most important events in the lives of two Mississippi cousins is their participation in the Yazoo City, Mississippi Fourth of July beauty pageant. Ms. Hunter's character " . . . works as a fish-gutter at the local catfish packing plant." The film ultimately suggests that " . . . all beauty contests are about the need to be loved, and . . . how silly a beauty contest can seem if somebody really loves you." Thomas Schlamme directed for producer Fred Berner. That same year, Columbia/TriStar's Glory (1989) told the story of " . . . the 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, made up of black soldiers . . . " which fought in the U.S. Civil War against the Confederates. Edward Zwick (originally from Illinois) directed for New York-born producer Freddie Fields.
The 1989 Warner release, Driving Miss Daisy told the story of a quarter-century relationship between " . . . a proud old Southern lady . . . " (Jessica Tandy) and her black chauffeur (Morgan Freeman). Although Miss Daisy " . . . prides herself on being a Southern Jewish liberal, she is not always very quick to see the connection between such things as an attack on her local synagogue and the Klan's attacks on black churches." At one point in the movie Daisy says: "Things have changed," referring " . . . to race relations in the South, and Morgan Freeman replies " . . . that they have not changed all that much." Here again we have another Hollywood portrayal of race relations in the South, drawing similarities between the black and Jewish struggles against racist whites. It would actually be more realistic to produce and release a major studio motion picture showing how the Hollywood insiders, (a small group of Jewish males of a European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious) have arbitrarily denied blacks, Latinos, women and all other non-Hollywood insiders from making a fair living in the film industry for nearly 100 years? That's discrimination and it is just as prevalent in contemporary Hollywood as it always has.
Daisy was " . . . directed by Bruce Beresford, an Australian whose sensibilities (according to Ebert) seem curiously in tune with the American South." It would be more accurate to say that Beresford's sensibilities about the American South are more in tune with the stereotypical views of the Hollywood insiders who decide which movies are going to be produced and released to national audiences. The film was produced by Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck.
Also, in 1989, the film sex, lies, and videotape was set " . . . in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and it tells the story of four people in their early thirties whose sex lives are seriously confused." The film was written and directed by Steve Soderbergh (born in Atlanta and raised in Louisiana) for producers Robert Newmeyer and John Hardy. That same year, the Universal release Fletch Lives (1989) starred Chevy Chase as " . . . a wisecracking (investigative) newspaper reporter . . . " from Los Angeles, and portrays a " . . . crumbling Southern mansion, a genial small-town lawyer, a TV evangelist, a jailhouse bully, a smart black FBI man who pretends to be stupid, a sexy young real estate woman, an evil industrial polluter . . . a cynical newspaper editor . . . a seductive Southern belle and a dozen Ku Klux Klansmen . . . " all set in the South. Wisconsin-born Michael Ritchie directed for the producer group identified as Douglas/Griesman.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Warner--1989) includes a portrayal by Randy Quaid of " . . . a hillbilly cousin (with a strong Southern accent) who seems to have traveled in his camper directly from Dogpatch." Jeremiah S. Chechik directed for producers John Hughes (born in Michigan) and Tom Jacobson. That same year, (1989), the Island Pictures release Crusoe took place " . . . in the slave-trading days of the 19th century, when a Southern aristocrat in need of money (Aidan Quinn) sets off on a risky venture to bring back slaves from Africa." The question raised here is why is the Crusoe of this film portrayed as a "Southern aristocrat". Isn't it true that many slave traders of the day were other than men from the South, or does this film again, simply reflect a prejudice held by many in the Hollywood film community? Philadelphia-born Caleb Deschanel (French father and Quaker mother) directed for producer Andrew Braunsberg.
As the '90's decade opened, Dances With Wolves (1990) contained a brief scene in which a fat, ugly white Anglo-Saxon Southern male was portrayed as the single most arrogant, obnoxious jerk in the picture. Again, such portrayals are no so offensive standing alone. But, when considered as part of the larger body of Hollywood films, and the consistency of Hollywood's negative and stereotypical portrayals of people from the South is revealed, it is obvious that such characterizations are not incidental. California-born Kevin Costner directed and co-produced with Jim Wilson. Also, in 1990, Mystery Train was another film that painted a rather depressing view of the South, this time Memphis, Tennessee. The story revolves around two teen-age Japanese tourists (an Elvis fan and a Carl Perkins fan) and the various odd-ball characters they meet in their tour of rock 'n' roll shrines and the fleabag hotel in which they stay. Ohio-born Jim Jarmusch wrote and directed for producer Jim Stark.
The lead role in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990) was played by Michael Rooker an actor from Jasper, Alabama. John McNaughton directed and co-produced with Lisa Dedmond and Steven A. Jones. Also, in 1990, Texasville starred Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd and Annie Potts in a film set in the same small, dusty, dreary Texas town which served as the location for The Last Picture Show, the " . . . small Texas town where everybody knows everybody, and they all seem to be having affairs, and everybody knows all about it." The people in this town all seem to suffer from a " . . . general aimlessness . . . (and) they have given up having any dreams or expectations . . . now under these wide Texas skies people lower their eyes to smaller concerns and lives without vision . . . " New York-born Peter Bogdanovich wrote and directed and co-produced with Barry Spikings.
The following year, (1991) The Five Heartbeats provided a scene " . . . showing racial prejudice against the group (they're touring the South when they're stopped by racist state troopers), and (according to Roger Ebert) " . . . it seems a little tacked on, as if the only purpose of the Southern trip was to justify the scene . . . " Which is precisely one of the points being made in this section of the book, (i.e., many scenes are put into movies to communicate similar negative portrayals or positive portrayals of the filmmaker's choosing). Chicago-born Robert Townsend directed for producer Loretha C. Jones. Also, in 1991, The Butcher's Wife (1991) portrays Demi Moore as " . . . a simple, soft-spoken women with a Southern accent . . . " (Why can't Southern women be portrayed as sophisticated?) In any case, the film was directed by Terry Hughes and produced by Wallis Nicita and Lauren Lloyd. (Screenplay by Ezra Litwak and Marjorie Schwartz). The 1991 film Mississippi Masala portrays the " . . . saga of an Indian family expelled by Uganda's Idi Amin, whose members discover in America's South that racial bias has no boundaries." Mira Nair (born in India) directed the film. She co-produced with Michael Nozik.
As noted earlier Slacker (1991) in addition to being a rare exception to the homogeneous film (after all it is an independent production) also provides another negative portrayal of the people in a Southern city, Austin, Texas. The film contains scenes involving a hit-and-run driver who kills his mother, a thief, " . . . a man who 'knows' that one of the moon astronauts saw an alien spacecraft . . . a woman who owns a vial containing the results of an intimate medical procedure carried out on Madonna; and various folk singers, strollers, diners, sleepers, paranoids, do-gooders, quarreling couples, friends, lovers, children, and conspiracy theorists." Again, it is not offensive that some or all of these characters are set in a Southern city, only that this negative portrayal joins a long list of similar negative portrayals creating a clear pattern of bias in the movies either produced or released by the Hollywood film community. It is not relevant that there may in fact be real people like the ones portrayed. There are also real people in the South that would constitute a more positive portrayal. The problem is that the moviegoing audience rarely gets to see those and such constant brain-washing about the nature of the people who live in a particular region of the country, cannot help but influence the attitudes of people in other parts of the country and the world toward those same people. This film was written and directed by Richard Linklater.
Also, in 1991, the evil character played by Robert De Niro in the 1991 version of Cape Fear talked with a heavy Southern accent. The film was directed by British-born J. Lee- Thompson for producer Sy Bartlett (born Sacha Baraniev in Russia) . And, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (procured by Merchant Ivory, released by Angelika Films--1991) provides a depressing portrayal of a retired cafe owner who sells moonshine to the " . . . local backwoods folk . . . " and engages in the healing arts. The film offers a " . . . Venessa Redgrave . . . impersonation of a love-starved rural moonshiner . . . " The story is set " . . . in the Depression, the action unwinds in a desperately poor and isolated Southern hamlet, where the men have been beaten into silent passivity by their poor-paying, numbing mill jobs and where the women are flummoxed by boredom. Stimulation is so rare that a riverside revival meeting is interrupted so all involved can watch a train pass by." Simon Callow directed for producer Ismail Merchant (born in India).
Thelma & Louise (MGM-Pathe Entertainment/1991) is about " . . . two pistol-packing, formerly respectable Arkansas women on the lam from husbands, lovers, and the law---men in general . . . " British-born Ridley Scott directed and co-produced with Mimi Polk. Also, in 1991, Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken (Walt Disney Pictures) was " . . . a Depression-era story of a poor, Southern lass . . . the stubborn orphaned ward of her dirt-poor Georgia aunt . . . (who) runs away after her aunt threatens her with the state orphanage . . . (and she) achieves fame and fortune riding the diving horse at New Jersey's Atlantic City Steel Pier, despite being blinded in a diving accident . . . "
Doc Hollywood (1991) starred Michael J. Fox as " . . . a recent medical school graduate on his way from Washington to Los Angeles . . . (when) . . . his car plows through the fence of the local judge . . . " in a make believe town, Grady, South Carolina, portrayed as the "Squash Capitol of the South". The movie does not go as far as most Hollywood movies in providing negative portrayals of Southerners but still presents a rather stereotypical picture of a small town in the South. As pointed out in The Hollywood Reporter, "Doc Hollywood" is about " . . . a city slicker M.D. getting the lowdown and his comeuppance from a collection of colorful country folk . . . a bunch of small-town eccentrics . . . " The Southern town is portrayed " . . . with drooping Southern flora and weathered store fronts . . . " Scottish-born Michael Caton-Jones directed for producers Susan Solt and Deborah D. Johnson.
Necessary Roughness (1991) was about a Texas college football team (the Texas state Armadillos) that was " . . . last year's national college football champions before an investigation uncovered widespread corruption in the school's athletic program." New York-born Stan Dragoti directed for producers Mace Neufeld (also, originally from New York) and Robert Rehme. In the 1991 release Rambling Rose (starring Robert Duvall, Diane Ladd, Laura Dern and Lukas Haas) "[c]omfortably eccentric Southerners learn from life and each other in this familiar-sounding, moral-friendly Depression Era tale of a middle class family and their sexually irrepressible housekeeper." It appears that Hollywood cannot provide a movie about people in the South without portraying some of them as eccentric, depressing, poor, crude or dim-witted or all of the above. Connecticut-born Martha Coolidge directed this film for producer Renny Harlin (born in Finland).
The Long Walk Home (1991) starred Sissy Spacek and Whoppi Goldberg in a movie about " . . . a critical turning point in American history . . . " the time in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 that " . . . a black woman named Rosa Parks " . . . refused to stand up in the back of the segregated bus when there was an empty seat in the front." Movie critic Roger Ebert says that in " . . . a way, this movie takes up where 'Driving Miss Daisy' leaves off. Both are about affluent white southern women who pride themselves on their humanitarian impulses, but who are brought to a greater understanding of racial discrimination--gently, tactfully, and firmly--by their black employees." Of course, the filmmakers are hoping that the movie will bring the audience to a "greater understanding of racial discrimination--gently, tactfully, and firmly". This movie appears to be part of a broader pattern of choices regarding what movies are made and where they are set with respect to depicting racial discrimination against blacks in the U.S. It is quite fair to point out that the South is not the only place where racial discrimination has and continues to be directed against African-Americans. For example, racial discrimination against African-Americans and others has been occurring for nearly 100 years and continues to occur in the Hollywood- based U.S. film industry. Thus, such films turn out to be one cultural group lecturing another when neither is perfect. California-born Richard Pearce directed The Long Walk Home for producers Howard W. Koch, Jr., and David Bell.
Finally, in 1991, the Columbia Pictures release Prince of Tides at least balances its portrayal of another dysfunctional Southern family with the story of one son (played by Nick Nolte) who survives, grows and adjusts (with the help of a Jewish psychiatrist played by Barbra Streisand). The father of the family from South Carolina was " . . . a violent alcoholic who abused . . . " the mother and the children. The mother eventually traded " . . . up to a local rich man whose cruelty was more refined." There was even a hint, early in the movie, that the mother may be anti-Semitic based on the tone of her voice when she tells the Nolte character that his sister is being treated by a " . . . psychiatrist, some Jewish woman from New York . . . " The movie also makes numerous references to an overly broad generalization about the South, called "the Southern Way", a supposed regional behavior pattern suggesting that people from the South are taught to avoid conflict in conversation by either changing the topic or making a joke. New York-born Jewish actress/director Barbra Streisand directed and co-produced with Andrew Karsch.
In 1992, film critic Roger Ebert proclaims that although My Cousin Vinny (starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei) is " . . . set in the South (Alabama) and has an early shot of a sign that says 'Free Horse Manure,' this is not another one of your Dixie-bashing movies. The judge . . . and prosecutor . . . are civilized men who aren't trying to railroad anybody." Apparently, "Dixie-bashing" in Hollywood movies is so obvious that when a film set in the South is not blatantly anti-Southern even a Chicago movie critic like Roger Ebert can recognize it. Although, it does not appear that Roger has otherwise complained in his reviews of all of the other movies that were clearly "Dixie-bashing" films. The truth is that My Cousin Vinny did provide another negative and stereotypical portrayal of a poor, small Southern town, along with some prejudiced inhabitants. The film was directed by Jonathan Lynn for producers Dale Launer and Paul Schiff.
Also, in 1992, portions of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes took place " . . . .in the town of Whistle Stop, Georgia . . . (as Roger Ebert says) one of those Southern towns were decent folks get along fine with the Negroes, but the racist rednecks are forever driving up in their pickups and waving shotguns around and causing trouble." The movie shows an incident during which the " . . . local Klansmen get riled . . . (over a black man being served at the cafe), although the movie " . . . is really about nonconformity in an intolerant society. It's pretty clear that Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) is a lesbian, and fairly clear that she and Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker) are a couple, although (again according to Ebert) given the mores of the South at the time a lot goes unspoken, and we are never quite sure how clear things are to Ruth. It is also clear that they consider Sipsey and George better company than most of the white folks in town, and that, by deciding for themselves who they are and how they will lead their lives, Idgie and Ruth are a threat to the hidebound locals." New York-born Jon Avnet directed and co-produced the film with Jordan Kerner.
The Tri-Star release City of Joy (1992) is one of just a few Hollywood films that provides any portrayal of a contemporary Southern urban environment and it happens to be somewhat negative, after all, the film stars Patrick Swayze as a Houston surgeon " . . . [f]leeing from the rigors of life . . . " there. Swayze's character (positively portrayed) then becomes " . . . involved with some of India's " . . . most deprived citizens . . . " in the " . . . dense, mysterious . . . " city of Calcutta. London-born Roland Joffe directed and co-produced with Jake Eberts. That same year, (1992) Daughters of the Dust told the story of a family of African-Americans who have lived for many years on a Southern offshore island, and of how they come together one day in 1902 to celebrate their ancestors before some of them leave for the North." Watching Hollywood movies over the years, might convince any reasonable person that few if any positive things have occurred in the American South throughout its history. Daughters of the Dust was directed by Julie Dash, who co-produced with Arthur Jafa.
Also, in 1992, Storyville provides another " . . . lurid example of the genre of Southern gothic excess, a story of feckless youths and crooked politicians and dangerously seductive women and secrets that creep down through the generations with their tails between their legs." Mark Frost directed for producers David Roe and New York-born Edward R. Pressman. Straight Talk (1992) starred Dolly Parton as " . . . a Southern woman with a bumpy marital record . . . (who) gets into her car and heads north to the big city of Chicago . . . (where) . . . she (applies for job at a radio station and) is mistaken for the newly hired advice personality, put on the air, and is an instant hit." This film is another example of the rather prejudicial Hollywood filmmaker notion that people from the South can't find success and happiness unless they leave. Barnet Kellman directed for producers Robert Chartoff (New York-born) and Fred Berner.
One False Move (1992) was about " . . . three criminals on the run from Los Angeles to Arkansas . . . " One of the criminals is portrayed as a " . . . violent, insecure redneck type . . . " The group is headed for " . . . the small Arkansas town where (he) . . . was born and raised." The local lawman is portrayed as a " . . . naive greenhorn . . . " whose aspirations " . . . to make the big time in L.A . . . .someday . . . " are joked about by the Los Angeles detectives in the movie. Carl Franklin directed for producers Jesse Beaton and Ben Myron. Also, in 1992, Pure Country (Warner Bros.) provided Hollywood with another opportunity to portray a " . . . Texas ranch gal . . . " (Isabel Glasser) and " . . . Texas locations . . . " the way such people and places are perceived and commonly portrayed by Hollywood filmmakers, that is as cowgirls and cowboys in cow country, while films portraying the more urban environments of three of the nation's ten largest cities (Houston, Dallas and San Antonio) are seldom portrayed positively in a contemporary story.
In 1993, the independently produced, Passion Fish focuses on a woman (May-Alice, played by Mary McDonnell) who's " . . . life was essentially going nowhere before her accident. She's in a dead-end career, her marriage has ended, and she's filled with deep discontent. Then she is paralyzed in an accident, and goes back home to (the rural) Louisiana (bayou country) to recover, filled with resentment . . . She has enough money to hire a full-time companion . . . " and ultimately hires " . . . Chantell, a black woman played by Alfre Woodard . . . " The balance of the movie is about the struggle for power in the relationship between these two main characters, plus " . . . comic portraits of May-Alice's many visitors . . . " New York-born John Sayles wrote and directed for producers Sarah Green and Maggie Renzi.
In another Hollywood portrayal of Texas and Texans (Paramount's 1993 release Flesh and Bone) Arlis, played by Dennis Quaid, is a solitary guy who lives in a motel room and traverses the endless highways (across the flat Texas prairie) tending to vending machines. Before long, Kay (Meg Ryan) . . . stumbles into his life . . . " Then " . . . the evil father, Roy (James Caan), pops up . . . " and his " . . . presence eventually proves fatally disruptive." As Variety's Todd McCarthy states, Meg Ryan's character comes off as a " . . . boisterous little Texas tart . . . " More negative and stereotypical portrayals of Texas and Texans, appear in the 1993 Warner Bros. release A Perfect World. The film tells the story of " . . . Butch Hayes (played by Kevin Costner), a lifelong loser toughened up by many years in the pen . . . Butch and his nasty partner Terry (Keith Szarabajka) break out of the joint on Halloween night 1963, commandeer a car and, after briefly terrorizing a family, make off with 7-year old Phillip Perry (T.J. Lowther) as a hostage. Quickly taking up the chase . . . across the vast, sunbaked Texas landscape . . . is Texas Ranger Red Garnett (San Francisco-born Clint Eastwood, who also directed) . . . " In the meantime, " . . . little Phillip begins admiring his abductor for his cool . . . take-charge ways and his friendly, liberating words of encouragement, things he never hears from his severe, Jehovah's Witnesses mom."
The 1993 Columbia release Geronimo--An American Legend, " . . . relates the final stages of the U.S. government's subjugation of the West's native population . . . " The great Indian warrior is portrayed as " . . . a complex figure who surrenders himself to the white man, only to rise up in anger after soldiers murder an Indian ghost dancer in the middle of a ritual. The original script, written by John Milius . . . " indicated that the main reason Geronimo left the reservation was that he hated being a farmer." Hollywood thus, appears to have recently made a start in utilizing more balanced portrayals of Indians, but in effect, has merely substituted, the continued negative and stereotypical of another group, the white Anglo Saxon male and more specifically, Texans and others from the American South. The worst of the worst bad guys in this movie are portrayed as Texans. Robert Duvall, for example, gratuitously refers to Texans at one point as " . . . the lowest form of human life." If a line of dialogue in a movie said African-Americans, Latinos, women, Jews, gays or lesbians were the "lowest form of human life", such a comment would create justifiable outrage among the offended populations. This comment went beyond what is acceptable for any identifiable group and it was clearly not important in telling the movie's story. Maybe it was an insider's joke since Duvall has often played Texans in the past. Under any circumstances, it was totally uncalled for. Incredibly, one reviewer of the film "Geronimo" even went so far as to describe it as " . . . politically correct . . . " Politically correct, in this instance, means that it is permissible to protect the images of some people (e.g., the American Indians) while simultaneously seeking to defame other people (e.g., Texans) as this movie does with its vicious-anti-Texan defamation. Chicago-born Walter Hill produced and directed the screenplay by Milius and Larry Gross. In addition to Duvall, the other stars include Jason Patric, Gene Hackman, Wes Studi, Matt Damon, Rodney A. Grant and Kevin Tighe.
In the Warner Bros. release, Sommersby (1993), a post-Civil War story is set in the South and portrays an entire town full of Southern bigots one of whom refuses to live near African- Americans (although that is not the word she used) and others who bitterly complain because the film's leading character (played by Richard Gere) offers to allow blacks to own property. The film also includes a Ku Klux Klan cross-burning, racial hatreds based on Christian religious beliefs and a white racist on the witness stand in a courtroom overseen by a black judge (James Earl Jones). The townspeople are also portrayed as being so stupid as to allow a man who some believe to be an imposter to talk them into giving him all of their remaining valuable treasures so he can ride off into the sunset (supposedly to buy tobacco seeds). Fortunately, for them he does return. British- born Jon Amiel directed for producers Arnon Milchan (born in Israel) and Steven Reuther.
The 1993 film Love Field is about " . . . a Dallas housewife who worships Jacqueline Kennedy, and is stuck in a drab marriage (according to Hollywood there is no other kind in the South) with a husband whose idea of communication is to ask her to get him another beer out of the icebox." The " . . . chattery Southern belle . . . acts out her devotion to the late President by hoping a Greyhound . . . and heading for his funeral. Her journey is presented as an act of proto- feminist defiance against her domineering, white-trash (Texan) husband. The film was directed by Paris-born Jonathan Kaplan for producers Sarah Pillsbury (from New York) and Midge Sanford. Also, in 1993, Passenger 57 starred Wesley Snipes in an action/thriller movie in which he fights " . . . both terrorists and pigheaded bureaucrats . . . " In addition, the film includes a portrayal of " . . . a dim Southern sheriff named Biggs (as in bigot) . . . " This Warner Bros. release was directed by Kevin Hooks for producers Lee Rich, Dan Paulson and Dylan Sellers.
Rich in Love (1993) is another movie containing regional stereotypes. Movie critic Roger Ebert uses this film to illustrate his belief that " . . . one of the reasons we go to the movies (is) . . . to see people who are crazier than we." Ebert says " . . . these characters live to a different rhythm than people in the North . . . " They are " . . . colorful and irreverent and eccentric and romantic, and they gab a lot about life and fate." The central family in the movie " . . . lives in an elegant (and stereotypical) old Southern mansion . . . " Australian Bruce Beresford again directed for producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck of Los Angeles. Also, in 1993, The Firm portrays a Memphis, Tennessee law firm, most of whose clients " . . . are thieves, scoundrels, and money-launderers . . . " In addition, the firm's partners act " . . . as bagmen shipping the money to offshore banks." Sydney Pollack (who, as noted earlier, was born in Indiana, the " . . . son of first-generation Russian-Jewish Americans . . . ") directed for producers Scott Rudin (born in New York) and John Davis.
Also, in 1993, Stephen Sommers version of The Adventures of Huck Finn portrays an escaping slave ("Jim") in the South who " . . . guides Huck out of the thickets of prejudice and sets him on the road to tolerance and decency . . . " In the movie " . . . Jim . . . explains . . . to (Huck and the audience) . . . that black people have the same feelings as everyone else, and are deserving of his respect." Along the way, the film, once again, portrays a whole slew of Southerners as ignorant, racist, hicks (including Huck's alcoholic and abusive father). Sommers wrote and directed for producer Laurence Mark. That same year, (1993), the Universal release Hard Target, (starring Jean-Claude Van Damme), told the story of " . . . a sadistic band of hunters, headed by amoral chief Fouchon . . . and his deputy . . . who operate a profitable 'safari game' in which the prey are homeless combat veterans (in urban New Orleans)." The film was directed by John Woo of Hong Kong for producers James Jacks and Sean Daniel.
In 1994, director Tim Burton's film Ed Wood (Touchstone Pictures) included a brief negative and stereotypical portrayal of a Southern man and his son. The man owns a meat packing plant and becomes a financial backer for one of Ed Wood's film. As noted earlier, director Burton was born in California. That same year, Paramount finally gave the American South a true hero, but he turns out to be somewhat dim-witted and quite unbelievable. Forrest Gump offered a wonderful story about a fairly common Hollywood theme (i.e., the struggles of a person who is "different"). The film is enhanced by beautiful cinematography as it tells the story of how a white Anglo-Saxon male from Alabama with an I.Q. of 75 deals with the Vietnam war, hippies, drugs, Watergate, integration and Elvis. The picture otherwise portrays various characters from the South as ignorant jerks, racists, child molesters, exploiters of college athletes and red neck bullies, with a small bit about the Ku Klux Klan thrown in for good measure. Chicago-born Robert Zemeckis directed.
The 1994 Universal release Reality Bites tells the story of " . . . four recent Texas college grads . . . " who are aimless. Danny DeVito and Michael Shamberg produced. Ben Stiller director. The screenplay was written by Hellen Childress. The film stared Winona Ryder (Horowitz), Ethan Hawke, Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Steven Zahn and Swoosie Kurtz. The 1994 summer offering of Maverick starring Mel Gibson, James Garner and Jodie Foster offered another slight of the South. The movie shows the Foster character saying she is from Mobile, Alabama, but when pressed to name people there she knows, she claims she's tried so hard to forget them all. New York-born Richard Donner directed. Also, the 1994 Sylvester Stallone/Sharon Stone film The Specialist provides another routine portrayal of the southern city of Miami as a major center for the illegal trafficking of drugs. The Hollywood Pictures 1994 release Tombstone starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer and Sam Elliott not only provides " . . . over 100 exiled Texas outlaws (who supposedly) banded together (following the Civil War) to form . . . " a "ruthless gang" referred to by film narrator Robert Mitchum as "the earliest example of organized crime in America" as the bad guys, the film also provides a cartoon-like caricature of a Southern gentleman in Kilmer's portrayal of the sickly Doc Holiday. Finally, Hollywood Pictures' 1994 release Quiz Show (directed by California native Robert Redford) provided another stereotypical and negative portrayal of a U.S. Congressman from the South.
The 1994 Universal release The War presented another poor family from the South, this one from " . . . Mississippi during the summer of 1970 . . . " The actual " . . . story focuses on a poor family whose patriarch (Kevin Costner) has returned from Vietnam bearing emotional scars that make it difficult for him to hold a job." New York-born Jon Avnet directed and produced with Jordan Kerner. Kathy McWorter wrote the screenplay. Other stars included Elijah Wood, Mare Winingham, Lexi Randall, Christine Baranski and Raynor Scheine.
The 1994 20th Century-Fox release Nell is the story of a young woman (played by Jodie Foster) who was " . . . left alone in a remote lakeside cabin (in the North Carolina backwoods) when her mother dies." The girl " . . . speaks in a unique way due to her mother's stroke-induced speech impediments . . . " The " . . . medical authorities at Charlotte University want to hospitalize this prize specimen for extended observation and treatment . . . " but " . . . an independent minded doctor Jerome Lovell (Neeson) manages to win a stay of three months . . . " British-born Michael Apted directed for producers Renee Missel and Jodie Foster. The screenplay was written by William Nicholson and Mark Handley. Other stars included Natasha Richardson, Richard Libertini, Nick Searcy, Robin Mullins, Jeremy Davis and O'Neal Compton. As can be seen from the above fairly comprehensive overview of Hollywood movies about the American South, the Hollywood movie southern stereotype typically involves "tyrannical" fathers and uncles, "eccentric" mothers, "demented" hillbillies, moonshiners, corrupt sheriffs and racist rednecks. Specific Texas stereotypes involve cowboys, millionaires and oil field roughnecks.
Research Project: Determine whether Hollywood has ever made a movie touching on people, places or things from the South that did not portray some of the film's Southern characters in a negative or stereotypical manner. If so, in which movies?
It would appear from the above review of motion pictures that the Hollywood-based U.S. industry has for the past nearly 100 years systematically engaged in the malicious defamation of an entire region of our country, the American South. Much as Michael Medved argues that the film industry is losing potential revenues from a major segment of an overlooked potential moviegoing audience by focusing on vulgar, crude, bizarre, sexually explicit, violent movies, a similar argument can be made that motion picture revenues in the South, including Texas are less than they would be if there was more balance in the movie industry portrayals of people and places in the South. It is safe to say that a lot of people in the South simply do not go to see modern Hollywood movies because they consider them silly and quite often insulting or offensive.
A total of 251 movies are included in this survey. As it turns out, only 29 of them (12%) were directed by directors from the South. Fifty-five (55) of these movies (22%) were directed by directors from the state of New York alone. Sixty-five (65) others (26%) were directed by directors from other Northern states besides New York. Sixty-nine (69 or 27%) were directed by foreign directors and another 33 (13%) were directed by directors from the American West. In all, 88% of these films about people, places and things of the American South, were directed by non-Southerners. This may help explain why so many of them present negative and/or stereotypical portrayals of these subjects.
Consider the multiple levels of arrogance involved in a filmmaking community, controlled by Jewish males of a European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious, that consistently turns out films portraying the people, places and things in the South in a negative or stereotypical manner. There is an initial level of arrogance and supposed "superiority" involved in the moralistic judgment made in deciding that it is ok for one cultural group to consistently be critical of another. There is a second level of arrogance in assuming that other regions of the country cannot provide an approximate equal number of the settings for some of these negative portrayals. There is a third level of arrogance in controlling the film industry to the exclusion of other cultural groups, thus preventing the other cultural groups (including people from the South) from providing a more accurate or alternative depiction of themselves on the screen. And there is a fourth level of arrogance involved in the proposition that the people of the South are so stupid that they will continue to pay money to see such films, money which in turn allows the Hollywood filmmakers to continue to spread this kind of negative propaganda.
It appears quite clear from the record set forth above that the people who control the U.S. film industry are very much into including messages that promote tolerance, whenever tolerance might affect them, but promoting "hate" whenever their movies have anything to do with people, places and things from the South. Based on such an observation, it would be fair to label the people who control Hollywood as "hatemongers" and "bigots".
The fact that some of these films providing negative or stereotypical portrayals of people, places and things of the American South are based on the works of Southern writers is also irrelevant. The relevant consideration here is who has the power to determine what movies are made and the content of those movies and how has that power been exercised for the nearly 100 year history of the U.S. film industry. If, for example, there are 100 writers from the Southern region of the country writing about the South and fifty of them provide negative and stereotypical portrayals of people, places and things in the South, but the Hollywood moviemakers choose almost all of their movies from this group of fifty negative writers, as opposed to the group that provides more positive portrayals, what difference does it make, that the literary works on which the movies are based were written by someone from the South? This logical argument relating to the contributors to such film projects also applies to all of the other patterns of bias exhibited by Hollywood movies.
In response to the possible criticism that not all of the movies discussed in this book were viewed by the author, it only need be pointed out that it is not necessary to actually see all of the movies, if the reviews themselves reveal enough information to determine that such movies provide negative or stereotypical portrayals of people, places or things in the South. Besides, my experience suggests that a systematic viewing of all of the movies produced or released by U.S. film companies throughout the history of the film industry or some other more limited period, would only disclose more of such patterns of bias, not less. In other words, in those instances where these movies have actually be viewed, such viewings have resulted in additional examples of anti-Southern negativity or stereotypical portrayals in films for which such bias was not revealed in the reviews. Thus, it may be fairly predicted that any more careful review of a representative sampling of Hollywood movies will turn up an even larger number of examples of anti-Southern bias, not a smaller number.
Another aspect of the problem with the American film industry is that it seems to make a lot of movies about racism generally (as opposed to other equally important issues), and racism in the South, specifically, the cumulative effect of which is to falsely suggest that most of the racism directed toward blacks in this country is geographically centered in the southern United States. At the same time, prejudice, racism and discrimination directed toward blacks and others pervades the very industry that produces and releases these accusatory movies. The situation is so bad that the U.S. film industry may be one of the most racist industries in America, and of course, what makes the situation even worse, is that the film industry produces a product that is effected by the beliefs of those filmmakers.
Confirmation of this blatant prejudice may be revealed simply by asking the question: How many Hollywood films during the last ten years have portrayed white males in the cities of Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas or San Antonio, or any of the other vibrant cities in the South as anything other than redneck assholes? Obviously, not very many, because (1) most Hollywood films about the South are set in the rural South and (2) because most of the white people portrayed are presented as ignorant, prejudice local yokels. Another variation on that question, the answer to which tends to corroborate the premise that the U.S. film industry consistently produces and distributes movies exhibiting such a regional prejudice, is: What and how many major studio/distributor releases in the past ten years have featured a positive portrayal of an urban, contemporary, white Anglo-Saxon Southern male? The answer is, very few indeed, if any.
Here is an example of the potential harm from regional prejudice. In 1986, some eleven years after the so-called Malibu Mafia launched the Energy Action Committee, the lobbying organization Hollywood liberals used " . . . to battle big oil in the legislative wars over energy policy . . . " the OPEC oil countries arbitrarily decided to flood the world oil markets with cheap oil, at prices so low, domestic oil producers could not compete. The U.S. Congress then had an opportunity to step in and protect our domestic oil industry, from the anti-competitive and predatory actions of this foreign cartel with tariff supports. It basically came to a vote of the non-oil producing states against the oil-producing states (essentially a regional industry primarily based in the South). It is my contention that the kind of regional prejudice fostered by the movie industry's pattern of bias (i.e, its consistent negative or stereotypical portrayals of people, places and things of the American South), and the well-financed lobbying activities of the Malibu Mafia, may have contributed to the 1986 Congressional decision not to provide support for the domestic oil industry when threatened by the economic attack of the OPEC oil cartel. As a result of that crucial Congressional decision (very possibly based on the same kind of regional prejudice regularly spewed forth through Hollywood movies), hundreds of oil industry related companies in the South went out of business, thousands of people working in affected jobs were out of work, homes were lost, real estate values suffered significantly, savings and loans and banks suffered losses, etc. There may, of course, be no way of knowing for certain whether regional prejudice played a part in that decision, but in the Congressional debates themselves, which were carried live on cable television, you could easily see that the regional interests of the country were being debated, not the national interest. At the very least, such an incident highlights the critical importance for Congress not to allow an important communications medium like the U.S. film industry to be controlled by people who consistently provide negative portrayals of any segment of our population. After all, in addition to the potential for psychological damages, such consistent negative portrayals may ultimately affect the economic interests of the region being victimized. And, as can be seen from the above example, adversely affecting the economic interests of a region destroys jobs, careers, fortunes and lives. Further, of course, if a region of the country can be victimized by this sort of Hollywood propaganda, what is to stop such propaganda from being turned on other segments of our diverse population?
As Paul Johnson wrote in his 1987 book A History of the Jews, "Germany could not be judged by Nazi anti-Semitism, any more than France by its Terror, Protestantism by the Ku-Klux- Klan or, for that matter, 'the Jews by their parvenus'." In addition, the American South cannot fairly be judged by the racist attitudes of just some of the people who live there, cannot be fairly judged by the many negative movie portrayals of Southern country-folk and cannot be fairly judged by the Hollywood movie portrayals of "tyrannical" fathers and uncles, "eccentric" mothers, "demented" hillbillies, moonshiners, corrupt sheriffs, racist rednecks, cowboys, millionaires or oil field roughnecks. There is much more to the American South than what Hollywood wants the world to see. Thus, this book is an argument for extending the common Hollywood movie theme of tolerance to the real world, including Hollywood itself.
If the roles were reversed (i.e., a small group of white males from the South had been able to gain control of the U.S.-based film industry through the use of anti-competitive business practices, historical accident or otherwise, and had established its headquarters in Atlanta, instead of Los Angeles, then proceeded to produce and distribute movies that portrayed American Jews in a consistently negative or stereotypical manner for nearly 90 years), the country would be rightfully outraged. The country should also be equally outraged by what has actually been offered by the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry, certainly with respect to its consistent defamation of the American South.